The life-saving gifts of blood and organs for transplant needed by African Americans are not always available.
Because blood and organ recipients are most likely to find compatible matches from donors of the same ethnic background, low donation rates among the African American community can result in shortages of blood supply and organs for transplant.
The sixth annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blood and Donor Registry Drive at the North Portland Red Cross headquarters at 3131 N. Vancouver Ave. strives to help create equal access for all by educating the community about the importance of African Americans donating blood and signing up on the organ, eye and tissue donor registry.
The drive is scheduled 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24. All presenting donors may enter a raffle for a $100 Safeway gift card and receive a free Dr. MLK Jr. commemorative pin, while supplies last.
Blood donors also may enter to win airfare and a one-week stay at the San Diego Marriott for two. In addition, all presenting donors receive a 15 percent off coupon good for one training class, or one item at the American Red Cross store. At the same time, the facility plans an artists of color special one-day art show to support the MLK Blood & Organ Donor Drive.
African Americans comprise 7 percent of Portland's population, yet less than 2 percent donate blood. The low donation rates have resulted in shortages in the blood supply for illnesses such as sickle-cell disease, carried by one in 12 African Americans.
Among the 2,100 individuals awaiting a life-saving organ transplant in the Pacific Northwest, 192 are African American.
Of those, 93 percent need a kidney, the most difficult organ to match. Most compatible matches are between donors and recipients of the same ethnic background, making organ donation by African Americans crucial to improving the health of their community.
There are 3 ways to sign up on the organ donor registry: with a "D" on your Oregon driver's license/permit/ID; online at www.donatelifenw.org; on a paper form obtained by calling Donate Life Northwest at 503-494-7888.
Honor Dr. King by making an appointment to give blood on Saturday, Jan. 24. Call 1-800-GIVE LIFE (1-800-448-3543) to schedule your time between 7:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Portland Donor Center at 3131 N. Vancouver Ave. No appointment is needed to sign up on the organ donor registry. African American identical twins, Arnold and Dornald Myers, are both awaiting kidney transplants. Your contribution may help save their lives.