This year marks Cascade Regional Blood Services (CRBS) 75th anniversary of providing blood to MultiCare System clinics and hospitals in Pierce, South King, and Grays Harbor Counties. As the need for blood donations increases year-round, one thing remains the same, Cascade’s continued commitment as a community blood center leader.
Founded in 1946, not long after the end of WWII, CRBS evolved and grew to meet the demands of blood supply needs over the years.
What began in the early days as the Tacoma-Pierce County Blood Bank in the original St. Helens Avenue location downtown is credited to several doctors willing to give their time and expertise in its conception.
Donations were received regularly by a number of Tacoma manufacturing plants and work groups in what was known as a ‘transfusion pool.’ This ensured blood was available to each labor group and for emergency use within the community.
With enrollment cards initially selling for $1 each, membership benefits included granting free blood transfusions for the participating member’s family for life. The arrangement also created a reciprocal agreement between the blood bank and cardholders, who were required to make sure any blood used was later replenished.
It didn’t take long before there were over 30,000 members, and in 1951, a larger, all-new facility was built on South 12th Street. It was also around the time the first bloodmobile was launched.
Bloodmobiles enabled organizations to obtain donations in areas outside of the city, which were brought back to the blood bank for processing and allocation. In pre-COVID-19 times, up to 100 blood drives could be initiated per month at a designated sponsor site by utilizing the vehicles.
Today, the non-profit organization is known as Cascade Regional Blood Services. It has three donor centers, including Tacoma, Federal Way, Puyallup, and a temporary location in Gig Harbor. Additionally, they have four autonomous bloodmobiles and several other community support vehicles.
Though a lot has changed over the last 75 years, the constant need for blood donations is not one of them. The urgency has only increased further due to the pandemic, and with blood drives canceled during the past year, donations are at an all-time low.
The truth is, blood products remain in demand all year, every year. Used in many daily capacities for cancer patients, Sickle Cell Anemia, and other rare blood diseases, any number of life-threatening events like car accidents or natural disasters can quickly escalate that need.
Statistically, someone in America needs blood every two seconds, and no one knows when that need could be for them or a loved one.
“We are seeing a critical need for blood donations across the country, as never before. Not only because of the COVID-19 pandemic but recent winter storms,” says Candy Morrison, Director of Communications and Community Relations at CRBS. “When blood drives at places of business, schools, and places of worship are canceled, the effect on blood supplies is monumental.”
With state COVID-19 guidance easing, scheduling of more elective surgeries and procedures will open, creating even greater demand.
For CRBS to maintain its vital role in saving lives, they rely on donors’ generosity, in contributing 100 percent of the blood supply. Consistent donations are always necessary to meet the growing demands of an adequate supply of blood.
Through the help of dedicated patrons and new donors, they can meet the constant demand for blood products for MultiCare Hospitals, clinics, and emergency rooms throughout the region.
Cascade Regional Blood Services urges community members to commit to a yearly donation, a habit that contributes to saving lives. Not only is it easy, but it also takes relatively little time.
“Donating blood is quite simple,” according to Morrison. “The whole process from registration to cookies and chocolate milk is under an hour.”
After completing a short registration form, potential donors answer a few questions and undertake a quick physical to make sure they meet the health requirements. Healthy adults can safely donate one pint of blood with guidelines on future donations and frequency.
For example, red blood cells from a healthy candidate can be given every 56 days. Double red blood cells can be donated every 112 days. One pint of blood can save as many as three lives.
“Once you get your colorful wrap on, your ‘badge of honor,’ you are led to the canteen to relax for a bit to enjoy snacks and beverages,” says Morrison. “Chocolate milk and Oreos are donor favorites.”
Right now, walk-ins are not accepted; however, those wishing to make a blood donation can find more information about appointments and eligibility here.
There is a reason that CRBS has maintained its strong presence as a community blood center leader over the past 75 years. Their commitment to patients and saving lives is the foundation of their work every day and what communities have come to rely on.
“The longevity of CRBS is a testament to the generosity of folks who live in our communities,” says Morrison. “It is the dedicated donors throughout the decades that have selflessly given their time and lifesaving blood products to patients in our community hospitals. People helping people. It’s what we do and who we are.”
Help save lives by scheduling your blood donation today.
Cascade Regional Blood Services
Tacoma: 220 South I Street
Puyallup: 615 East Pioneer Ave., Ste 114
Federal Way: 909 South 336th St., Ste B-102