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Sioux Falls woman at the heart of Community Blood Bank retiring

Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 6:09 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The Community Blood Bank says they are in a time where blood donations are needed now more than ever, and a large part of fulfilling that need is the Blood Bank staff.

Within the next week, they’ll be saying farewell to an employee who’s been there from the start in 1975 and has had a hand in collecting over 700,000 units of blood.

“It’s time for some new blood in blood bank,” said Community Blood Bank Donor Consultant Rita Nelson.

Nelson can remember her first day on the job like it was yesterday, “May 19th of 1975 in the donor room on the sixth floor in the old building of the hospital,” she said.

Now, 46 years later, Nelson is turning the page into retirement and remembering her critical role during the early days of what’s now known as the Blood Mobile.

“We did some bloodmobile drives out of my station wagon, we went to Canton and Dell Rapids and Viborg hospitals until we got the Blood Mobile,” Nelson added.

The Blood Mobile now accounts for 80% of units donated to the blood bank.

“She kind of grew with the Blood Mobile and the Blood Bank grew as an organization. We started out in 1975 just a seed and a thought about what we can do for our community,” said Community Blood Bank Executive Director Ken Versteeg.

Before retirement, Nelson donated blood one last time as an employee, marking her 15th gallon of blood donated throughout her career.

“Because truly when you donate blood you do save a life, and you affect the family’s life, the people of that patient. That whole family, their friends they’re all affected by what you’ve done,” said Nelson.

The Blood Bank says that for every pint donated it saves three lives, and Nelson donated her 120th pint on Thursday.

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