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updated: 9/10/2013 9:57 AM

Lombard's Carol Bauer named state's most dedicated blood drive coordinator

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  • Carol Bauer, executive coordinator for the village of Lombard, enlists village employees and volunteers to promote the village blood drives. Her dedication has earned her an award for being the state's "Most Dedicated" blood drive coordinator.

       Carol Bauer, executive coordinator for the village of Lombard, enlists village employees and volunteers to promote the village blood drives. Her dedication has earned her an award for being the state's "Most Dedicated" blood drive coordinator.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • A 47-year employee of the village of Lombard, Carol Bauer has coordinated its blood drives for 20 years, during which time donations have grown from double to triple digits.

       A 47-year employee of the village of Lombard, Carol Bauer has coordinated its blood drives for 20 years, during which time donations have grown from double to triple digits.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Lombard blood drives, organized by Carol Bauer, center, have collected more than 10,981 pints of blood for Heartland Blood Centers since 1988.

       Lombard blood drives, organized by Carol Bauer, center, have collected more than 10,981 pints of blood for Heartland Blood Centers since 1988.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer, JULY 2011

 
 

A red and white sign in front of the Lombard village hall announces that the next Community Blood Drive will be Sept. 11.

Fliers and brochures on the blood drive have been distributed to local businesses and community groups. Notices have appeared in church bulletins and been given from the pulpit. Firefighters have handed out information at the train station and grocery stores. Radio stations have made announcements.

It's hard to miss that Lombard is having a blood drive. Behind all that promotion is village employee Carol Bauer, who will receive an award on Sept. 11 for being named the "Most Dedicated" blood drive coordinator in the state by the Illinois Coalition of Community Blood Centers.

"I didn't even know the award existed," said Bauer, who credited blood donors and volunteers with making Lombard's blood drives so successful. "I'm still in shock."

Lombard started holding blood drives 25 years ago, and Bauer, the village's executive coordinator, took over the job of heading them up five years later at the request of the then village manager.

Back then, the village had two blood drives a year, and each drive collected between 25 and 30 pints of blood, she said. Bauer wasn't even a donor herself. Feeling guilty, she submitted to the needle and found it painless.

Since then, Bauer has personally donated several gallons of blood, and the village now has at least four blood drives a year. Each drive typically brings between 190 to 200 pints, with a record of 256 pints being set in September 2011.

All totaled, Lombard blood drives have collected more than 10,981 pints of blood for Heartland Blood Centers since 1988.

Karen Schwarz, senior marketing representative for Heartland Blood Centers, nominated Bauer for the award and credits her with the increase.

"She's just amazing," Schwarz said. "She's so dedicated to the cause in having a successful blood drive."

Each of the six blood centers in Illinois nominates a person in three categories for awards given annually by the Illinois Coalition of Community Blood Centers. Mundelein Fire Chief Tim Sashko was named this year's "Most Innovative," and Sgt. Keith Wagner won "Best School Drive" for his work with Lincoln Challenge Academy in Chicago.

In addition to receiving awards, the three winners will be invited to the State Capitol during the winter legislative session for a news conference and reception.

"I'm thrilled," Bauer said. "(But) it's really a cooperative thing. It's everybody pitching in."

Lombard businesses donate coupons and raffle prizes for blood donors. Bauer said she has a half-dozen volunteers who show up for every drive to distribute publicity and help at the blood donation site.

"Without them helping, it would not happen," she said.

One of those volunteers is Mari Ann Mellin, who got involved with the Lombard blood drives 15 to 18 years ago when her son needed a Boy Scout community service project. Mellin said Bauer is low-key about her role, but she's the one who makes Lombard's blood drives so successful.

"I've never known any blood drive to be as coordinated as this one, or as consistent," Mellin said. "She (Bauer) is the engine behind it. Without her, I think it would be hit or miss."

Winnie Lyons, who has volunteered at Lombard blood drives for more than 10 years, said longtime donors and volunteers have become a community in themselves.

"It's kind of a joke, I say people come to visit us," Lyons said. "She (Bauer) is in it 100 percent. We wouldn't have all this if it weren't for her. She knows everybody there."

47-year employee

Bauer couldn't have foreseen she would be coordinating blood drives when she started working for the village 47 years ago. Back then, she was a police and fire dispatcher, a position she held for nearly 10 years until DuPage County agencies went to a central dispatch system.

She became a secretary at the village hall and was promoted 37 years ago to executive coordinator serving under the village manager.

As executive coordinator, she handles phone calls and correspondence for the village manager, village president and board, and village clerk. She coordinates village board agendas and takes minutes at board meetings.

A Lombard resident nearly all her life who has a significant other and a married daughter and three grandsons living on a farm in Washington state, Bauer said she has no plans to retire in the foreseeable future.

"I enjoy my job. You meet a lot of people. I like that, and I like trying to help people," she said. "I like to get up knowing I have a mission."

The blood drive has been a growing part of that mission. The village was holding two blood drives a year until one year when Heartland Blood Centers was especially low on supplies and asked Lombard to lead a third drive. Bauer didn't know that drive on April 20, 1999, would be the day of the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado.

Bauer hadn't heard the news yet, but recalled people coming to the blood drive in tears.

"People came pouring in here because they wanted to help those people in Colorado. Some of that blood actually was sent out there," she said.

Bauer has heard other stories as well. One man who has been a faithful donor shared during the drive this past July that his teenage son had been diagnosed with a brain tumor during the winter and needed blood. Years back, a Lombard firefighter was diagnosed with a rare blood disease and was not expected to survive. But many blood transfusions later, he is now enjoying an active retirement, Bauer said.

Her own sister and nephew have needed blood transfusions, she said. For people who may be afraid of donating as she once was, Bauer likes to tell them about the three S's.

"It's safe. It's simple. It saves lives," she said. "Without people donating, people would not survive."

Because different components of blood are used, one pint actually can help three people, Bauer said.

Bauer added that the process takes less than one hour -- from filling out paperwork to enjoying refreshments and sticking around a few minutes after donating to be sure the donor is safe to go.

Lombard's four blood drives a year are in January, April, July and September, leaving the required 56 days in between so an individual donor can give each time.

Last year, Lombard held an additional blood drive in November to honor late Village President Bill Mueller, who died in August and was a big blood drive supporter. Lombard may hold another blood drive in November this year as well, Bauer said.

Sept. 11 drive

The blood drives take place in two locations. Heartland's mobile unit will be parked at Yorktown Center's entrance 5 (on the lower level near Egg Harbor) from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11, the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Then, from 1:30 to 7 p.m., the drive will move to the Lombard village hall, 255 E. Wilson St. A photo ID is required. Appointments are recommended, especially at Yorktown Center.

Donors at the Sept. 11 drive will receive a coupon for a free pint of frozen custard at Culver's and a $10 off coupon from Buca di Beppo restaurant, as well as an entry into a raffle to win four tickets to a Cubs vs. Pirates game and a Yorktown Center gift card.

To schedule an appointment, contact www.heartlandbc.org or (630) 620-5712. For information about donor eligibility, contact Heartland at (800) 786-4483.

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