Southold’s firefighters are already dedicated to saving lives. But the Southold Fire Department took its mission to a new level last year by generating more blood donations than any other fire department on Long Island, according to the New York Blood Center.
The volunteers, who collected 433 pints of plasma through four different “spaghetti dinner” blood drives, were named the winners of the Terry Farrell Award at a ceremony Thursday night.
The award — named after a Hicksville FDNY firefighter who died on 9/11 — is the highest honor given by the New York Blood Center, said Lisa Lee, a manager with the organization that works with local fire departments.
“They’re a terrific community,” Ms. Lee said. “They make a wonderful spaghetti dinner and it brings the community together.”
The honor marks the first time a North Fork fire department drive has raised the most blood donations, Ms. Lee said. Second place in the competition went to Southampton Fire Department, the previous winner, which this year fell 17 pints short of its Southold counterpart.
Southold’s four annual blood drives are run by a team of firefighters and emergency volunteers, including Michael Zweig, Pete Grattan Jr., Carl Stepnoski, assistant chief Peggy Killian, Chief Jim Rich, the fire department’s junior members and many others.
Joe McCarthy, the fire department chaplain who cooks the dinners every time using a special “fire department recipe,” said the team was “extremely proud and honored to be recognized.”
“It goes to show the community how important blood drives really are,” Mr. McCarthy said. “We need to have more people participate in the Southold Fire Department’s blood drives because we’ve proven the need exists and we strive to fill it.”
Chief Rich said the department has been “blown away” by the community response.
“Everybody benefits,” he said. “There’s no downside to any part of it.”
Anyone could need a blood transfusion at any time, due to serious injury, surgery or emergency medical conditions, Mr. McCarthy added.
Ms. Lee said each pint of blood that’s donated can help between three and five patients. By that measure, she estimated that the Southold department’s efforts have helped at least 1,200 people.
“This is one of the few ways where you always know where you’re helping people,” she said.
Mr. McCarthy said the need for blood is “ever-present,” especially during summer and winter months, since blood plasma has a “shelf life.” During the harsh winter of 2014, blood supplies were short across Long Island.
Hospital officials arrived halfway through one of Southold’s blood drives that winter to rush what donations the fire department had collected to hospitals that were in desperate need.
“They were running out of blood,” Mr. McCarthy said.
He added that the department is considering adding a fifth annual blood drive and praised his team of fellow volunteers for making the events a success.
“It’s incredibly important and we feel blessed that we’re able to make a difference,” he said. “That’s what we do, not just at a blood drive but as a fire department.”
The department’s next blood drive will be held on May 25 from 2:15 to 8:15 p.m.
Photo Caption: Southold Fire Department members accept the Terry Farrell Award. (Credit: courtesy)