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The Friendly Vampire

January 10, 2014, 10:00 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

The Friendly Vampire
MILLER, SD -

If you weigh the number of people who need blood verses the number who donate, the scale is lopsided to say the least.

In fact, officials with United Blood Services say people who will need blood or a blood product at some point in their lives make up 90 percent of the population. Sixty percent are eligible to donate but only five percent do.

That might not be true in Miller. When you visit one of the blood drives the small town hosts in a year, you’ll find more than people donating blood.

"I've got a waiting list," organizer JoDean Joy said.

That's right. You'll find people waiting to donate.

A person can point to many reasons for that. Some say there are a lot of good people in town who want to step up and help. Others say they know of people who've needed blood and donating is a way to show support.

Marilyn Johnson has a different reason.

"The vampire got me," Johnson said.

That would be JoDean Joy. Joy has helped organize the blood drives in Miller for close to 30 years. And she's not shy.

"The first thing she wants to know when they come to town is where they come from and if they can give blood or not," Johnson said.

If they don’t already give, she asks if they will. Many have said yes. Anywhere from 180 to 220 donors will show up during a given blood drive.

And they can expect a special treat when they do.

"Sometimes in the summer we start as early as 6:30, which means I'm up at three in the morning, making donuts," JoDean said.

JoDean’s husband Vernon helps, too. They get up before each day of a blood drive and make about 25 dozen donuts. The drives are two days each and are held four times a year. The Joys aren't sure how long ago the donut tradition started.

"I'd make the donuts for my grandkids' birthdays at school and I've got kids that are donating now, that are donating because they had the donuts when they were in the lower grades," JoDean said.

JoDean makes the dough and forms the donuts; Vernon fries and glazes each one. Vernon isn’t sure he’d get away with quitting if he wanted.

“Probably not,” Vernon said. “No, I enjoy doing this so I wouldn't let her do this without me.”

They even revolve their schedules around the blood drives. They head south for the winter but can't leave before the January blood drive, and they're back for the spring drive.

"That's kind of our life, yeah," Vernon said.

"I have contacted a lady who is due to retire in two or three years and whenever she retires, she has agreed to take over the drive,” JoDean said. “So I won't do it forever, but I may still make the donuts for her.”

Donor Brian Seeman is happy to hear that.

"Oh I've probably given 30-some times, 40-some times, somewhere in there,” Seeman said.

Seeman says he’s had donuts each of those times. He’s even been known to eat a dozen in one sitting.

JoDean doesn't mind that any more than she does making 25 dozen donuts in a day.

"I think people are important and this is the best way I know that I can help a lot of people. And I don't directly do it because without the donors, there is no drive," JoDean said.

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