Blood drive to honor late longtime donor

By Tom Joyce -
Simpson -

Ronnie Simpson was a volunteer for the local American Red Cross chapter for longer than his wife can remember and a frequent blood donor.

Simpson organized blood drives at Bannertown Baptist Church for at least 15 years, and although he died in May, Simpson will still be a big part of one scheduled there this Sunday — which is being held in his memory.

“He had a heart of gold and loved helping others,” said Lynn Wilkes of the Carolinas Blood Services Region in Winston-Salem, which oversees collection efforts in Surry County.

Sunday’s blood drive honoring Simpson will be held from 12:30 to 5 p.m. in the fellowship hall of Bannertown Baptist, located at 1834 Westfield Road.

The longtime Red Cross volunteer and donor died of Parkinson’s disease on May 21 at age 69.

While he will be glaringly absent from Sunday’s blood drive, Simpson was the driving force behind others held at the church over the years as coordinator of the events.

This required much time and effort, according to his wife Sarah.

It involved recruiting donors, setting up the fellowship hall, getting people to donate food for the drive, lining up volunteers to serve the food and processing persons who came to roll up their sleeves and give.

“You just have to oversee all of it and plan it,” Sarah Simpson said of the many tasks required.

Her husband scheduled the collection events every 60 days because of the ongoing need for blood.

He built up a group of about 30 regular donors who always could be counted on to sign up from one drive to the next. “Because they like being on a schedule,” Sarah Simpson explained. “They give every two months.”

Simpson didn’t just encourage others to donate blood, he did so himself, which led to his receiving a pin in April 2014 for contributing 20 gallons. He also served on the local Red Cross board at one time.

“But I can’t remember how far back that was,” Sarah Simpson said.

“Ronnie was a faithful blood donor and blood drive coordinator at Bannertown Baptist Church for many years,” said Wilkes, the area Red Cross representative.

In addition to wanting to help the community, specifically patients needing blood products, Simpson had a personal interest in the Red Cross cause due to an incident in the past. It was when Sarah Simpson had to undergo surgery.

“My blood dropped down real low,” she recalled, which required a transfusion of several units.

“And that seemed to motivate him to give more,” Sarah Simpson added, and made her husband push for others to do likewise.

Along with what he donated, other family members became regulars at blood drives, including a daughter and granddaughter who plan to attend the one on Sunday.

“It’s really something special to me because he worked so hard and he wanted people to give,” Sarah Simpson said of the Red Cross asking the public to donate blood in Ronnie’s memory.

Sunday’s drive has extra significance because of the demand being so high.

“We currently have an emergency need for blood,” said Wilkes.

As of Monday afternoon, Sarah Simpson already had lined up 35 donors for Sunday’s drive and planned to be on the phone to recruit more. Appointment times can be arranged at 336-789-2505.

Organizers are hoping many people will be inspired by Simpson’s example and give blood in his honor.

“Ronnie had a passion for the American Red Cross and our mission, Wilkes said.

“I wish we had more ‘Ronnies’ in this world,” she added, “If so, we’d never have a blood shortage.”


By Tom Joyce

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.