Workers give the gift of life |

Workers give the gift of life

Naomi Havlen
Pitkin County employees Janis Taylor, left, and Hilary Smith donate blood Thursday morning. Aspen Times photo/Paul Conrad.

Giving the gift of blood isn’t something many people think about at this time of year.But in the offices of Pitkin County and the city of Aspen, after a number of employees or relatives of employees became seriously ill this year, staff members decided that giving back with pints of blood was one way to take action.On Thursday morning, a bloodmobile from the St. Mary’s Regional Blood Bank in Grand Junction was parked in front of the county annex building on Main Street, and employees crowded in to donate.

“Everyone here was feeling pretty helpless, and this is an opportunity to be able to do something to let these people know that we care about them,” said Nan Sundeen, the county’s director of community relations.The mobile unit can draw pints of blood from four people at once. By Wednesday, 40 employees had signed up to give blood, according to Sundeen. On Thursday, a steady flow of workers filled the blood mobile.Joyce Allgaier, who works in the city’s community development department, said she regularly donates blood to give back. Her own mother passed away from an illness after having received a number of blood transfusions. In addition, Allgaier’s blood type is O-negative, a universal blood type that can be given to anyone, so she knows her donations are helpful.

Janis Taylor, with the county community development department, also has O-negative blood. With that blood type, Taylor feels like she should donate whenever she gets the chance.”It’s an honor,” she said.Kathy Tolle, who works for the Aspen Police Department, gives blood because when her son was born prematurely 27 years ago, he had two blood transfusions.

“If someone hadn’t given blood, my son wouldn’t be alive,” she said. “I hate needles, but I do this anyway. It’s especially a good gift at Christmastime for someone who needs it.”December and July are the blood bank’s slowest months, said the bank’s mobile coordinator Alaina Johnson. Either people are too busy with holiday preparations or they’re away on summer vacation. The blood bank began offering free cholesterol tests with each donation during those months to boost numbers, and so far it has worked.Johnson said she was pleased to get the call from Pitkin County on short notice, and happy they had a free day to drive up and collect blood from local employees.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is