Fr. Ed Anderson, pastor of St. Joseph, Rice Lake, donates blood during the Knights of Columbus’ Dec. 6 blood drive. (Submitted photo)

Anita Draper
Catholic Herald staff

Ten years ago, the Knights of Columbus Council 2137 hosted their first American Red Cross blood drive. Thirty drives later, the Rice Lake Knights have collected enough blood to save nearly 5,000 lives.

Alan Burmester, the council’s blood drive coordinator, said blood drives were “the right type of project for the Rice Lake Knights of Columbus to take on” when they decided to organize the events about 11 years ago.

Helping people in need, giving back to the community – whether during Advent or in ordinary time, that’s what the Knights aim to do. Blessed with ample participation, they can bring strong support to any effort they undertake.

“We’re a very active council,” Burmester said of the 182-member group.

The KCs hosted their 30th blood drive on Thursday, Dec. 6, the first to take place during the Advent season. Burmester wanted to infuse the drive with a little Catholic-style holiday spirit.

“I just thought it would be kind of cool to see if we can get St. Nicholas there,” he said.

So, KC member Gene Sirianni donned the mitre and beard of the fourth century bishop in observance of his feast day, and the Knights collected 69 units of blood, bringing their total to 1,594 pints. Each pint can save up to three lives, so they have collected enough to save 4,782 lives.

Like many good works undertaken by Christian organizations, blood drives are a pro-life cause.

“A blood donation could help a newborn infant, someone being treated for cancer or a blood disorder, or someone who has been in a serious accident, among many others,” said Sue Thesenga, an external communications manager for the Red Cross. “By giving blood, you can help save the life of someone’s child, sibling, parent, or dear friend. You could even save the life of someone you know.”

The Red Cross relies heavily on faith-based and community organizations, Thesenga added.

“Because more than 80 percent of blood donations are made at blood drives hosted by volunteers, many of them at churches and other civic groups, blood drive partners play a vital role in helping ensure a sufficient blood supply for patients in need,” she commented.

“We partner with churches all the time. They’re a huge part of our blood supply,” said Shannon Metcalf, the Red Cross representative who works with the Rice Lake Knights.

In total, the Knights have recruited more than 800 donors. Between 70 and 80 people sign up for each drive, according to Burmester, and they generally collect between 60 and 80 pints.

To market the events, Burmester hangs posters provided by the Red Cross and advertises in the bulletin, and the Red Cross also notifies previous donors. Donors must be at least 16 with parental permission and in good health.

While blood donations tend to flag during the holiday season, Thesenga said there’s no reduction in need.

“Regular donors are busy with holiday activities, and travel and severe winter weather may cause blood drive cancellations,” she added. “Yet donations remain critical. Regardless of the date on the calendar, every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. Blood and platelet donors are urgently needed to give now to ensure blood is available for medical treatments and emergencies during the holiday season.

“The faith-based community is critical in helping spread the message of compassion,” she said.

To learn more about organizing a blood drive, visit or call 1-800-RED CROSS.