Communities hit hard by tornado "pay it forward"

LITTLE ROCK, On the one-month anniversary of the April 27th tornado, two communities hit hard by the storm aim to pay it forward and help save lives at American Red Cross blood drives in Mayflower and Vilonia. "We've held blood drives in the past and had planned for another," said Sharon Wisniewski, blood drive coordinator at Mayflower First Baptist Church. "So many have reached out and tried to help our community, including the Red Cross. So, we want to give back in whatever way we can." Dozens of volunteers and disaster responders have been at work to help clear debris and meet survivors' needs in the weeks since the storm hit. According to Wisniewski, the blood drive is a way that practically anyone can help out. "For those who can't make a financial contribution or maybe aren't physically able to pick up debris, one hour to donate blood is something they can do," she said. "We always hear there's a need for blood, but with this situation, it hits closer to home." Vilonia High School's Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) student organization knows firsthand about how quickly the need for blood can arise. "There were so many people in our community, including some of my students, who needed blood in the hospital and the triage center," said Stephanie Ramsey, FCCLA advisor and blood drive coordinator. "So, we want people to have the chance to give back and make a difference for others who might be in need." The blood already on the shelves is what helps in emergencies. The Red Cross provided several units of type O negative blood to two hospitals in Arkansas before the storm and supplied 40 units of plasma to help treat those who were injured. Upcoming blood donation opportunities: May 27 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Harp's Food Center, 1048 Main St., in Vilonia May 27 from 2-7p.m. at the First Baptist Church, 4 Highway 89 North, in Mayflower The blood drives also comes on the verge of summer, a time when it can be difficult for the Red Cross to collect blood due to summer break from school and family vacations. Donors of all blood types are needed to help meet the constant need, especially donors with types O positive, O negative, A negative and B negative. Eligible donors are encouraged to make an appointment to donate by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visiting