Hispanics on Long Island are being asked by community leaders to roll up their sleeves and donate blood to show that everyone -- from longtime residents to new immigrants -- can give "the gift of life."
About 30 people came out for a six-hour blood drive on Saturday at the offices of the Hempstead Hispanic Civic Association in Hempstead Village. Several other community groups helped organize the event.
"We want to show that the Latino community is a good neighbor," said George Siberón, executive director of the civic association. "We can give, too. What better gift than the gift of life?"
During summer, blood donations often decline due to vacations and other activities, while demand for blood remains constant. Communities with higher Hispanic populations have a higher percentage of potential donors with Type O blood, that most-requested by hospitals, an American Red Cross study found. Type O negative blood can be given to any patient in an emergency.
That's why local Hispanic leaders plan to organize more blood drives this summer.
"It is not common in the Hispanic community to give blood, but we want to get the buzz going and get more people involved," said Lucia Gómez-Jiménez, executive director of the Long Island Civic Participation Project, an immigrant advocacy group.
"Let's fill the blood bank," she said. "All kinds of people need blood, so all kinds of people should give blood."
Close to 2,000 donations are needed each day in the New York-New Jersey area, according to the New York Blood Center, which conducted yesterday's drive. Each pint can help as many as three people, officials said.
The drive drew Teresa Arieta, 50, of Jamaica, Queens, who showed her photo ID, had her medical history screened and endured the 10-to-12-minute donation procedure.
She brought her nephew, David Gilberto, 23, of Hempstead, who gave blood for the second time.
"It is our civic duty to donate blood," Arieta, a native of El Salvador, said in Spanish. "Our community needs to know that donating blood saves lives."