Shelby County donors answered the call at St. Remy’s Hall in Russia Tuesday, April 16.  They turned out in strong support of the Community Blood Center (CBC) spring blood drive, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus at St. Remy Church.

The modern and spacious St. Remy’s hall stands in the shadow of the historic St. Remy Catholic Church, which is currently getting flanked with scaffolding for window repair. The parish is older than the town, dating back to 1850 when according to church history “due to distance, weather conditions, and wolves in the area” it became too difficult to travel to St. Valbert’s near Versailles.

A log chapel “pioneer church” was built on the DeBrosse farm, and the congregation outgrew it by 1868.  Following Russian custom, they erected a new church around the old one and carried out the original church piece by piece when construction was complete. That church served until 1890 when the cornerstone of the current church was laid and blessed.

The St. Remy’s Hall mobile blood drive stands on a solid cornerstone of its own, with a strong history over the last seven years, including regular automated donations. Tuesday’s drive had 172 registrations, including eight first-time donors, with 164 whole blood and double red blood cell donations, plus 14 apheresis donations for 106 percent of goal.

CBC Shelby Co. Rep. Kathy Pleiman and coordinator Carl York were pleased with the turn-out.  In the same way the parish keeps repairing and improving St. Remy church, organizers know it takes effort and dedication from donors to have blood drive success.

Tom Albers, a “20 gallon donor,” made his 166th lifetime donation at St. Remy’s Hall. He is the coordinator of the December CBC blood drive at Sacred Heart Church in McCartyville. “It’s a really important time of year,” said Kathy Pleiman, “and they always get a great turn-out.”

“We feed ‘em well at McCartyville,” said Tom.

Bill Tady made an apheresis donation at St. Remy’s, his 115th lifetime donation.  “I think they’ve got me giving plasma today,” he said. “I’ve been coming her so long, I can’t remember sometimes!”

Dairy farmer Patrick Buscher comes from a family of eight brothers and three sisters in North Star. Five years ago he donated stem cells for his younger brother Mike, who has was battling Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  Mike’s lymphoma returned but he was able to fight it off with more treatments.

Patrick remembers being helped through the stem cell process by CBC apheresis specialist Marilyn Staker, who will retire at the end of April after 38 years with the blood center.  St. Remy’s marked the final mobile blood drive of her career.

“She’s a neat lady,” said Patrick. “She’s got a great personality.  That’s what makes you want to keep coming back.”

Neal Pleiman from Osgood donated platelets at the drive, his 201st lifetime donation. “One time we were at a drive in Versailles and they were really short on platelets,” he said. “Marilyn asked me if I ever thought about giving platelets. It takes a little longer than whole blood. I said I’m retired, I have the time so it’s O.K.!”

Jo Heitmeyer, who recently retired from the City of Sidney, made her 276th lifetime donation at the drive.  She has been donating platelets for about 15 years and says she was inspired by the city’s firefighters because many are apheresis donors.  This St. Remy drive was the last chance to have a long chat with Marilyn.

“She’s so nice,” said Jo. “She just makes you want to donate.  We like talking about our dogs. Once, my husband was waiting for me with our Golden Doodle ‘Ollie.’ Marilyn went out to the car to say hi to him!”

“Whenever Marilyn calls, I kid her and give her a hard time,” said Henry Barhorst from Fort Loramie as he made his 93rd lifetime donation.  “She’s a real sweet gal. I’m always glad to have her around and I hate to see her go.”

There’s a new generation of donors who are following in the footsteps of Marilyn and her donors.  Kelsey Coverman, Tyler Frelin and Rebecca Art are all 16-year-old sophomores at Russia High School who came to donate (with parental permission) at the end of the school day.

Kathy Pleiman is proud of Russia High School junior Dean Langenkamp, who is only 17 but made his 9th lifetime donation at the drive.  Dean said his goal is “To beat my older brother Jack.  He had 10 donations when he graduated.”

Joe Turner is a high school basketball referee from Fort Loramie who took a few years away from officiating when his own children were playing.  “I was a pretty good critic,” he said of watching instead of officiating.  “It’s an interesting perspective to see how other people work.”

He never takes time off from donating, and made his 92nd blood donation at St. Remy’s Tuesday. “My dad always donated,” he said. “My mom too.”

Hard work, faith, family ties and tradition. That’s how the foundation is built at the St. Remy’s Hall blood drive and it continues to be rock solid.

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