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Going for blood

Walton EMC and the Red Cross have been teaming up to go for blood for as long as anyone can remember. That won’t change in 2024, as the co-op’s customer-owners and employees continue a tradition of giving life.

“Nobody knows when it started because it was so long ago,” said Laurie Treadwell, Walton EMC personnel specialist and blood drive coordinator. The best guess is that the drives began in the 1960s.

Walton EMC typically hosts five drives annually. It’s a way the co-op demonstrates one of its core principles: caring for the community. Since Georgia Northeast Red Cross began keeping donation records in 2003, the co-op drives have collected 2,288 pints of usable blood.

Monroe resident Gary Mastrodonato, a Walton EMC member for 42 years, is among the regular donors. After the co-op’s most recent drive last December, he has given 291 pints. It’s a habit he developed while serving in the Army during the Vietnam War.

“An urgent base-wide plea for blood donations came from the hospital on post,” he recalled. “I uncharacteristically volunteered. This was a great leap for me, a comfortable accounting clerk, leery of needles and sharp pencils.”

Mastrodonato discovered that giving blood to help others made him feel good. “Wherever I have lived since then, one of the first things I did was start the donation routine,” he said.

Darlene Butler, the co-op’s director of finance, is another regular at the drive. At 136 pints given, she leads all co-op employee donors.

“It’s something I can do for others that doesn’t cost me anything but time,” she said. Her O negative blood is the universal type needed for emergency transfusions and immune-deficient infants.

Walton EMC’s first blood drive of 2024 is Feb. 15. A single drive typically yields 29 to 32 pints of usable blood, which is desperately needed, Treadwell said.

“The Red Cross currently has a critical need for blood donors, especially those with O types,” she said. “Every gift of blood can help up to three people, so I encourage everyone to give whenever and wherever you can.”

Potential donors can visit the Red Cross website to sign up for a nearby drive. To check appointment availability for the upcoming Walton EMC drive, contact Treadwell at