‘It’s just a gift’ Lincoln’s blood donor generosity flows to others | Local
Matt Ochsner American Red Cross/Idaho and Montana
Editor’s note: March is Red Cross Month — a national tradition that began nearly 80 years ago when President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the first national proclamation of Red Cross Month. It is also an opportunity for the humanitarian organization to recognize those who make its work possible, including its volunteers who respond to disasters large and small, and its blood donors who roll up their sleeves to ensure that hospitals have the blood their patients depend on. Below is one such longtime blood donor, Rich Paul of Lincoln.
Rich Paul was in boot camp at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio in the early 1960s when an instructor arrived with an announcement.
There was a girl in the military hospital who had cancer, and they needed blood donors.
“He said, ‘We’ll give you the rest of the day if you give blood now.’ So I put my hand up right away,” Paul said. “It seemed like a good deal to me.”
Six decades and more than 215 donations later, Paul still raises his hand as a faithful Red Cross blood donor.
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“Damn, I got a lot of blood,” he said. “If I could do anything to help someone, it’s just a gift as far as I’m concerned.”
Eighty-three-year-old Paul lives just west of Lincoln and donates to community campaigns as often as he can. The other donors and the Red Cross team know him well.
“It’s like Old House Week every 60 days,” he said. “I walk in the door and a good percentage of them are like, ‘Hi Rich, I haven’t seen you in a few months.'”
Paul’s daughter, Dawn Charron, said her father is sure to draw a crowd.
“He gets a lot of hugs and kisses on a blood donation day,” she said. “I’ll let him tell you about it.”
Sherry Sidell is the blood program manager at Lincoln and helps organize community campaigns. She said Paul always lends his time to others, whether it’s donating blood, climbing a ladder to help paint a house, or with his amazing carpentry skills.
“He’s an amazing man and a good friend to everyone in town,” she said. “He just has a really big heart.”
Paul spent nearly 33 years as a Guardsman with the Montana Air National Guard and 28 years as a Civil Service Technician with the Guard. Besides Lincoln, he also lived in Great Falls and had a long list of employers, including Caterpillar, Anaconda Co., Albertsons, and Riverside Machine Works. Through it all, he has made helping others a key part of his life.
“Donating blood is a bit like walking down the street and seeing someone who is going through a tough time and needs money or whatever and I give it to them,” he said. “I’m also a good tip.”
“It’s something that made my heart feel good, and probably bigger, because of what I do. I’ve been like this for about sixty years.
Blood donation is also part of his family. Her mother was a blood donor in the 1950s before she fell ill and needed blood herself. Paul says he dreads the day when he will no longer be able to give.
“Some days I think ‘How much longer can I do this’, and that worries me because I don’t want this to happen to me,” he said. “When I am told that I can no longer donate blood, it will hurt. It’s going to hurt my heart.
For all he gave to others, Paul says he got so much back along the way. That’s why his name is Rich – not his first name, Richard.
“The reason he’s been Paul his whole life isn’t because he has money or that’s his name,” Dawn said. “It’s because of all the people, places and things he’s had in his life. That’s what makes him rich.
To learn more about being a blood donor, visit montanaredcross.org
With a team of more than 450 volunteers, the Montana Red Cross brings comfort and care to communities across the state.
Each year, the Montana Red Cross assists more than 700 people in the aftermath of disasters such as wildfires, house fires and floods by meeting their most immediate needs. This included families displaced by wildfires near Lame Deer, Polson and Hays last summer and grass fires in Great Falls and Denton in December.
Through its Pillowcase and Get Ready with Pedro programs, the Red Cross teaches young people in Montana how to be prepared for disasters and helps them build their own emergency kit.
Last year, the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces program provided support to more than 1,680 military families in Montana. These include helping service members get home for a funeral or childbirth and giving families tools to deal with the stress of a deployment.
The Red Cross also collects more than 40,000 units of vital blood at more than 1,900 blood drives across Montana each year. These blood products are used to help cancer patients, accident victims, expectant mothers and countless others.
To learn more about the Montana Red Cross and how to get involved as a volunteer, financial supporter, or blood donor, visit montanaredcross.org or call 800-272-6668.