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Everyone had their own stories of how they started, but they all agreed that why they started donating was to help people in need.

Blood drives are held in the county each month, and at a recent drive at La Plata United Methodist Church, 59 units of blood were collected.

“Blood is a perishable product that can only come from generous volunteer donors. There simply is no substitute,” said Steve Mavica, communications manager with the American Red Cross. “Red blood cells have a shelf life of only 42 days, and platelets just five days, so they must be replenished constantly.”

Some donors at the La Plata drive are regulars, scheduling appointments every 56 days.

Wayne Talbott of Indian Head has been giving blood for more than 50 years.

He started while serving in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam.

A man needed blood, and Talbott, being AB-positive, was called in to donate.

“I laid on the table beside him, they took it from me and gave it to him,” he said. “I kept doing it.”

“What most people need to understand is that every two seconds, a patient in the U.S. needs a blood transfusion, and it's the blood products on the shelves today that help save lives in an emergency,” Mavica said.

Angelica Powell, a mother of three and grandmother of four, believes in giving back.

“Everybody should do this if they can,” she said.

Her granddaughter, Ayva Maria, 3 months, was born prematurely and is in the hospital.

Knowing that her donation can help others, maybe children, drives Powell to donate.

“It could be one of your friends, your family,” who needs blood, Powell said. “I do it because I want to help people.”

On average, the Red Cross must collect almost 17,000 pints of blood every day for patients at nearly 3,000 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country, Mavica said.

The Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Blood Services Region needs about 1,000 pints of blood each day to support the hospitals it serves, he said.

“While thousands of people answered the call for blood and platelet donations issued by the American Red Cross earlier this summer, an urgent need remains for platelets and types O-negative, A-negative and B-negative blood,” Mavica added.

O'Brien Price of La Plata has the O-positive blood type. He gives double reds — which allows him to donate two units of blood.

Double red cell donation is like a regular donation, but a machine is used, allowing donors to give two units of blood while returning plasma and platelets to the donor, according to the Red Cross.

“He's giving all the time,” said Price's wife, Lynne, who also was donating blood. She has O-positive too, and has been giving blood on and off since she was a teenager.

“It helps,” she said. “It saves lives.”

Mindy Millar, a former paramedic with the Cobb Island Volunteer Fire Department and EMS, knows firsthand the importance of blood donation.

And her blood type, O-negative, is always in short supply, said Millar, who has donated blood since she was in her teens.

“It's my duty to donate,” she said.

Following the birth of her daughter, Maybree, 5 months, she donated umbilical cord blood too, which is transfused into patients with blood diseases after chemotherapy or radiation have destroyed stem cells, according to the Red Cross.

Stephen Lehrter of La Plata first gave blood in high school following 9/11 and continued to donate through college at Salisbury University.

After the birth of his second daughter, Lehrter, who has O-negative blood, donates faithfully every 56 days.

“I'm O-negative, a universal donor,” he said. “[The blood] is earmarked for infants and immune-compromised people. It doesn't hurt and it saves lives.”

Judy Harrison of La Plata agreed.

“It's rewarding,” she said.

Blood drives will be held in September, including one 1-7 p.m. Sept. 4 at the Elks Lodge 2421, 2210 Old Washington Road, Waldorf; 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Sept. 5 at the Charles County Sheriff's office, 6845 Crain Highway, La Plata; 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sept. 7 at Bryans Road Volunteer Fire Department, 3099 Livingston Road; and 1-7 p.m. Sept. 23 at Waldorf Jaycees, 3090 Crain Highway. The Jaycees hold a blood drive the fourth Monday of every month.

staylor@somdnews.com