By Richard Taylor

Red Cross blood drives return to the island Wednesday and Thursday following a 6½-year absence.

The newly revived Ocracoke School Beta Club will sponsor the two drives in the Community Center and islanders can register to “give the gift of life” at 1-800-RED CROSS (800-733-2767), or at www.redcrossblood.org, then search for Ocracoke or 27960.

“One of my colleagues in disaster services spent a lot of time helping out on Ocracoke during Hurricane Dorian in 2019,” said eastern North Carolina account representative Bryson Schmidt about the return of the service. “He fell in love with the island and made it his vacation spot.”

That colleague went to Schmidt when he took over Hyde County and said returning to Ocracoke was something they needed to do.

“I knew that a lot of people on Ocracoke wanted to give back to the Red Cross,” Schmidt said.

With a severe blood shortage nationwide, Schmidt worked with the Beta Club faculty advisor Michael Shoemaker to reestablish much-needed blood collections here. “Michael was all for it,” she said.

Schmidt told the Greenville manager,” If we can make a two-day blood drive out of it, it’ll be worth our while.”

Previous Red Cross collection teams came from Norfolk.

She said a crew from Pitt County would travel to the island Nov. 10 on the mid-morning Swan Quarter ferry, then set up a registration/screening stations and collection beds in the Community Center.

The first drive runs 3 to 7 p.m. Wednesday. Schmidt and the seven-member phlebotomist team will stay overnight and then hold a second collection Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Shoemaker said Beta Club members were excited to be helping the Red Cross.

“We were just getting the Beta Club going again after the pandemic,” he said. “This is a great way for our kids to receive community service hours by working at the blood drive.”

Members will help with check-in and then hand out refreshments to donors after they give blood.

Beta Club members must be second semester freshmen or older, maintain a 3.2 GPA and give 10 hours of community service each year. This year’s club has 15 members. Julian Bennink serves as president; vice president is Jackson Strange.

Schmidt said collection staff was excited to come to the island, especially since they will stay overnight — something they normally never do — and experience the island and its restaurants.

More than 40 islanders have already signed up.

“We encourage appointments, but we do accept walk-ins,” she said. Preregistration saves time on-site.

Schmidt said donors are required to go through their health history screening with a Red Cross staff member before each donation.

“It’s much like a mini-physical,” she said. “There are some things that might turn donors away. Each donor’s iron level has to be at a certain level before they are cleared to donate.”

Since the last blood drive here in April 2016, island donors had to travel to periodic drives in Buxton or even further up the beach. Schmidt hopes to hold another drive here next spring.

The whole blood collection process takes about an hour, including the health history screening during the registration process.

Those who register online will receive a Rapid Pass health questionnaire by email the day of donation. This saves screening time at check-in.

The Red Cross requires masks for all staff, volunteers and donors and hopes to collect 30 pints each day, for at least 60 pints total.

“Ocracoke is a very giving community,” said academic advisor/athletic director Mary McKnight. “I think they’re going to have a good drive.”