Houchin Community Blood Bank is on the move.

And while all the details are not yet public, it means growth — resulting in more donated blood, more donated blood products and more lives saved.

Within the past six months, the independent community blood bank has grown from 65 to 105 employees, a more than 60 percent increase in staff.

And it's already showing in the bank's numbers.

"October, November and December were record months in blood donations," said Tracy Hunter, Houchin's director of special events and sponsorships.

Houchin CEO Brad Bryan doesn't want to reveal too much, but he's clear about one thing: Houchin is not resting on its laurels.

"Here at Houchin Community Blood Bank, we have big plans for the future," he said.

And most of that future growth will be achieved by Houchin going to donors, rather than donors coming to Houchin.

As if to put an exclamation point on its strategy, Houchin on Monday celebrated its newest addition to its fleet of mobile blood donor buses. 

Nicknamed "Big Red," Houchin's state-of-the-art blood bank on wheels made its debut at the organization's Bolthouse Donor Center in southwest Bakersfield.

The size of a large school bus, the new mobile unit includes a climate control system paired with individual fans at each bed designed to keep donors comfortable during and after the donation process.

"It helps them cool off if they're feeling flush," Houchin's Support Manager Nick Crapo said of the fans.

The bus is fully wired, digitally. Staff use portable tablets to record the details of every donation, and a nurse is always on staff, along with a phlebotomist and "lead."

"We're in charge of making sure everything runs smoothly," said Lori Fernandez-Lopez, a lead.

The new bus — and new employees — will allow the blood bank to serve more donors and locations throughout Kern County and will be an important part of maintaining and improving the community’s blood supply, Hunter said.

"Prior to July, we were doing one mobile drive a day," Hunter said. "Now we're doing three. We are tripling our territory."

The new staff were needed to make it happen.

The new six-bed bus is the fourth mobile unit at Houchin. It joins another six-bed, a five-bed and a three-bed bus nicknamed "Half Pint."

Houchin has always gotten out to cities and towns across Kern, but the smaller staff severely limited how often they could go to places like Ridgecrest and Boron, Taft and Tehachapi.

Outlying businesses would invite Houchin to accept donations from their employees. But oftentimes the blood bank didn't have the staff to cover it.

Now, all that is changing.

"Donations are up 10-to-15 percent," Bryan said. "That's good because hospital need is up 10-to-15 percent."

Keeping up with that ever-increasing need is what it's all about.

It's written in script on the outside of the new bus:

"People live when people give."

And giving just became easier.

Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.

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