Blood drive to mark 100 years of Chicago Red Cross

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The Red Cross in Chicago will mark a century of service in 2015. (WLS)

The Red Cross in Chicago will mark a century of service in 2015.

The organization that shows up at disasters around the world is always ready with a helping hand, a cup of coffee and emotional support for victims is holding a huge blood drive at Union Station eight weeks from Wednesday, the minimum amount of time that has to pass for individuals to donate blood.

The need for blood is intense, especially in the dead of winter.

if there is a fire, a house collapse or a disaster, big or small, volunteers such as Hallie Burhoe will be staffing the lines at Red Cross headquarters in Chicago, in between getting ready to give blood.

"It is something that I have that can help another person," Burhoe said.

The 64-year-old registered nurse has given blood every eight weeks for the last 41 years, or about 250 donations. She has received blood for back surgery and gave it to a niece who was dying of leukemia.

"One second of discomfort is nothing compared to what you feel after you have given blood, and you know that you have helped someone," she said.

Burhoe plans to join the crowds at Union Station eight weeks from now as the Red Cross Chicago chapter kicks off its centennial celebrations.

It got its charter just six weeks before the Eastland disaster on the Chicago River, where 844 people on board died when a ship that rolled into the water, despite being latched to the docks at Wacker between Clark and LaSalle. The need for blood and help that day carries on.

"Every two seconds somebody needs blood. It could be cancer patients, trauma patients and new mothers," said Patricia Kemp

The Red Cross has a storied history in the city. The Chicago Canteen hosted returning World War I vets in the thousands and played a key role in polio rehabilitation efforts through the 1950s.

Walt Disney and other famous Chicago-area history-makers such as Ernest Hemingway volunteered for the cause.

"I am hoping it went to an open heart recipient, or something very simple like some little kid who needed a unit because they fell down and needed a unit of blood," Burhoe said.

ABC7 is proud to partner with the Red Cross to host the blood drive on January 21.

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