LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–The timing of Operation Cooperation, a statewide blood drive by Kentucky Baptists, has proven to be a providential witness to the state.
The statewide effort, which garnered 3,392 units of blood through 76 different blood drives, was part of the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Cooperative Program, the key Southern Baptist channel of support for missions and ministry.
Little did anyone know in the planning stages earlier this year that the Red Cross would have to be issuing a nationwide appeal for donors just as Kentucky Baptists were prepared to launch their drives in September.
“I definitely count it as the Lord’s timing,” said Robert Reeves, the KBC’s state coordinator for Operation Cooperation. “At the time we were planning the drives, our 75th anniversary celebration committee was looking for a way in which Kentucky Baptists could demonstrate cooperation and celebrate this birthday by giving a special gift to our communities. The blood drives seemed to be a great way to do that but we had no idea the need would be so severe just at the time we were to begin this major effort.”
Kentucky Baptists worked with more than 10 different blood service organizations to organize the drives, most of which were held in Baptist churches.
“Most blood drives are local efforts that involve a single blood service organization, so there’s no real way to know if we’ve set any kind of record,” Reeves said. “We weren’t doing it for the praise though. We simply wanted to share the love of Jesus in a way that the secular community could identify with.”
Blood service organization spokespersons said the Baptist drives definitely had an important effect on the shortage in Kentucky.
“[Operation Cooperation is] definitely having a positive impact,” Stephanie French, a spokeswoman for the River Valley Region of the American Red Cross, told the Louisville Courier-Journal in a Sept. 22 article.
“It’s made all the difference in the world” to the Central Kentucky Blood Center, a regional blood bank which has struggled since spring to keep supplies up, said CKBC education coordinator Vicki Boling. “Operation Cooperation has gotten us up to where we need to be, especially going into the holidays. It’s put us in a good situation.”
That Kentucky Baptists would choose to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Cooperative Program in a way that would benefit numerous people speaks volumes about them, Boling said. “It says that Kentucky Baptists are caring, compassionate people.”
Operation Cooperation also spoke to Kentucky Baptists about the blessing of working together, said Susan Byers, congregational nurse at Severns Valley Baptist Church. Byers and Linda Polley, director of administration for the church, headed up the Severns Valley Baptist Association effort. Together, the association collected 297 units of blood through three different sites.
Several churches sent representatives to an association-wide planning meeting, and many set participation goals for their churches, Byers said.
“It was fun for our association to cooperate in a different way other than just monetarily,” she said. The blood drive offered a way for churches to work together on a tangible, practical local mission project.
The drives may have also introduced dozens to a new ongoing ministry opportunity, Byers added.
More than 60 donors gave for the first time at the three Severns Valley association blood drives. One of those donors was Micah Johnson, who celebrated his 17th birthday on Sept. 12 by donating blood for the first time.
Operation Cooperation even offered Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton the opportunity to become a first-time donor.
“I’ve never given blood before. I said ‘no’ by ignoring the need. [The invitation to participate in Operation Cooperation] has been a good catalyst for me. I’ll probably become a regular donor,” Patton said. “I’m a little embarrassed I’ve never done it before. I think this should be a civic responsibility of everyone. It’s a realization I’m doing what I as a citizen should do.”
Several of the blood drives had a definite air of celebration. Volunteer coordinators across the state turned Operation Cooperation into a full-blown party with fun runs, food drives, fellowship dinners and more. The enthusiasm spilled over into the blood drives, with more than a dozen sites surpassing their collection goals.
The First Baptist Church of Owenton sponsored one of the most successful drives by gathering 61 units of blood, more than double their original goal. The Owenton site also sponsored a fun run/walk and food drive that drew 70 participants.
“Donors had to wait hours, but there was no complaining,” reported Anna Brown, volunteer coordinator Anna Brown, who called the effort “a definite answer to prayer.”
“We were scheduled for 4-9 p.m. I was the last donor and they were drawing my blood at 11 p.m.” Brown praised both volunteers and Central Kentucky Blood Center staff for their courteousness and cheerfulness.
Several regional blood centers also expressed appreciation for the opportunity to build relationships that they hope will result in more regular donors and more potential blood drive sites.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library. Photo title: GOV. PATTON PARTICIPATES IN OPERATION COOPERATION.