Delores Schwartz Keeps it social makes for successful blood drives

Photo by Mike Lamb Delores Schwartz has coordinated blood drives in Canby for 40 years

Sitting at the kitchen table inside her Canby home, Delores Schwartz flipped through pages and pages of Red Cross blood drive numbers for donors going back 40 years.

“One gallon donors, that’s kind of fun to see them reach that gallon,” Schwartz said. “A few last year, five gallon. Here’s a 13-gallon — those are really kind of fun. Here’s a 20 gallon, a 5 gallon, 9 gallon, 4 gallon, 19 gallons, 17 (gallon), six (gallon).”

Schwartz is proud of her “dedicated donors.”

“They hang with me,” she said with a laugh.

“I had a lady that — she quit three years ago because she’s 90-some years old — she’s way up there in the 40 (gallons).

Schwartz has served 40 years as the coordinator for Red Cross blood drives in Canby. She started coordinating Red Cross Bloodmobile drives in March of 1984. She is by far the longest serving coordinator in Canby. Lillian Reinters served from 1958 to 1976. Schwartz’s predecessor, Carol Jacobson, served from 1982 to 1984.

“I always keep track of how much blood is collected. Just for the fun of it,” Schwartz said. “Today, while I was sitting here waiting I totaled up my (blood collected). It’s nineteen thousand, six-hundred-seventy-three since I started. I usually end up close to 500 to 600 a year.”

What’s her secret for holding successful blood drives year after year?

Lunch, sweets and socializing

“I think people really enjoy that social part,” Schwartz said. “Not all places furnish lunch. I know some people don’t think that’s necessary. But it’s because they visit and they enjoy that. They start coming in about the same time as the other ones. I think it’s necessary.”

Her dedication to serve her community, such as coordinating blood drives for the Red Cross, goes back to when she graduated from Canby High School in 1962. She worked in Nelson’s Shoe Store in Canby for a year waiting to get into Sioux Falls Nurses training for LPN. After graduation, she returned to her hometown and worked at the Canby Community Hospital and Nursing Home. She worked there for 33 years.

“I was working at the nursing home and our director of nursing, Carol Jacobson was the (blood drive) coordinator. She was trying to get somebody to take it (coordinator) because she couldn’t handle it. And so I said, ‘well, do you think I can do it?’ she said, ‘oh no, when you’re working full time.’ And I said, ‘can I try it?’ She said, ‘go ahead.’ That was 40 years ago.”

Schwartz continued to work at the nursing home and later at REM Southwest Services (provides service options for people with disabilities.) She also operated her own adult foster home in 1995 where she also took care of her father until his death.

She retired in 2019 at age 75, but never missed a blood drive. At least not the ones that were not canceled.

“In the 40 years I have coordinated, St. Paul has canceled only two days. One because the computers were down and once because it was storming so bad the head nurse from Marshall tried coming three times and ended up in the ditch when she was only 4 miles out of Marshall,” Schwartz said.

Through the years, Schwartz says she has a core group of volunteers who help at each drive. She will have up to 25 helping with everything from making appointments, registration at the drive, setting up tables and chairs and preparing and serving sandwiches, cookies and muffins.

“I hear comments at the lunch table, ‘this is why I give blood — these good egg and ham salad sandwiches.’ Jokingly, I hope.

“I also have a person that calls the community people to donate bars, cookies and muffins. I really enjoy coordinating the drives and I’m very thankful for my volunteers helping of course. And all the donors.”

Schwartz also enjoys hearing the chatter among the donors and volunteers.

“They always have to sit there and visit afterwards,” she said.

She also is proud knowing that the blood that is donated at the drives she coordinating helps people facing medical issues.

“I just enjoy knowing it helps so many people. You know, one pint of blood can help,” she said.

Even at age 79, Schwartz has no plans to retire from coordinating the blood drives. After years of working full time, Schwartz says she gets “bored.”

“As long as I’m physically able. It’s hard to find somebody to replace,” she said.


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