April 9, 2021

BROOKVILLE, Ohio - The COVID-19 pandemic arrived like a storm a year ago. It rattled the calendar of Community Blood Center blood drives and shook many from their foundations. Brookville knows the damage a storm can do, and donors were determined to save their monthly community blood drive.

The April 2 Brookville community blood drive marked one year since moving to the Lieber Center at Golden Gate Park. On a warm spring day, 42 whole blood donors and four platelet donors helped the blood drive top 100% of collection goal.

Among the donors were Brookville Mayor Chuck Letner, who made his 175th lifetime donation, and his son Jordan Letner who made his eighth donation, the equivalent of one gallon.

"We know we don't get the numbers we did before COVID, but it's good to see people out," said Mayor Letner. "That's the community we are. Long before the tornado, we've always stepped up to the challenge. Everybody stepped up with lot of volunteers and lot of help and turned things around."

The Memorial Day tornado outbreak of 2019 ravaged Brookville. COVID-19 threatened to halt the Brookville blood drive that began more than two decades ago in the basement of the Community United Methodist Church.

"It started out as an Eagle Scout project by the minister's son," said blood drive coordinator Wayne Wolfe, who was one of the first donors at the church blood drive in 1999. "Somehow, I ended up with it, I don't know how.  Getting all that equipment down to the basement, in the beginning they had to hand carry it down the steps. And no air conditioning."

The promise of easier access and air conditioning encouraged a change of location to the Brookhaven Retirement Community in 2001 with the church continuing as the sponsor. Brookhaven went on to host six blood drives per year, averaging up to 600 donors per year, before becoming a monthly blood drive in 2019.

The cruel impact of COVID-19 on the elderly and deadly outbreaks at senior care facilities demanded strict limits on all retirement home visitation. Brookhaven hosted its final blood drive in March 2020 with a full schedule of 53 donors.

Community United Methodist responded in April 2020 by hosting a Bloodmobile blood drive. It nearly doubled the collection goal with 45 donors, and the search continued for a new indoor site.

"I thought I'd go by the Lieber Center," said Wayne. "We used to have a Thanksgiving dinner there, and I thought that was an ideal place. I thought we'd go with the mayor. The reason I called him is he's a blood donor."

Mayor Letner was quick to agree and arranged to begin blood drives at the Lieber Center in May 2020 with no rental fee. "I think it's an ideal spot and I think you've found a new home," he said. "The atmosphere is beautiful out there. It's part of package, give blood and enjoy the park while there."

A year later, the 12 blood drives at the Lieber Center have totaled 550 whole blood donors and 55 platelet donations while averaging 107% of collection goal.

"Wayne was so helpful," said CBC account representative Melinda Frech. "I really appreciate Mayor Letner and Angie Weiss the deputy clerk who has worked with me on the scheduling, and all the people at the park.  They have been great too. Thanks to those people, we never missed a beat. They are just kind people."

"This works with my schedule," said Lewisburg donor Gayle Treadway who donated platelets at the Wednesday blood drive. "This is just as convenient for me."

"I like to stay in Brookville, and don't want to go anywhere else because I don't want to go off my donation schedule," said Brookville donor Wanda King.

"My children grew up here at this park," said Ruth Kimmel. "So, it's no problem. It's like a second home for many years and very familiar to me."

COVID-19 cautions still mean restrictions on social distance and open foods, a disappointment to Wayne and his army of church volunteers who baked cookies and served donors.

Wayne lost his wife Judith in 2018. He was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2015 but missed only one blood drive. "I used to go to chemo and come to the blood drive," said Wayne. "I enjoyed it."

"I miss the days when the ladies made the homemade snacks," said Mayor Letner. "They took pride in being part of it. Wayne spearheaded all this and thanks to him we have a good blood drive here in Brookville."