It could be said that one tenet of a local leader is finding ways to give back to the community.
Why not advocate for one of the most important donations one can make to another?
That’s why Portage Area High School students participating in The Tribune-Democrat’s 2013 Youth Leadership Seminar chose to take the reins of their district’s annual blood drive as a community leadership project.
“They really do need to be involved in these types of things,” said Elaine Plouse, a physical education teacher at the elementary school and the district’s usual blood drive coordinator. “It teaches them organization, leadership, getting involved in their community.
“(Donor) counts are really low right now, especially with the winter we’ve been having,” she said. “If somebody donates blood, it saves up to three peoples’ lives. I always stress to them how important it is.
“Anyone could need blood.”
Plouse said Portage Area’s drive usually meets its quota, with roughly 30 units of blood given each year. She noted, however, that it’s not frequented by the students and it’s mostly local adults who donate. That’s one area where she said she’s going to depend on the students to build participation.
She estimated that 80 percent of Portage Area students are athletes. Giving blood on game day can force them to sit the bench.
Student council Vice President Richard Wolford, 17, said he and the other T-D Leadership representatives are trying to nail down a date where nothing else is scheduled to maximize attention and availability. Currently, the drive is slated for mid-April.
“We’re trying to get a lot more students involved, especially the ones that are able to donate blood,” he said, but added that the student council, which will be overseeing the drive from now on, doesn’t want to stop at just one annual drive.
“We thought we could bump it up to two or three just to help out more. We’re looking for different times to do it.”
Aside from the scheduling logistics, Plouse said the Portage Area leadership students will have a host of duties now and during the drive: Signing up donors during lunch periods and elsewhere in the community, posting fliers, developing morning announcements to build awareness about the drive, running snacks and drinks to those who gave blood and walking them back to a rest area where they can regain strength.
They’ll also be reaching out to local businesses for donations.
“Mazz’s and Homer’s Pizza always donate pizza for our donors,” Plouse wrote via email. “Subway in Portage also donates sub platters and cookies, and Portage Bakery donates their delicious homemade doughnuts.
“These business have made donations for our blood drives for many years. ... We have a pretty strong, supportive community.”
Rita’s Bakery and Pizza in Summerhill, Build-A-Burger in The Galleria and Smith Furniture of New Germany also contributed toward customized T-shirts to be given to donors.
Wolford said a proactive mentality is one of the things he and other Portage Area leadership seminar representatives took home to their district.
“For us to actually take (a project) in our own hands and do it – not to wait for it to happen,” he said. “(Finding) the drive to want to help the community.”
Justin Dennis covers Portage Area School District for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/JustinDennis.