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It's summertime, and the living, allegedly, is easy. However, for the American Red Cross, which keeps tabs on the nation's blood supply, summer presents a rather ~formidable challenge. As temperatures rise, blood donations sink, and the inventory is in greater demand. While the hot months of summer represent a time when many people set aside normal routines in favor of a more relaxing pace, taking a few minutes to donate blood would be a helpful civic activity.

While the Red Cross tries to keep a steady reserve of blood at all times, there are certain periods each year when low supplies raise an organizational concern. The Christmas season is such a time, when the attention of people is focused on other matters. Independence Day, marking mid-summer, is another. Ironically, during these times, the demand for blood increases, with more people traveling and more inevitable traffic accidents. These are tricky intervals for the Red Cross.

Last week, when a couple of blood drives failed to meet goals, the Red Cross alerted the public to its needs. This is an important communication. There are two things that work in favor of this nation keeping an ample supply of blood: one, the Red Cross is an outstanding agency and extremely good at this and other functions (it has been called into action in recent days to shelter families dislocated by floods), and, two, people of this region understand the purpose of the Red Cross and respond to these calls for help. It's a cliche but very important: Only people can replenish the blood supply. They are the only source. Given this knowledge, the people come through.

Also coming through are a number of other groups (ranging from businesses to ~churches, from municipal governments to civic organizations) that lend a hand in hosting blood collection drives. These contributions of facilities and volunteers is invaluable. A list of upcoming blood drives in this region, and their sponsors, is listed on the chart below.

In order to give blood, a person must weigh at least 110 pounds and be at least 17 years old. Donors can safely give every eight weeks. Even for people with busy sche~dules, the donation of blood is a way of contributing something very important to the community.