WILLMAR -- Five local banks are hoping for community participation as they host an American Red Cross blood drive Friday in Willmar.
"The banks have never done this before. This is new. We're rolling up our sleeves together here for a collaborative effort," said Deb Van Buren of North American State Bank.
The blood drive will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Rice Memorial Hospital. The goal is 65 units.
Volunteer donors can make an appointment by calling the Red Cross toll-free number at 1-800-GIVE-LIFE. Walk-in donors will be accepted too.
To spur donations, the five banks -- North American State Bank, Home State Bank, Concorde Bank, Lake Region Bank and Heritage Bank -- are also holding a friendly competition to see which bank can amass the most blood donors on its behalf.
Jill Applegate, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross North Central Blood Services, called the event "a perfect example of the way the community pulls together to give back."
"It just seems like a caring thing for the banks to do," she said. "We hope lots of folks will come out and give."
Van Buren said the idea grew out of a loan project put together by the five banks earlier this year to help Rice Memorial Hospital finance the development of a $1 million data center. Inspired by this opportunity to work together, the banks wanted to find some way to give back.
From hosting their first blood drive this past spring, employees at North American State Bank knew about the ongoing need for donated blood, Van Buren said.
She said it was "a no-brainer" for the rest of the banks to agree on another blood drive as a community project.
"The goal is new donors, a new location, a new focus," she said.
The banks have chipped in their own money to advertise the event. To drum up community interest, they've also arranged for live radio broadcasts from Rice Hospital while the blood drive is taking place.
Red Cross North Central Blood Services must collect 5,000 units of blood every week to keep up with the need at hospitals in the Upper Midwest, Applegate said.
"Summer's always hard because the schools are out and about 20 percent of our donor base is high school and college students," she said. "The need for blood is always constant, so when donations fall off a little, we need donors to come in and boost the supply."
With the possibility of widespread influenza this fall and winter, it'll be especially important for eligible donors to give now, while they're still healthy and before the flu virus takes a toll on the donor base, she said.
Blood platelets must be used within five days, but red cells have a shelf life of 42 days and plasma can be frozen for up to one year.
If Friday's blood drive is successful, Van Buren said the banks will consider hosting one again.
"The community will help us decide that," she said. "It's just a simple way to make a different. It's all about making a difference... It feels really good to give back."