March is Red Cross Month. The Times Observer is marking the occasion by publishing a series of articles about the local chapter and its functions.
The American Red Cross supplies about half of the nation's blood supply.
The Warren County chapter assists by conducting local blood drives.
According to executive director Rex Rossey, since July 2007, the Warren County chapter has held 49 blood drives, collecting 1,195 units of blood.
The blood drives are held at First Presbyterian Church in Warren, Tidioute Community Charter School, Sugar Grove Volunteer Fire Department, Warren Mall and Warren State Hospital.
The chapter lies within the New York-Penn Blood Services Region, which is based in Buffalo, N.Y. The region serves 63 counties in New York and Pennsylvania, an area with a population of 8.6 million people. As the third largest region in the American Red Cross System, New York-Penn collects more than 340,000 units of blood each year and serves 101 hospitals, including 13 trauma centers.
Norman Perschke of Warren has been adding to the pints collected in Warren County since 1961.
"The first time I gave blood was in the early 1950s," he said. "My friend's mother was in the hospital and she needed blood."
Shortly after his first donation, which took place in Lawrence County, Pa., Perschke made his way through the hospital to visit his friend's mother.
"I started to feel light-headed and they had to lay me down on the bed beside her," he said. "They gave me a shot of whiskey and I perked back up."
While times have changed, Perschke commitment to blood donation has not.
His job as a Penn State Cooperative Extension agent brought him to Warren County. At the time, he was working out of the basement of the Warren County Courthouse. Back then, the Warren Chapter of the Red Cross was located across the street where state Rep. Kathy Rapp's office is currently housed.
"It took about an hour to go across, give a pint of blood and get back to work," Perschke said.
Back then, Perschke said, getting through the line of people waiting to give blood took more time than the actual donation. After giving blood, as is the practice still, refreshments were provides to replenish the systems of those who donated.
"Back then, they even had cigarettes on the table," he said, noting the difference between contemporary and past blood drives.
Since arriving in Warren, Perschke said he has donated over 20 gallons of blood to the American Red Cross.
"I figure that's my contribution to those who need blood," he said. "It helps someone somewhere."
Perschke said he shares the story of his commitment to blood donation with the hopes of "shaking the tree" and reminding other people to do the same.
"I was trying to get people interested in giving blood," he admitted.