PEMBROKE — Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, as well as blood types.
Shareka Wilkins, 21, is living proof of that, having saved more than an estimated 45 lives before she was even old enough to drink, thanks to her regular attendance of area blood drives such as the one that took place at the Pembroke Boys & Girls Club on Monday, where Wilkins works as a youth coordinator.
“I started donating back in high school, when I was 16 years old,” Wilkins said. “I was taking a lot of health education classes and that is what got me interested … I am not even sure how many times I have given so far, though I know it has been more than 15 times. It is at the point where they call me on the phone whenever they are holding drives.”
Monday’s blood drive was the idea of Ernie Barton, the club’s manager, after attending an event out of town during which he spoke with some members of the American Red Cross. He felt that the organization would provide the perfect avenue for achieving his goal of getting the Pembroke chapter of the Boys & Girls Club after-school program to become more involved in helping the community it serves.
“For me the Boys & Girls Club is all about the community and giving back to that community,” Barton said. “What we are trying to do is establish things that connect us … When talking with the people from the Red Cross, one thing that stuck out to me was their saying that for every one person who donates, that saves three lives. I mean, so if we got 100 people, that would save 300 lives. If there is a better headline than ‘the Boys and Girls Club saves lives,’ I don’t know what it is. We just want to show these kids how important it is to be able to just give back and help their communities.”
Though Monday’s thunderstorms seemed to have discouraged some people from venturing out, the message Barton hoped to impart got through to at least some of the club’s young members.
“I just like volunteering,” said 14-year-old Jarrett Strickland. “It is a passion. This is useful to people. Some people may get in car wrecks and they will need this blood to live.”
Because the American Red Cross does not allow children under the age of 16 to donate, Strickland chose to do his part by helping donors sign in, and suggesting the program to family and friends.
“My mom donates, my grandma is actually donating today, my aunt donates … Pretty much my whole family has been donating,” said Jolen Lowry, 15, who like Strickland has been working overtime to help get the word out to the community.
“It is important to reach out to the community and educate donors,” said Ciera Locklear, who is in charge of donor recruitment for the local chapter of the American Red Cross. “It gives people a chance to help people who are in need and who without their donation, may not survive.”
As part of the Pembroke Boys & Girls Club’s focus on health week, the club will be offering a free lesson in CPR to anyone who visits their its between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. each day through Friday. The Pembroke Boys & Girls Club is located just behind the Lumbee Tribal Housing Complex, off of N.C. 711.
For information call 910-775-9071.