Aiken residents rolled up their sleeves and laid down their arms on Thursday for the eighth annual Donate for Life blood drive, providing life-saving donations for the CSRA that are often difficult to come by during the summer months, according to Shepeard Community Blood Center.


Four bloodmobiles were available for 10 hours at the Centennial Corporate Center on Thursday. Four hours into the drive, about 170 donations had been acquired, said Greg Bearden, assistant director of community resources for Shepeard.


“It’s been really good so far. We’re a little bit ahead of last year’s numbers,” he said, adding they hoped to reach 258 donations this year.


The event takes place in Aiken each July, a partnership between UPS, URS Corporation, SCANA Corporation and Energy Solutions.


“It was started by a very faithful donor who works at UPS and realized summer months, July in particular, were a very difficult time to collect. He wanted to begin an annual event in July to try to boost the donation numbers,” Bearden said.


Shepeard is the contracted provider for 20 hospitals in the CSRA, so all donations stay local, Bearden said. Additionally, each donation saves up to three lives because the donations are separated into three components: red blood cells, platelets and plasma.


Donations often decrease over the summer months, and Bearden said Shepeard is in particular need of O-negative and O-positive types. However, all blood types are accepted.


“People’s schedules change, they travel, and even faithful donors who donate regularly sometimes take the summer off and skip a donation,” Bearden said. “Some people may be off work and they elect to have surgeries they did not have during the year. There are accidents because of travel and because of summer activities. Many times, the need for blood increases while the donations decrease.”


Also involved in Thursday’s event were Augusta-area radio stations Kicks 99, HD 98.3 and WGAC. Those who donated received a T-shirt and free Chick-fil-A.


First-time donors received a sticker letting people know it was their first time. Other people donate on a regular basis, like Stephanie Chandler, who has donated for six years.


“I always donate. I feel like giving back is right,” she said. “The first time, it was scary because I didn’t know what to expect. But after that, I got used to it. It doesn’t hurt at all. ... You never know when someone might need it.”


Shepeard will host another blood drive in Aiken in October.


The blood center in Hitchcock Plaza Shopping Center on Fabian Drive is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


Teddy Kulmala covers the crime beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.