Enthusiasm for Blood Donations Spans Three Generations

By Kayla Ihrig, AmeriCorps member serving the American Red Cross NW Region

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Despite never receiving a blood transfusion herself, a Montesano woman has coordinated thirty blood drives and counting.

“I’m not a hero, I just have mad organizational skills,” Jennie said. “It’s just so fun. It’s a small community and it’s my way of helping out.”

Jennie McLean is a mother and secretary of the Montesano United Methodist Church. She started coordinating drives in 2010 in Montesano, Washington, located in Grays Harbor County and home to 4,000 residents. The Montesano blood drives have a reputation for homemade cookies and fun, and draw donors from neighboring towns.

“We have people tell us they drive further to our drives because they’re so much fun,” Jennie said with a smile.

An enthusiasm for blood donations runs in Jennie’s family. Her father, James McLean, is a Korean War veteran and donated blood in the service. After that, he began donating with the Red Cross and is expecting to reach the 25 gallon milestone in May.

“It’s not much gasoline, but go look at 24 gallons in your dairy case and see how much it is,” said James McLean, age 82. 

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Jennie has donated 15 units, approximately enough to save 45 lives. Her brother, Jim, is also a donor, nearing the six gallon milestone, which is approximately enough to save 144 lives. Jennie’s daughter, Laura, is a senior at Montesano High School and has been volunteering in the canteen area of the blood drives since she was 12 years old. 

“My mom can’t donate so she makes cookies, and my daughter is afraid of needles so she works really hard helping facilitate,” she said. “And the dog comes to make people smile. It’s a family affair.”

As of October 2015, Jennie’s blood drives have collected enough blood to save 3,500 lives.

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