NORTH BEND -- When Helen Cruckshank donated her first pint of blood to the American Red Cross, in 1951, they were still collecting donations in glass bottles.
While much has changed over the past six decades, Cruckshank's devotion to the cause has never wavered. Even when she had to stop donating blood for the rest of the '50s, a time where you could only donate once a year -- because she was unable to donate after having her children via Cesarean section -- she started donating time and cookie-baking skills instead.
After resuming her blood donations in 1961, she has been determined and fortunate to only miss one more opportunity over the past 53 years.
The math is impressive.
The Red Cross collects 1 pint of blood each time someone donates. Up to three lives can be saved, they say, with every pint they collect. After eight donations they will honor your dedication by presenting you with a gold pin, signifying your donation of 1 gallon of blood.
On Wednesday, Helen Cruck-shank received her 35th gold pin.
"It was something I could do, it didn't cost anything," she said after the most recent donation. "I encourage more people to come out and donate. I feel like I saved a lot of lives, or helped, when they were in the hospital."
Brian Bergeron, a Red Cross supervisor, says there is no doubt that she helped save lives.
"That is an extremely high level (of donation)," he said of Cruckshank, who also serves as volunteer coordinator for the Red Cross in the Bay Area. "She's a pretty phenomenal person."
Her most recent donation also comes at an important time for the Red Cross, as they are urging every available donor to get to a local blood drive. Bergeron says there are a couple of pressing concerns for the national Red Cross levels, including the string of winter storms that have hit major cities in the east. They've caused the cancellation of numerous blood drives.
"You've got that weather, but you've also got the flu season and it is super critical that you are healthy and well when you come in and donate," Bergeron said. "So, that's what we are fighting with, the weather, and then we're fighting with the flu and the sicknesses. It's hard, but you can still get a lot of people to donate during this season."
Bergeron says O-negative is particularly needed because it is a universal type, although all types of blood are always welcome.
"That's the one the hospital's are going to grab in a trauma type of a situation. They are going to grab that O-negative right away. It's also the lowest percentage of people, I believe it's 6 percent of the population that has O-neg, so it's the one that we really need. But we want them all."
If you would like to schedule to donate blood at a Red Cross blood drive near you, you can check out their website at redcross.org, or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.