If you’re looking to give more than thanks this holiday weekend, try giving a pint of blood.

Today through Sunday, Shepeard Community Blood Center will offer a free movie ticket for Aiken Mall Cinemas to anyone who donates blood at one of two locations in Aiken.

The blood center, located at 353 Fabian Drive, will be open today and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

A blood mobile will be at Aiken Mall Cinemas today and Friday through Sunday from 3 to 7 p.m.

“It’s something they did in the past, and people really loved it,” Claire Rossie, a spokesperson for Shepeard said of partnering with the movie theater. “Everybody goes and sees movies around the holidays, so there’s been great feedback from that.”

Rossie said the need for donations increases around the holidays, when the number of donations itself decreases.

“People are traveling and on vacation,” she said. “It’s the most critical time because people are traveling, and God forbid anything happen, there are more emergencies happening. It’s extremely important because Shepeard supplies blood to 20 local hospitals, so you’re giving back to the community.”

The entire process, including screening and the donation procedure, takes about 45 minutes. Any healthy person who weighs at least 110 pounds and is at least 17 years old, or 16 with written parental consent, can donate blood.

In addition to staying in the CSRA, each blood donation saves up to three lives.

According to Rossie, because blood has three components – red blood cells, platelets and plasma – each component can be used to help a different person. For example, plasma is commonly used for burn victims, red blood cells are used during surgical procedures and platelets are used by cancer patients, Rossie said.

“The best way to give thanks this Thanksgiving holiday is to give back to those in your local community,” said Emily Sturkie, recruitment specialist for Shepeard. “Someone in your local community needs your help every day. Give the gift of life this Thanksgiving and give someone something to be thankful for this year.”

Samantha Haigwood, 25, of Aiken, donated for the first time at the blood center on Tuesday. She said she’d been wanting to donate for a while, and that being a blood donor has a special meaning to her.

“My dad died of cancer a few years ago, and he had to get blood given to him. I thought it was a nice way to give back,” she said after donating. “I was afraid of needles. I was kind of nervous when I sat down, but it actually wasn’t that bad at all.”

Haigwood was persuaded to donate by her fiance, Joshua Spain.

“We’ve been driving by this place almost three years, shopping, and never came in,” he said. “So we actually came in for once and did a donation.”

Like Haigwood, Spain has a fear of needles that he was able to overcome for the procedure.

“We might make a regular thing out of it – come here, do some shopping and donate blood,” he said.

For more information about blood donation, visit www.shepeardblood.org.

Teddy Kulmala covers the crime beat for the Aiken Standard. He is a graduate of Clemson University and hails from Williston.