Southold FD honored once again for blood drive efforts

The Southold Fire Department was honored last year with the Terry Farrell Award for collecting more pints of donated blood donations than any other department on Long Island — 433 pints, to be exact.

A year later, the department topped that effort by collecting 615 pints, an increase of 42 percent.

So it was no surprise that Southold once again earned the Farrell Award, a prestigious honor for a department that has taken great pride in organizing blood donation drives throughout the year that residents across the North Fork and beyond have embraced.

“It’s something that is really not just the department, but the whole community that does it,” said volunteer firefighter Michael Zweig, one of the principal organizers of the drives.

The department received the award at a ceremony May 11. Named for a Hicksville FDNY firefighter who died on Sept. 11, it’s the highest honor given by the New York Blood Center.

“They really put in so much work,” said Lisa Lee, a manager with the center who works with local fire departments. “Such a great contribution to the community.”

In 2016, the Southold department hosted five blood drives, one more than the previous year. This year’s most recent drive was held May 24 and the next is scheduled for Aug. 16.

“It’s absolutely a point of immense pride,” said Chief Jim Rich. “We have a written mission statement, which is to serve and help the community. So this fits extremely nicely into our mission statement.”

Chief Rich said the increased effort the department put into the blood drives began about six years ago, at a time when only 28 to 30 pints of blood were being collected during a typical drive. He credited Mr. Zweig and the other volunteers for taking the drives to the next level.

Mr. Zweig said organizers hang posters advertising the drives in hamlets across the North Fork. The department also treats donors to a spaghetti dinner and homemade pie. A crew of seven to eight people works the dinner, he said. Additional volunteers help set up and promote the event. Fire department Chaplain Joe McCarthy leads the cooking crew and Mr. Zweig bakes the pies, which vary from chocolate cream to lemon meringue, depending on the season.

“I think in August I’m going to whip up some key lime pie,” he said. “Whatever seems good for the season.”

The need for blood donations remains as strong as ever. The NYBC said close to 2,000 donations are needed each day in the New York/New Jersey area for patients who require lifesaving blood and/or platelet transfusions. Anyone between the ages of 17 and 75 who weighs a minimum of 110 pounds and is in good health is eligible to donate. Someone can safely donate blood once every eight weeks.

Donations from Southold Fire Department drives will help anywhere between 1,800 and 3,000 patients, the NYBC said.

“We’re very grateful to the community for their cooperation,” Mr. Zweig said.

Photo caption: (From left) Kevin Farrell, Joe McCarthy, Micael Zweig, Brian Grattan and Denis Farrell. (Credit: Sierra Zweig)

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