Paying it Forward: Pour a Pint at Work With the American Red Cross

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had several people close to me- friends and family, that have fallen ill, had surgery or car accidents and needed blood transfusions to stay alive. The reason my friends and family were able to overcome those situations was plain and simple: other people took time out of their busy schedules to donate blood. Your body holds about 10 pints of blood, and the typical donation is one pint. Your body will replenish the lost blood in about two months. If you give only one hour of your time every 56 days, your donation can save up to three lives!

If you choose to donate, Red Cross staff will collect personal information like your name and social security number. You will be asked to answer a series of questions about your health and lifestyle to determine if you are eligible to donate. Collection of information is done in private and is kept highly confidential. Once your blood is collected, there is no personal information on the label. Your blood will be screened to ensure safety and will be labeled with a tracking number that can be used only if you need to be contacted regarding test results.

What if you don’t qualify to give blood? After all, only 38% of the population is eligible to give blood.  You may have travelled or gotten a tattoo and been deferred from donation for a year.  Maybe you have an illness or engaged in risky behavior that prevents you from donating.  Maybe you just hate needles. You can still help! The Red Cross always needs volunteers to help coordinate drives or to serve refreshments to donors after they have finished. If you’re not sure if you should give blood, you can find the information on the Red Cross website, call and speak to a Red Cross representative, or ask one of the nurses at a blood drive.

At Promega, we have quarterly drives organized faithfully by the women we call “The Marys.” Mary Doers, Mary Sobol, and Mary Upshaw have been coordinating these drives for years.  Mary S. and Mary U. share their thoughts.


1. How long have you worked here at Promega and what do you do?

Mary S: I have worked at Promega for 25 years. I’ve been in R&D for the past seven years. I am currently working on several projects developing cell-based assay systems.

Mary U: I’ve worked at Promega Madison since March of 2001. (Note: Mary U. works in Promega’s QA department and has recently been enjoying implementation of new company-wide  regulatory and inventory systems!

2. Tell us about your volunteer work.

Mary S: Several factors made it easy for me to volunteer with the Promega Blood Drive. Since my name is Mary I qualified for the blood drive coordinator job. The other blood drive coordinators were also named Mary (Mary Upshaw and Mary Doers). If anyone had a question about the drive they could ask Mary.

The drives are so well organized that they practically run themselves. This is really a testament to the efforts of the other Marys and to the American Red Cross. It takes more time for me to donate my blood than to help the wonderful coordinators set up the quarterly drives at Promega.

Mary U: I donated blood at the next blood drive held here and volunteered to make treats when I saw that they were home-made.  After one of the Blood Drive coordinators left Promega, I volunteered to help coordinate

3. Why did you decide to volunteer in this way?

Mary S: Good cause, great people, conveniently here at work.

Mary U: Many years ago I saw an article in my then hometown paper about a high school girl with leukemia who needed platelets after her bone marrow transplant.  I have “good veins” and decided this would be an easy way to help someone out.  I found the experience easy, rewarding and actually relaxing  – platelet donations take a couple of hours so there are movies available.

4. What would you like other people to know about the organization?

Mary U: The American Red Cross has been around a long time and knows how to organize and get to places in need.  They continue to come to businesses and organizations to make it easy for people to donate blood.

5. How can others contribute?

Mary S: If you can volunteer to help organize the Blood Drives, great. If you can donate blood, terrific. If you can do both, you get twice the satisfaction.

Mary U: Check out the donor guidelines from the Blood Drive site (on Inside Promega) and consider taking an hour out of the workday to donate blood.

6. Is there anything else you would like us to know?

Mary S: After the initial poke, it doesn’t hurt and it doesn’t take too long. The feeling that you did something that helps other people lasts a long time.

Mary U: Click on these links to associate a face on that number of your donated blood unit.

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Karen Reece

Karen served as a Senior Research Scientist in Nucleic Acid Technologies at Promega before switching careers. She has a BS in Biochemistry and MS and PhD in Physiology, all from University of Wisconsin-Madison. Karen was born and raised in Madison, WI.

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