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Tehachapi honored for blood drives

The September 21, Houchin Community Blood Bank mobile blood drive was the 25th blood drive held in the Tehachapi area since the COVID-19 lockdown began. Over the past 18 months approximately 850 pints of blood have been donated in Tehachapi, with many residents having donated multiple times. According to Key Budge, Community Engagement Specialist for the City of Tehachapi, these donations account for approximately 2,500 lives impacted; one pint of blood can help save up to three lives. Locals have also donated platelets and plasma.

Budge remarked that without the partnership of the City of Tehachapi, Tehachapi Valley Recreation and Park District (TVRPD) and Houchin Community Blood Bank, the blood drives would not have occurred. The City and TVRPD have hosted at least 19 of the local drives over the past 18 months.

Vivian Cao, District Representative for Senator Shannon Grove, recently brought Tehachapi's amazing numbers to the senator's attention. Cao, with Field Representative Dominic Heiden from Senator Grove's office, as well as Field Representative Aaron Falk from Congressman Kevin McCarthy's office, awarded Certificates of Recognition to the City and TVRPD at the Sept. 21 blood drive, expressing the senator and congressman's sincere gratitude and appreciation.

Along with Rachel Parlier, Marketing Manager at Houchin, also present was Martin Alonzo, CEO of Houchin, who stated that there was a lot of chaos and misinformation at the beginning of the pandemic and many agencies and individuals wanted to wait until it had "blown over." He noted that 18 months later it has not blown over. Thankfully, the City of Tehachapi and TVRPD – and, more recently, Crown for a Cause and Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley – stepped up to find a safe way to conduct the drives, because blood is still needed.

Among changes made were the number of blood drives held in the Greater Tehachapi area, the locations and implementation of COVID protocol as dictated by the CDC and the State. Pre-COVID, the City used to host one blood drive per year, while other organizations would host regular blood drives. With the City and TVRPD's help over the past 18 months Houchin has been able to continue conducting local mobile drives every six to eight weeks. Martin commented, "[they] are not 'park and pray' blood drives; these are really effective and productive blood drives. 2,500 units of blood in 18 months is really an impressive feat."

Houchin is very grateful to Budge, the City and TVRPD for their efforts and perseverance. Budge particularly expressed his gratitude to Kristel Pollock and Yessica Diaz-Conti, Account Managers at Houchin, and the amazing work they do "on the ground" organizing and managing the blood drives.

Finally, what motivates the blood donors? Regular donor Dave Paolozzi says he has been donating blood with different organizations for the past 29 years, since he was 21. When he was in college, one of his professors talked about the need for blood donations and our body's ability to continue to make blood. He thought it seemed easy; it's helpful for the community; it's helpful for people and if he ever needs blood he wants the blood banks to be full and have blood readily available. He is now a proud Tehachapi resident and he reiterated that it's just an easy thing to do and takes only about 30 minutes of his day every couple of months.

This is just another reasons why Tehachapi is such a special community: neighbors helping neighbors and residents helping the larger Kern County community. To take the plunge and become a blood donor, visit http://www.hcbb.com or call Houchin at (661) 323-4222. According to Houchin's website, "Every 2 seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. Demand is high, but we can help. When you give, people live!"