GLASGOW, Del. – As the Blood Bank of Delmarva celebrates Sickle Cell Awareness Month in September, it can do so with the knowledge that it got a head start in a manner of speaking at the end of August.

The inaugural Dr. Charles R. Drew Memorial Blood Drive and Community Health Fair brought in 36 donors on Saturday, August 27th. The event was organized by Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.’s Gamma Mu Nu Foundation, an historically African American organization.

Organizers named the event after Dr. Drew, a renown African American surgeon and researcher, who was a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. He was a pioneer of blood transfusion research and the storage of blood plasma during World War II. His groundbreaking work led to the development of modern blood banking in the U.S.

The inaugural Charles R. Drew Memorial Blood Drive And Health Fair was held at the Greater Newark Boys and Girls Club off U.S. Route 40 near Glasgow, Delaware. Joining Gamma Mu Nu were representatives from ChristianaCare, the NAACP Middletown, Delaware Chapter and the CBIV Legacy for Life Foundation.

We also enjoyed a visit by Miss Black U.S.A. Talented Teen Angelina Aubain, who is about to start her junior year at Sanford School.

The blood drive was open to the public, but it was specifically targeted to minority and underserved populations. In 2021, the latest data available, 4.9% of BBD’s donors were African American, compared to African Americans being 22 percent of the State of Delaware’s population and 30 percent of the State of Maryland’s population – the two biggest areas of Delmarva – per the 2020 U.S. Census. In comparison, 90.4% of Blood Bank of Delmarva’s donors are Caucasian.

The vast majority of the 36 donors that came out on Saturday were African American, so blood drive coordinator William “Bill” Garrett met his goal, without any doubt.

BBD Medical Director Dr. Bruce Sachais and Director of Laboratories Kristin Frederick look forward to seeing if anyone donating blood on Saturday can help the Sickle cell patients treated at Nemours and other hospitals. Kristin said African American donors have the potential to help sickle cell patients with similar demographics who need frequent red blood cell transfusions. As Kristin explains, ethnicity plays an important role in determining the best match between donors and transfusion recipients. In essence, patients with conditions such as sickle cell anemia, a blood disease that predominantly affects African Americans, require regular blood transfusions to treat their symptoms. They typically receive better results from their treatment when the transfusions are received from a donor with the same ethnic background.

To that end, Kristin encourages all donors to report their ethnicity when donating blood to help the laboratory medical technologists find the right donors for patients requiring specific antigen negative blood. This helps ensure sickle cell patients receive regular, timely transfusions in order to avoid painful episodes associated with depleted red blood cells.

Fraternity brothers, including Garrett and Dr. Marc Latta, served as event ambassadors and donors during the event.

In addition to the blood drive, Gamma Mu Nu gave out 300 book bags and other school supplies while attendees could enjoy the Corvette car show and enjoyed delicious burgers and hot dogs made by Matthew Johnson, proprietor of Big Ds Soul in Da Hole Catering.

Bill Garrett, an O positive donor, said he was already planning to triple the event next year when he works again with Blood Bank of Delmarva Account Manager Mary Moore and Director, Donor Resources Nicole Pineault.

“We’re really excited to see the response from the community, not only the individual donors, but also partnering organizations,” Bill said. “We’re excited to have a positive impact on the blood shortage. Also, as the day goes on, it’s an opportunity to educate our community on the importance of donating blood and the importance of healthcare overall.

“Even as we speak today, we’re already thinking about 2023,” he added. “I think we could triple today’s numbers. I really do. This event has a lot of potential.”

Salahudin Bin-Yusif and Juanita Butcher attended the fair as part of the Middletown NAACP branch. Salahudin is a member of Omega Psi Phi and a 1-gallon, O positive blood donor with BBD.

“We’re really excited about the opportunity to support the Blood Bank of Delmarva,” Salahudin said. “We brought our mentees here with the NAACP as well to support this effort.”

Omega Psi Phi fraternity brother Vince Stutts, another regular donor, also felt it was crucial for the fraternity brothers to set an example.

“Be a role model. People can talk but you have to walk the walk, especially in the African American community,” Vince said. “There are always excuses until people need it. Compare the statistics to how many people actually need blood in the African American community to how much we give.”

This year’s blood drive is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, August 19 at the Greater Newark Boys & Girls Club. Click here to sign up or call 1-888-8-BLOOD-8.