By Jessica Easthope
Every time someone donates blood a life could be saved.
The New York Blood Center used to hold up to 50 blood drives a day. During the pandemic that number dropped to six, causing a massive backorder on life-saving blood. But now that’s slowly changing, thanks to Martin Whelan.
“I’d like to think that anyone would do this if they had the opportunity to. I just happened to come up with a good idea,” said Martin, the owner of restaurant group Stout NYC.
He owns 11 bars and restaurants in New York City, but he’s brought in less than 10 percent of his normal revenue because only three are open. The rest have been transformed into blood drive sites.
While there’s no steady flow of business, Martin partnered with the New York Blood Center to host blood drives in his bars. So far, they’ve hosted about 20 and have donated more than 800 pints of blood.
“Things are pretty dire right now, and any kind of help we can offer to other human beings I think is great,” said Stefanie Izzo, who donated blood for the first time Jan. 14.
Right now, blood is in high demand. Hospitals have resumed non-emergency surgeries, and COVID-19 patients are in desperate need of antibody-rich plasma, which is why people were lining up to do their part at Rivercrest in Astoria, Queens on Thursday.
Those who donated blood left with more than just a good feeling. They got a New York Mets t-shirt and a voucher for two tickets to a game. They’ll also be sent something that makes this program unique.
“They used to give a free pint of Guinness in Ireland when you gave a pint of blood because it’s iron rich, and I contacted the New York Blood Center and said, ‘Can we start a program and we call it ‘Give a Pint, Get a Pint?’ We can’t give you the pint of Guinness the day you give blood but we give you a voucher,” Martin said.
Martin’s Catholic faith motivated him to see the positive in this hard time. It’s also why Monsignor Fernando Ferrarese donates his blood, which is among one of the rarest types in the world.
“Local businesses receive so much from the community and give so much to the community that it’s like synergy to work together, so I think it’s always a good sign,” said Monsignor Ferrarese, the pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Astoria.
Martin doesn’t receive a cent for hosting the blood drives, but he plans to continue the program indefinitely. All he hopes is that those who come in for their free pint: buy a second.
Upcoming “Give a Pint, Get a Pint” Blood Drives:
Jan. 20: Amity Hall Downtown
Jan. 22 : Rivercrest, Astoria
Jan. 27: Amity Hall Downtown
Jan. 28: Stout FiDi
Jan. 29: Rivercrest, Astoria
Feb. 16: Amity Hall Uptown
Feb. 17: Amity Hall Uptown