March 25, 2020

DAYTON, Ohio - "Steady is the word," is how Neal Mutter explains his dedication to giving blood. His even keel, firm hand on the wheel approach helped guide the March 24 monthly Springfield community blood drive at First Christian Church through the troubled times of COVID-19. He underscored the importance of the blood drive by making his milestone 300th lifetime donation.

First Christian has been hosting blood drives on the third Tuesday of every month since January 2019. Neal served as coordinator when First Christian Church hosted three blood drives per year and supported Community Blood Center's request to make First Christian a monthly Springfield community blood drive. It welcomes donors from the wider community and includes automated platelet and plasma donations.

The March 24 blood drive totaled 119 donors, including 94 red cell donations, 16 platelet and plasma donations, and 20 first-time donors.

"I did send out an email a few days before the blood drive saying we need to step up, the blood drive is still on," said Neal, "and as donors, we have to make sure it gets support, and everybody come out that can."

This month's blood drive arrived under the emergency circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. Blood drives are essential to protect the community from a blood shortage. Neal recognized the need to assure donors that precautions are in place for the safety of donors, staff, and the blood collected.

"The only thing different was the canteen. We went to all pre-packaged stuff so there would be minimum contact getting snacks out of packages," he said. "They separated the tables and chairs farther apart and the beds were farther apart. They were wiping everything down in between donor usage and maintaining cleaning to a higher degree. It went smoothly and we had a huge turn-out."

In anticipation of his milestone 300th donation Neal wore a favorite St. Patrick's Day donor t-shirt and the "Four Season O-Negative Club" vest he earned by making four donations in one year. Neal's blood type is O-negative, making him a universal donor for all patients in need. He is also a CMV-negative "baby donor." Doctors prefer blood negative for the common cytomegalovirus for transfusion to infants, children and other immune-deficient patients.

"I've been donating since late 70's," said Neal. "It's just been steady is the word. Every eight weeks I donate. I'm not doing anything special, when I'm due I just go. It's part of my routine and I've kept it up. It's something I can do, and with my blood type, I'm a universal donor and they use my blood for babies, that makes it even more special, so I can't up and quit. It's a duty and I need to keep up with it. I'll keep it going until I can't do no more."

At the blood drive CBC's Nicole Thruston presented First Christian Church with CBC's Platinum Award, CBC's highest blood drive honor in the LifeSaving Ambassadors Club. First Christian earned the recognition by exceeding 100 percent of collection goals in 2019.

"We're dedicated to keeping the building open and glad as a church to do that for the community," said Neal. He was particularly pleased to see 20 first-time donors at Tuesday's blood drive.

"I'll donate and I'll keep up the work, and I encourage people too, even the younger folks. I tell them I'm glad to see you in here. A lot of them are starting before I ever did, so the potential is out there for donors to meet the goal I did and even pass that.