While many hit the shopping malls and superstores looking for those must-have wish list items, a blood donation could give the "gift of life" to someone this holiday season.
Linda Hisey, vice president of marketing and public relations for Blood Assurance, said blood is needed throughout the year but donations fall during the holiday season.
"Unfortunately, everyone gets overwhelmed with Christmas parties and holiday shopping, trying to find the perfect gift," Hisey said. "We have the way for them to give the perfect gift. It's the gift of life."
She said it takes 400 donations a day to supply Blood Assurance's service area, 50 health care facilities in a 32-county region in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina.
On Saturday, Chris Black, of Ringgold, Ga., was waiting to donate at the Blood Assurance site in Fort Oglethorpe.
Black said he first donated in 1999 and since then has given seven gallons.
"I thought it was a good thing to do for people who need it," Black said. "The main goal is to help people who have to have it."
Sherri Shelby, of Chickamauga, Ga., made her second donation Saturday.
• Hydrate: Drinking plenty of water or fruit juice the day before donating can help keep blood pressure from dropping while giving blood. Low blood pressure can make you dizzy.
• Eat: A light meal three hours before a donation can help maintain blood sugar.
• Talk about concerns: If you have a fear of needles or other concerns discuss them with a lab technician. They will try to make you more comfortable.
Source: Blood Assurance
Shelby said her mother-in-law died from breast cancer a few years ago, and she recently lost her husband to pancreatic cancer. She said both received blood while fighting cancer.
"When you start thinking about your family members that aren't here anymore, it makes you want to help somebody else," Shelby said.
Penny Cox, of LaFayette, Ga., said she has been giving for years. Every eight weeks, she gets a phone call reminding her it's time to give again.
She said it's wonderful to be able to help people she hasn't met.
A family member recently had to have two units of blood while in the hospital, Cox said.
"I don't know when it may be me that is needing it [blood] someday."
Becky Caldwell of the Fort Oglethorpe Blood Assurance site said Saturday was busy, but there have been some slow days.
Hisey said a whole-blood donation takes about 30 minutes, and donors can give every eight weeks. The blood later is separated into red blood cells, plasma and platelets.
Platelet donors can give every seven days. The process takes about an hour and a half. Platelets assist in blood clotting. During the donation process, platelet cells are filtered out of the blood and the rest is returned to the body.
"A little stick in the arm can save up to three lives," Hisey said. "It is definitely the best gift you can give this holiday season."
For more information about donating, go to www.bloodassurance.org or call 800-962-0628.