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Summer is a hard time for blood bank

For about an hour on Wednesday, Jessica Garcia sat back on a reclining seat in a sleek, air-conditioned bus. But Garcia was doing more than just enjoying her afternoon. She was helping to save lives.

The BloodSource mobile blood-drive bus was parked at the Merced County Administration Building, and a line of people waiting to give blood filled the bus.

The 33-year-old Merced woman has been donating blood since 2002 when a blood drive was held at her place of business. She learned how giving blood worked and how vital it is to donate. "There are people out there that need it," she said.

Despite the large number of people at Wednesday's blood drive, summer is the hardest time to recruit donors, according to Jaime Suarez, manager of BloodSource Merced County.

"About 14 percent of the blood that we collect comes from high school and college students," Suarez said. “That's a huge dent in the blood-banking community.”

During the school year, blood drives are held at local schools, and with classes out for the summer, the donations dry up.To make up for lost donors, Suarez said special events, such as a blood drive at the old theater, are held. "The drives really help, but it’s still a hard time to find donors," he said.

In a year, BloodSource Merced gets about 450 donations at special events, and about 350 people come to the center on Yosemite Avenue.

Brian Kucius, a county employee, has given a total of three gallons of blood over the years. "I like to do it because I know that it really helps other people," he said.

Maria Vega, a registered nurse for BloodSource, was getting the donors ready on Wednesday. She noted that donors are saving lives, that people should give donating a try. “Who knows — someday you might know someone who needs blood,” she said.

To be a donor, people must be at least 16 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health.Although the blood center has a solid group of regular donors, taking the donor bus on the road results in more donations than usual. "Giving at work is so much easier — our donors don't have to drive," Suarez said.And for those folks who donate this summer, the center has a "pint for a pint" drive going on. "If you give a pint of blood, we give you a coupon for a pint of Baskin Robbins ice cream," Suarez said.

Suarez emphasized that there is always a need for blood, and giving the blood is a simple, painless process:"For an hour of your time, you are giving someone a lifetime to spend with their family and friends."

Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or