In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, blood donations have suffered.

The Oklahoma Blood Institute is urging donation drives to continue and reassuring donors that blood donation is safe and critical to preventing a shortage. Lawton First Assembly has stepped forward to rally to this cause by holding a blood drive Thursday.

While the event is nothing new for the church — it has hosted blood drives for years — the circumstances are unprecedented.

“We realized that, with so many blood drives being canceled, they would lose thousands of donations,” said Debbie Pratt, the church’s Pastoral Care Pastor. “We felt like this was something we needed to do for the community.”

The Oklahoma Blood Institute seeks to affirm the critical importance of blood donations, Pratt said. She also stressed that they are following all necessary guidelines to ensure social distancing is properly enforced.

“They (the blood institute) have established a number of new polices to ensure that donors will be safe, including social distancing measures, and they of course already do cleaning but there are now additional measures being taken,” Pratt said.

Pratt herself is not a fan of the phrase social distancing; instead, she prefers the term physical distancing.

“We are socially connected, and our church is spiritually connected, we just aren’t physically connected right now,” Pratt said. “There is a quote from our Surgeon General that I love, ‘social distancing does not mean social disengagement.’”

Donors are encouraged to call the church ahead of time and schedule an appointment for the day of the drive, in order to help maintain proper distancing rules. Additionally, donors can save time on the screening processes through the Oklahoma Blood Institute’s “Donor Express” option online.

By logging into obi.org and choosing the option for “Donor Express,” potential donors can fill out the screening questionnaire ahead of time.

Thursday’s blood drive is open to the public, and Pratt said she encourages everyone who can to sign up to donate.

“Blood donations are critical right now,” Pratt said. “We’re all about the fact that Jesus gave his blood for us, and we’re going to continue to give back that life and pour that life into other people.”

Pratt issued a challenge to all of the church’s members to give blood if they can and encourage others to do so if they cannot.

“For our compassion ministry this is another area of need and we have the means and the ability to help,” Pratt said.

To schedule an appointment, contact Bethany Kuehny at 536-9325 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. For more information, contact the church at compassion@lawtonfirst.org.

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