52 Weeks of Uncovering Kindness – The Volunteers at the Red Cross Blood Service

BLOOD is meant to circulate, pass it around!’

Blood donations are close to my ‘life’! My sister received a transfusion a few years back and my grandad has a form of lymphoma that requires a transfusion of 2-3 bags each fortnight. I gave blood, ONCE… as a way of ‘giving back’. That’s all it takes right? Just returning the favour for that ‘one time’. Well, apparently not, people need blood every. single. day! YOUR blood, 60 minutes of your time! YOU, can save 3 lives from your ONE donation! You want to know how? Keep reading…

In January, I gave blood for the 2nd time in my life, I did take a friend for support. Did it hurt? Just a teeny bit, but nothing compared to what the people who need my blood are going through. That donation sparked my interest in the volunteers that give up their time to make you feel welcome, comfortable and appreciated after you have been completely drained of all red blood cells.

All jokes aside… It really isn’t that bad! It is totally worth the coffee or tea, muffin or biscuits, lollies or cheese & crackers that are waiting for you after your donation and the beautiful friendly face offering to get you any of the above-mentioned snacks while you sit, relax and have a chat

Before we meet some of the amazing volunteers, I want to mention that each one of them told me that “the real angels are the people who regularly donate, they are true heroes!”  These volunteers give up their time weekly to make sure that you are ok after you have given the gift of life, so let’s find out a little more about what they do in their spare time.

Roy  “I just enjoy helping out and making a difference where I can. I started donating blood in 1968 and I have given 163 times.” 

Roy started helping at the blood centre soon after his wife started volunteering in 1982. Currently, Roy puts together the boxes for the transport of the blood to other places by assembling them and adding labels. It may only be 3 hrs per fortnight, but it is a job well done, and appreciated.

Roy’s kindness doesn’t just stop here, he is also the president of Evenglow, who run a day out for the elderly in aged care, every fortnight, on a Wednesday at the Seniors Citizens Hall. Roy also dedicates some of his spare time to Blue Care.

His work doesn’t go unnoticed and he was nominated for an ‘Aussie Award’ 3 years ago. One of the other Blood Bank volunteers told me that ‘”Roy is the type of person to put his hand up for anything. Always wanting to help. Just a genuine nice guy.”

GeoffI’ve helped out in a lot of places, but the Blood Centre is my new venture. I was also a blood donor and have donated over 100 times.” 

Geoff has been a part of Rotary for 30 years, including a spell as president. There are many other volunteer roles that Geoff has taken on including air sea rescue, communications signaller for the Army Reserve. He is also a long-time instructor in the State Emergency Service.

Margaret L I have been here at the blood centre for 23 years and I just LOVE it.”

She’s done it all at the blood centre, from reception when it only opened 1 day per week, to making the tea and coffee. That’s all I’m qualified to do these days, but that’s ok as I love to chat to the donors and hear their stories.”

She used to donate but, “they don’t want your blood once you get old.” Margaret also said that she “loves having a chat and making sure the donors have something to eat and drink before they leave.” 

Margaret also volunteers one day per week at Eden Vale Aged Care helping the residents with activities and at Meals on Wheels once per week organising the meals that are delivered to the elderly in the community. Margaret said they really need volunteers at Meals on Wheels so if anyone is interested please contact them on 4971 4720.

Margaret Z ~ “I do this because I enjoy having a chat to the donors and hearing their stories. I keep everyone in check, making sure that all runs smoothly. It keeps me busy and occupied.”

Margaret used to donate but once again, “when you get older, they don’t want your blood anymore.” Margaret retired from nursing at the hospital when she was 62 and didn’t know what to do with her time, so she headed to the blood bank to volunteer.

Eighteen years later and she is still giving the best hugs and kisses and has claimed the title of ‘Best Coffee Stirrer’ at the blood centre. On Tuesday I had a good laugh and can see that Margaret truly loves being part of this amazing service

Jenny – I have given blood 50 times. I started donating in Cairns when I was 18 and from the start, I just knew that volunteering at the blood bank was something I wanted to do when I had the time.”

Now retired, Jenny and has been a volunteer at the blood bank for 6 years. “I really enjoy getting out and keeping busy.” Jenny is also the treasurer for the Hospital Auxiliary,  whom meet twice per month to organise fundraising to help purchase equipment for the hospital. “One year we raised enough to purchase a resuscitation machine for little people. Our next fundraiser is a mini cent sale, fashion parade and home-made morning tea on the 28th March.” Tickets are available from Noni B, Priceline and Gladstone Optical.

Jenny has also been on the Harbour Festival Committee for 23 years. Doing everything from organising the Queen pageant to serving in the fish and chip stall, she said I tried to step away for a little while once, but that didn’t last long. I just have to be a part of it.”  Jenny has been nominated to carry the Queen’s Baton for the Commonwealth Games on March 24.

She will be the ‘last leg’ at East Shores. Jenny would LOVE to know who nominated her, so if you are reading this…. Jenny is very intrigued and investigating.

Meg – I’ve been volunteering at the blood bank for about 4 months and I started helping out because it is a worthwhile cause. It is so very rewarding learning about all the donors and listening to their stories.” 

Although Meg is new to the blood bank, she is an appreciated help. She enjoys making the donors feel welcome and comfortable while making a tea or coffee. She said that volunteering her time here is relaxing and a great way to fill her free time.

Lyndell – “I have been a donor in Gladstone since I was 18. I enjoy the social aspect of volunteering here at the centre, seeing everyone happy after doing such a good deed. I find it interesting meeting different people each time.”

Lyndell started donating after her brother did and just thought that it would be a great thing to do. She has now been here for about 6 years. She helps support the donors after they have given blood, making sure they have eaten, hydrated and feel well before they leave.

She also feels that sometimes, being a ‘sounding board’ for the people who donate is a big part of her volunteer role. “Just listening to someone is such an amazing thing to do.”

Now that we’ve met the volunteers, let’s hear from Kerry, one of the ladies behind the scenes at Gladstone’s blood bank. I asked Kerry, what kind of an impact do these volunteers have each day?

“Oh, my goodness, we are so lucky to have each day covered by a volunteer, some other centres don’t have that help,” she said.

“If for any reason, our volunteer isn’t able to make a day we really do feel their absence.”

“Our volunteers here are amazing, they ensure the welfare of our donors post donation by keeping them hydrated, making sure they have something to eat and that they are feeling well before they leave the centre. They also alert our team if someone is feeling a little off, which is such an amazing help as we are busy trying to keep the donations coming in.

Our volunteers help with first time donors if they are nervous, sitting with them and making them feel comfortable. They also remind our donors to re-book for next time and reassure the deferred clients that there are other ways of helping.”

Thank you to the Gladstone blood centre for having me in to meet a new volunteer each day and helping me to understand more about the importance of donating! I am off to book my plasma donation appointment now!

To all the amazing volunteers that I have met, you are so much more appreciated than you give yourselves credit for. You make donating a much more pleasurable experience by just ‘being there’. THANK YOU for doing what you do and for being Week 8’s donating blood centre angels!!

If this blog post has inspired you to make your first blood donation or reminded you to donate… I want to know! lm.burston@yahoo.com


I was confused at how my 470ml bag of blood could be shared between 3 people. I now know! I saw it first hand at how one donation can save 3 lives! YOUR 1 donation is separated into 3 different portions. The ‘whole blood’ (straight from the donation bag) is generally separated into red blood cells, plasma, and platelets in the labs. That one little bag has only a 48hr lifespan to be separated into portions or used before it’s too late!’

1 – Red blood cells – Treating people with severe anemia, roadside, accident victims and surgical patients. Red cells have a shelf life of up to 42 days stored in the refrigerator.

2 – Platelets – Given to people with cancer and leukemia after chemotherapy,  as well as trauma victims and those undergoing surgery. Platelets are stored at room temperature and have a shelf like of only 5 days.

3 – Plasma – Plasma (Liquid gold) can be used to create 18 different life-saving treatments!  Stored frozen, plasma has a shelf life of up to 12 months.