Jacksonville, Fla. — January is National Blood Donor Month, an annual observation that honors the selfless blood donors of Northeast Florida and encourages first-time donors to give the gift of life in the new year.

This year’s celebration is especially important, as all blood types are needed to offset a national blood supply shortage that continues to impact the local community. LifeSouth Community Blood Centers provides blood for many Northeast Florida hospitals, including Baptist Medical Center Beaches, Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville, Baptist Medical Center Nassau, Baptist Medical Center South, Memorial Hospital, Orange Park Medical Center and Wolfson Children’s Hospital.

National Blood Donor Month was first celebrated in January 1970, after President Richard Nixon issued a proclamation establishing the observance. Now in its 52nd year, the observance brings attention to the role that blood donors play in public health at a time when many blood centers around the nation experience a supply shortage.

“LifeSouth is grateful for every person who has ever donated, hosted a blood drive or encouraged a neighbor to give blood — especially through the coronavirus pandemic,” said Angie Byrd, District Director of LifeSouth Community Blood Centers. “We encourage first-time donors to make a life-changing decision and visit us this month to learn how you can help save lives, right here in Northeast Florida.”

All donors who give in January will receive a donor gift and $10 e-gift card. Additionally, donors will be entered into the Winter Wonder donor raffle for up to a $500 e-gift card. Platelet, plasma and double red cell donors will be entered to win a $500 e-gift card; whole blood donors will be entered to win a $100 e-gift card. Raffle winners will be drawn January 4, January 18 and February 1. Register to donate the two weeks prior to each drawing to be entered to win.

LifeSouth encourages Northeast Florida residents to participate in National Blood Donor Month in one of the following ways:

Make a donation. Approximately 37 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate, yet only 5 percent are active donors. LifeSouth welcomes regular and first-time donors to visit one of its donor centers in Northeast Florida, or find one of its signature red, white and blue buses to donate at a mobile blood drive.

Encourage a first-time donor: With a low percentage of the population annually participating in the blood donation process, the best way to make a difference is to encourage someone to donate with you at one of LifeSouth’s donor centers or blood drives.

Host a blood drive. LifeSouth welcomes the support of businesses, organizations, churches, professional groups and neighborhoods looking for a meaningful way to give back to the community.

Share your story. Personal stories often inspire others to save lives by donating with LifeSouth. Tag @LifeSouth in posts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and use the hashtag #NationalBloodDonorMonth.

LifeSouth has implemented several COVID-19 safety protocols, including social distancing between donors, masks required for entry and the option for donors to wait in their vehicles until their appointment time. All blood donors receive a wellness screening prior to donation, and each donation will be tested for COVID-19 antibodies.

To learn more about the donation process, call LifeSouth’s toll-free number, 1-888-795-2707 or make an appointment at www.lifesouth.org.