Community Involvement

Kern Valley prison staff save lives one donor at a time

Male officer with sleeve rolled up.
Kern Valley prison staff rolled up their sleeves to help those in need of blood.

By Lieutenant John Melvin

As the summer heat began in June, Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP) staff prepared for another day of saving lives.  Each year, 4.5 million Americans will a need blood transfusion but only 37 percent of the population is eligible to donate blood, with less than 10 percent actually donating. The prison staff do their part each year.

KVSP began donating blood in 2009 and hosted nine blood drives between 2009 through 2011, averaging 21 donors with 18 units of blood collected on average. Then, the blood drives lost steam and didn’t start up again until 2016.

Lady holds a license plate frame because she donated one gallon of blood.
Some earned the one-gallon club distinction for their donations.

That’s when Lieutenant Connie Waddle inquired about the prison hosting blood drives again.  Lt. Waddle has had personal experience with and recognizes the importance of this-life saving donation. 

The ball began rolling as KVSP got back into helping others by hosting several blood drives. The blood drives were extremely successful and ranked in the top three sites for cost effectiveness and highly attended mobile sites in Houchin Community Blood Bank’s portfolio, according to Tracy Hunter, Houchin’s Director of Community Development. 

“People that know me know I am a very private person. My mom died of cancer, and because of the gift of blood from selfless blood donors, my family and I were able to spend five extra months with her.  So, I’m extremely passionate about this,” said Lt. Waddle. “This is not about me; it’s about giving someone else that same opportunity my family and I had.” 

Since 2016, KVSP’s blood drives have averaged 64 donors participating and registering, resulting in 54 units of blood collected on average with 20 brand new donors per drive.  With three drives in 2016, three drives in 2017, three drives in 2018 and four scheduled for 2019.

Since 2009 up to today’s date, KVSP with the assistance of Houchin have registered 814 donors, resulting in 698 units of blood collected with 258 brand new donors.  Of those collected units of blood, KVSP has saved as many as 2,094 lives from products manufactured from their single donations.

“This is an outstanding accomplishment, and something that KVSP should be extremely proud of,  KVSP, more often than not, brings in more donations on any given day than a Community drive such as Taft or Delano might achieve and will bring in more than Houchin’s two donor centers walk-in rate,” said Hunter. “The commitment from Warden C. Pfieffer and Lt. Waddle (both donors) and that of Waddle’s team, is exceptional and shows a true testament to giving back to our community by saving lives. Houchin Community Blood Bank is extremely grateful.”

People donate blood in a large vehicle.
The mobile blood donation unit parked at Kern Valley prison for a successful drive.