Plenty of blood donors will claim, with a wink, that they “do it for the cookies.” But at the regular Wilmington Elks Lodge and Sabina Fire House blood drives, they do it for Vi’s back rubs.
“Vi” is 83-year-old Violet Piatt from Sabina. “That’s “83 going on 38,” Vi quips, and she proves it. At nearly every Community Blood Center (CBC) blood drive at the Elks Lodge and the Joint Fire District you’ll see her making the rounds in the donor café, thanking blood donors with not just a pat on the back, but with a comforting back massage.
“I first came in and decided to give blood 40 years ago,” she says, “and I’ve been doing them ever since. I did massages from day one.” Over time it became increasingly difficult to make blood donations, so Vi says she “had to quit.” But that only made her more determined to work her magic fingers as a blood drive volunteer masseuse.
She is quick to point out that she is not professionally trained, but don’t tell that to her blood drive followers. “They say, Oh yeah! That’s what we came for,” laughs Vi. Almost everyone wants a back massage. “Once in awhile, someone don’t like it,” she says, but that usually means she has more time for someone else. “Sometimes I give ‘em two if they’re real nice!” She also accepts tips, which go into her “gas can” for gas money or donations to her church.
She doesn’t keep track of how many massages she gives. “I don’t count, I just rub!” she says. And she doesn’t mind the exercise. “My hands never get tired,” she says. “I think it keeps me from having arthritis!” CBC Clinton Co. rep Mary Mink counts on Vi. “She’s like the Energizer Bunny,” says Mary, “She never stops! She goes to businesses in Sabina and Wilmington and gives employees a massage. Everybody that knows her loves Vi!”
Vi is the mother of twins (a boy and a girl). Her husband has passed away. Her career has been in hospital work and retail. Her mission now is to share her special touch.
It’s a connection that goes well beyond blood drives. She cares about her community. Vi says she doesn’t count the number of back rubs, but she does remember the day of the World Trade Center attacks. “On 9/11 I gave more than 300 that day,” she recalls. “So many people were waiting to donate blood. There was no place to put them all, they were so tired. I gave people back rubs to make them feel good, just to help someone.”
Blood drive volunteer Vi Piatt proves there are many gifts connected to the gift of life.