Waverly blood drive coordinator Gerry Smith hands reins to Carol Tutenhagen
By Starrla Cray
WAVERLY, MONTROSE, MN “I was under 10 years old when I knew giving blood was very important,” said Gerry Smith, 79, who recently retired as blood drive coordinator in Waverly.
Growing up in Waverly in the 1940s, Smith knew two boys who suffered from hemophilia, a disease that affects the blood’s ability to clot.
“When they needed blood, my dad and neighbors would go to the cities to give,” Smith recalled.
Smith’s first time donating blood was at age 18, and since then, she’s given more than 87 pints.
“Giving blood doesn’t bother me; I actually feel better afterward,” she said.
Smith began volunteering with the blood drive in Waverly decades ago, but she has lost track of how long she’s served as coordinator.
“A woman from my auxiliary unit, Anna Hohag, had been coordinating it previously,” Smith said. “One day, she came over and said it was my turn.”
This year, Smith decided it was time to pass her role to the next person in line her Goddaughter, Carol Tutenhagen.
Tutenhagen, who grew up in Waverly and now lives in Howard Lake, has helped with the blood drive for the past few years.
“I think it’s a really good thing to be involved in,” she said. “It helps a lot of people.”
Waverly and Montrose work together to host two blood drives each year.
“It’s a community effort,” Smith said, listing several organizations that supply food, volunteers, and other supplies. As coordinator, part of Smith’s job was finding people to help, and getting everyone organized.
“Of course, the donors are the most important,” she added. “Without them, we wouldn’t be doing this.”
Smith said they ideally like to get at least 100 donors for each drive, but it’s sometimes tough to make that goal. For the July 18 drive at St. Mary’s Fellowship Hall in Waverly, the official goal was 92 units, and they ended up with 81. Seven potential donors were deferred. Common reasons for deferrals include low hemoglobin, cold or flu symptoms, and certain travel or medical conditions.
“Summer is sort of tough, with people on vacation,” Tutenhagen said.
According to the American Red Cross, all types of blood are needed, especially A-, B-, and O-.
Donors should be in good health, at least 17 years old (or 16 with parental consent), and weigh at least 110 pounds.
For a double red cell donation, additional eligibility requirements apply.
Appointments are often made in advance online or via phone, but walk-ins are also welcome.
Blood drive coordinating has become increasingly computer-oriented through the years, which is one reason Smith decided it was time to retire.
“That isn’t my cup of tea,” she said. “It’s good to get other people involved.”
Going forward, Smith still plans to remain active in the blood drive in other ways, however.
“It’s fun; I get to see people I wouldn’t otherwise see unless they come to donate blood,” she said. “I’ve always enjoyed volunteering anything to improve our community.”
The next joint blood drive will be in the wintertime, in Montrose. Current coordinators in Montrose include Rosemary Schultz and Margie Onstott.
“They’ve been doing it longer than I have,” Smith said.