More than three decades ago, the Executive Association of Kern County was formed to help local businesses grow. The focus of the group is on business and on creating a support network that helps the more than 75 member entrepreneurs succeed.

But over the years, the business group’s members discovered that being involved in the community — as volunteers and donors — can be a key component of their success. Besides helping their companies build solid reputations in the community, being involved and giving back to the community helps create a company culture of altruism and enhances workplace teamwork.

Houchin Community Blood Bank, the nonprofit provider of lifesaving blood products, has been a member of EAKC for many years. It has also been the beneficiary of members’ generosity and support, which has helped sustain the supply of blood available for adults and children suffering serious injuries from accidents, fighting chronic illnesses and diseases, and undergoing major surgeries.

In addition to providing prizes to promote blood donation campaigns and sponsoring Houchin events, many EAKC members are some of Houchin’s top donors.

“I donate blood because I can and it saves lives,” explained John Rodgers of Wells Fargo Investors, who is also a member of EAKC. “It is part of my duty as a citizen. Physically it makes me feel great and forces my body to work to replace it. And I have a sense of pride knowing I have helped someone. I started giving in college in Tampa and when I moved out here, I continued for the last 43 years.

“I support Houchin financially and do it as an owner of a business,” he noted. “If it helps people get to know my name and my company, that is all well and good. I don’t ever expect any return on my monetary or physical investment in Houchin.”

Rodgers, who has donated 21 gallons of blood, 25 platelets and 10 plasma, in addition to supporting Houchin with promotional contributions, is just one of many EAKC members who give a lot of themselves — and I mean a lot — to support Houchin and help save lives in this community.

Consider just this sampling of EAKC members: Ken and Kathy Pistoresi, the owners of Clean Sweep, both are donors. In fact, Kathy nearly lost her life a while ago and needed many blood products herself. Between them, the couple has donated 10 gallons of blood products, including platelets.

Tim Kounter, with Interim Health Care and Bakersfield Senior Placement, is a regular donor and has convinced his children to become donors. Kounter has just hit a 6-gallon milestone and has supported Houchin with “sweetheart packages of certificates” as prizes to encourage others in the community to donate.

During holidays, including the summer vacation months, Houchin’s blood supplies can reach precariously low levels. Regular donors and student donors are away from home and unavailable to donate. Outdoor activities also can result in tragic accidents that require transfusions of whole blood and blood products, such as plasma and platelets.

Consider some of these average demands for blood: cancer (8 units a week), leukemia (2 units a day), heart bypass surgery (5 units), bleeding ulcer (30 units), hip replacement (5 units), brain surgery (10 units), sickle cell anemia (4 units per treatment), auto accident victim (50 units) and organ transplant (40 units). There have been instances where patients receiving a liver transplant required 100 units of blood.

Blood is composed of a mixture of cells that are suspended in a fluid that is called plasma. Red cells transport oxygen around the body, replenishing organs and tissue. White cells fight off such things as bacteria and help prevent infection. Plasma, which contains proteins, salts and clotting factors, is the liquid component of blood. Platelets, which are very small fragments of cells, work with plasma to help prevent bleeding.

When a patient undergoes chemotherapy or radiation therapy to treat an aggressive cancer, for example, the treatment can destroy their bone marrow, where blood cells are formed. Until the bone marrow can recover, the patient will likely need platelet transfusions to survive.

Businesses are encouraged to call Houchin Community Blood Bank at 661-323-4222, or 877-364-5844 to schedule a company blood drive. Individuals can call those same numbers to schedule a time to donate blood.

Greg Gallion is the president of the Bakersfield-based Houchin Community Blood Bank. For more information about donating blood, platelets and plasma, go online to www.hcbb.com.

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