Blood Center unveils east-side location

Every body needs blood to thrive, and so everybody needs blood. Growth is essential for a community to thrive, and so Rockford’s growth necessitates more blood.

To that end, the Rock River Valley Blood Center (RRVBC) held a ribbon-cutting ceremony June 5 for its new location, nestled in the retail block on Perryville near Jimmy John’s and Woodman’s Food Market at 3065 N. Perryville Road.

“We’ve been having a lot of problems with our current location off of North Sixth Street, surrounded by one-way streets,” said Jackie Kepka, donor recruiter. “A lot of the city isn’t in the downtown area anymore.”

“We needed a second location in Rockford so we could serve the east side, Belvidere, Loves Park, and even Roscoe and Rockton,” said Lisa Entrikin, who administers the Blood Center’s fixed locations.

The new location should provide greater access and convenience for the community, she said, particularly with their evening and weekend hours. The center hopes this will lead to more donors, including turning sporadic donors into regular donors.

“We’re hoping for an increase in donations by 5,000 per year,” she said.

RRVBC partnered with the First Rockford Group to bring this new location about, a retail space that is at the bleeding edge.

“We consider this a state-of-the-art location,” Entrikin said. The new facility can extract specific parts of blood in a process called apheresis.

Through the apheresis machine, the team can extract platelets and plasma while giving back red blood cells. An additional machine, one model of which is already at the Sixth Street location, can take red blood cells while returning the platelets and plasma.

Community leaders, including Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I), stressed the importance of the new center in serving the health needs of the area.

“As we grow as a community, we need more blood as we grow,” Morrissey said, noting the development of eastern Rockford. In maintaining the mantra of “excellence for everyone,” Morrissey noted that the new blood center is essential to serving the city.

“We’re growing to meet the needs of our community,” he said.

First Rockford Group founder and President Sunil Puri was also on hand for the press conference. Because of the center’s proximity to new development in the city, the new location precludes any excuses for not giving blood, Puri said.

“This is our community, this is our blood supply,” he said.

The blood center was founded in 1952 to benefit northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. It serves OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center, Rockford Health Systems, SwedishAmerican Health Systems and Beloit (Wis.) Memorial Hospital, among other area health services.

During those weekend hours, the staff can be found hard at work, such as on Saturday, June 9.

“It’s getting there, it’s not quite where we want it to be, but it’s getting there,” said Latasha Peters in regard to donor turnout. The donor service-person said there have been a number of walk-in donors, people who drive by, see the sign, and come in on a whim to save a life.

With time, those numbers should pick up.

“As word gets out, more and more people will come out,” she said.

The center hosts “Hot Dog Wednesdays” in the middle of the week, where donors receive hot dogs for their time and vital fluids. A blood drive with Heartland Community Church is also approaching quickly.

“There are a lot of potential donors in the area,” said Erika Franks, donor care specialist, noting the newfound draw from Machesney Park, Loves Park, even South Beloit and Poplar Grove. “It’s a lot more convenient for people,” she said.

RRVBC’s new location is open 6 a.m.-7 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 7 a.m.-3 p.m., Friday; and 7 a.m.-1 p.m., Saturday. Call (815) 965-8751 or (866) 889-9073 to reach the Center. Those wishing to donate using the apheresis machine must make an appointment.

from the June 13-19, 2007, issue

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