Forty years ago, Fred Nonaka was a faithful donor to the Blood Bank of Hawaii’s twice yearly drive in Honokaa. As an employee at Mauna Kea, he and several other staff members would end their workday at 3 p.m., then quickly try to hurry up the road before their last donor.
“We could barely make it before they closed,” Nonaka said.
That’s when Nonaka got the idea to shorten the commute by holding one of the drives in Waimea –a central location where others could also have an opportunity to give after work.
The Blood Bank agreed to the location change if Nonaka was able to find a sponsor and assemble a crew to help him operate it. As a member of the Lions Club, he knew the faithful members wouldn’t hesitate to offer their support.
“When we started doing the Blood Bank, we had the 40 (Lions Club) members, which is why I wasn’t afraid this take on that project,” Nonaka said.
He said that back then, their goal was to have 100 people go through the line to give blood – a goal they easily met. He said since it was 1974, he had to find both a manual and an electric typewriter for Lions Club members to register donors.
Nonaka was in charge of refreshments for the event. With just a $25 budget, he was able to offer an elaborate food spread for donors, complete with juice and wine.
“One of our members used to work from Meadow Gold, so we were able to get juice,” he said. A local store owner also donated the wine.
After their first successful Blood Bank, the volunteers had celebratory pau hana.
“We treated the workers for the Blood Bank (drive) after they closed,” Nonaka said. “We had a happy hour for them, and for puu puus, we had pheasant. We had a lot of hunters that came to work for the Blood Bank.”
Though they had to stop serving wine after two years, they are still known for their substantial food offerings – from soup and grilled cheese sandwiches to pastries and juice.
The Blood Bank of Hawaii opened its doors in February 1941 on the grounds of what is now The Queen’s Medical Center, according to their website. Known then as Honolulu Blood-Plasma Bank, the blood bank served as a wartime agency under the Office of Civilian Defense, returning to its non-profit civilian status in 1943. Honolulu Blood-Plasma Bank officially changed its name to Blood Bank of Hawaii in 1946.
The Blood Bank of Hawaii is a non-profit organization that provides lifesaving blood products to 17 civilian hospitals throughout the state, according to their website. Blood is collected at two office locations on Oahu. Blood Bank of Hawaii also sets up mobile collection sites within companies, organizations and community centers statewide. Two bloodmobiles also travel to numerous communities on Oahu.
As of April this year, rules for donating have changed. There is now no waiting period for people with tattoos and piercings, or for those who have had cancer other than leukemia or lymphoma.
“I gave first because of my wife’s relative needed open heart surgery at Queen’s Hospital,” Nonaka said. “If you look at all of the accidents, really we need the blood.”
He said he was also in his own accident, when a crane collapsed on him while planting coconut trees.
“I was supposed to die, but I survived,” Nonaka said. “You never know when something is going to happen. It could be my own family members.”
He said that after his accident, he had to take medication and couldn’t donate, but one day during a Blood Bank of Hawaii drive he learned he was cleared to give. Through new technology, people who were once disqualified from giving are now allowed.
This year, to celebrate their 40th blood drive, the Lions Club member an ambitious goal – to get 200 people to line up today (Sept. 2) to support the drive. Nonaka said he believes, with North Hawaii’s giving spirit, they will be able to meet their goal. To commemorate the event, he even donated the funds to have 200 engraved red LED flashlight key chains made to give to anyone who goes through the line.
Nonaka also encourages anyone who comes to bring a friend.
“It is important for people who can give to give,” Nonaka said.
The Waimea Lions Club blood drive to support the Blood Bank of Hawaii is from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., on Tuesday, Sept. 2, at the LDS Waimea Ward Hall on Kapiolani Road, across from Parker School lower campus. To make an appointment, call 848-4770 or visit www.BBH.org. Donors must be in good health, 18 or older (17 with parental consent), weigh more than 110 lbs. and bring a valid photo ID with date of birth. Eat well and drink fluids before donating.