Red Cross needs blood donations, say those who make it a habit of volunteering

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Faygie Holt | Special to the JT

When John Miller was growing up in Owings Mills in the 1970s and ’80s, he watched his father, Mickey, serve as the board chair for the local branch of the American Red Cross, even helping to cut the ribbon on the then-new regional Red Cross campus on Mount Hope Avenue.

A World War II-era poster encouraged American women to volunteer for the Red Cross as part of the war effort. (Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons)

“He was really proud that he did a lot of the fundraising for that campus,” recalled Miller, adding that his father would take him “to see blood drives and bring me on speaking engagements on weekends.”

A one-time Baltimore County councilman and local businessman, Milton “Mickey” Miller was passionate about several organizations in the community but had an affinity for the organization that supplies some 40% of all the nation’s blood stores. It’s an affinity that has passed down to his children and grandchildren, especially John, who is the philanthropy committee chair of the Central Maryland Chapter of the American Red Cross.

“I don’t think people realize how much the Red Cross needs blood donations,” John Miller, 57, told the Baltimore Jewish Times in advance of National Blood Donor Month, which began on Jan. 1. “I think there’s a perception that it’s not vital for people to give blood, but it is.”

In fact, a year ago this month the organization recorded its “first-ever Red Cross blood crisis,” as there were challenges collecting blood and hospital needs during the coronavirus pandemic.

Even now there are challenges since fewer people donate blood during the holidays due to travel and winter weather conditions, making January the most-needed month for participation in drives. Couple that with the fact that the United States is seeing a rise in respiratory illness like the flu and RSV, which can decrease the availability of healthy donors, according to the organization.

‘It does a lot of good, locally and nationally’

A father of three adult children and grandfather of a newborn baby girl, Miller works as an insurance broker. He and his wife, Jodi, live in Pikesville and are members Beth El Congregation. It is his Judaism that encourages his passion to help others, a trait he says he got from his parents, including mom Sue, and his grandparents.

“I think a big part of Judaism is tzedakah, and I think that can be in any way that works for you and the Red Cross is something I am passionate about,” he said, noting that a part of Jewish identity is “helping the less fortunate and giving back. It doesn’t feel like work to me; it feels good, and I hope it’s doing good for the people who need it.”

Giving to others, he continued, “has been a part of who I am for my whole life. My parents were like this. I’m one of three boys, and we are all like this — passionate about being charitable and philanthropic, and helping make our community the best it can be.”

As a volunteer and board member for the Red Cross, Miller has organized several events for the organization over the last few years, starting with a “Race for the Red” walkathon that was curtailed by COVID.

The event ended up being held virtually; people could run wherever they wanted to, with others sponsoring their efforts.

“It was very successful,” said Miller. “We raised more than $50,000, and it was really fun.”
Miller repeated the event the following year, adding a cycling option for those who like biking. That event netted the local Red Cross even more money.

A little less successful (but still fun) was the “Jam for the Red,” a concert with local performers that Miller organized in 2021. He says he likes to try different things with different focal points geared to all kinds of interests and see what works.

And the goal, as always, is to raise awareness towards the work of the Red Cross and its mission.

“The Red Cross does so much in our community and around the world,” said Miller. “It responds to every fire in our community, every natural disaster. They are often first on hand helping people. It does a lot of good locally and nationally. It is a resource for our community, and it just needs to be supported by the community.”

For more information, visit the Central Maryland Chapter of the Red Cross at: https://www.redcross.org/local/dc-va-md-de/about-us/locations/central-maryland.html. 

Faygie Holt is a freelance writer.

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