By WENDY STIVER
MILL HALL - It started as a favor to a friend.
WENDY STIVER/For the Sun-Gazette
Pat Adams, second from right, was honored for 25 years of volunteer service at area blood drives. With her are, from left, her daughter and son-in-law, Kurt Smith and Carrie Adams Smith; her husband, Harold; and Marge Smith of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the Red Cross.
That one favor has grown into a 25-year commitment to service with no end in sight.
Pat Adams, of Mill Hall, was surprised with a cake and two plaques recognizing the more than 3,000 hours she has given at area blood drives.
Her volunteerism has boosted the life-saving mission of the Northeastern Chapter of the American Red Cross and "helped countless patients in need of the Gift of Life," as her recognition from the chapter states.
The volunteer also received a plaque from the Mill Hall Kiwanis Club. The Kiwanians brought out the cake and caught Adams by surprise just before the doors opened for the most recent blood drive the club sponsored.
They decided it was time to thank Adams for her outstanding service, Club President Bob Jackman said, after her husband, Harold Adams, told his fellow Kiwanians that she had worked the registration tables at local blood drives for a quarter of a century.
Adams began registering blood donors in 1987 at a drive in the Mill Hall Church of Christ. Her husband, a 50-year Kiwanian, calculated that since she has worked an average of two drives per month, she has given 3,456 hours to the cause.
Adams said she did not volunteer that often when she first started, but now hers is the first face donors see at as many as four drives a month, where she enjoys greeting the special people who are willing to give blood.
"Pat's always here," Kiwanian Judy Turner said.
"She does an amazing job," said Marge Smith, a Red Cross staff member who also counts herself as a friend. "She keeps her cool. If I could clone her, I would."
Smith sets up all the drives in Clinton and Lycoming counties and knows Adams will handle registration at all the events in both the Mill Hall and Lock Haven areas.
"If she's not there, the donors are very upset," she said. "She knows people on a first-name basis and how often they donate. She makes them feel appreciated."
Registration is an important post at each drive, Smith said, and Adams knows how to keep everything flowing.
Adams is reportedly hard to surprise, but she said she didn't suspect anything at the recent celebration, even though her husband showed up at the drive dressed differently than he had been when she left the house. However, the jig was up, she said, when her daughter, Carrie Adams Smith, came in, followed shortly by Marge.
The cake was revealed, the plaques given, congratulations spoken and photos taken, and then it was time to clean off the front table and get down to business.
Sixty people had called ahead for appointments to donate, and Adams expected walk-ins as well, perhaps as many as 30.
At the table, she greeted each and every donor, helped them scan their donor card and gave each one a sticker to wear with name and appointment time, plus a thank-you sheet from the Red Cross.
She also asked them to read the posted list of reasons their blood might not be usable on that day - including receiving the shingles vaccine or getting a tattoo within a certain period of time. She then directed them to have a seat across the aisle and read a folder of required information. When they completed their reading, she sent them on into the working blood drive, where they sometimes had to wait briefly for a free donation station.
The Red Cross states that giving blood generally takes about an hour. Making an appointment for 1 p.m. does not guarantee you will be giving blood at 1:05, Pat said, but it does help keep things moving. Regular donors understand that, she said.
"This is always a good drive," she said. "We don't always collect the most units of blood but we have fun."
Donors can give blood every 56 days. Those who choose to make double red blood cell donations can give only every four months, Adams said.
The recent drive included the double-red option. Donors who meet the requirements, including different height and weight restrictions than normal donors must meet, are encouraged to try it, particularly if their blood type is A negative, B negative or O.
Double-red donations take longer - a double amount of blood is removed, two units of red cells are extracted right there on site, and the plasma and platelets are returned to the donor in saline solution. Double-red donors generally feel better afterward, Pat said, because they have some of their blood components returned to them.
"Blood donors are special people," she said. "I've met a lot of very nice people through the drives."