Kozleski bids farewell to blood drive

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Anne Kozleski was feeling emotional, a little teary-eyed about saying goodbye to spearheading the St. Francis-Penrose Blood Drive in Woodland Park. After 30 years, she says it’s time to turn the program over to someone else.

“It’s been so rewarding; I feel honored and humble to have been a part of such generosity and true spirit of giving,” Kozleski said, taking a break from overseeing her farewell drive at Our Lady of the Woods Catholic Church.

The six annual events have spawned a sense of community, thanks to Kozleski’s dedication and that of the hospital staff, the volunteers, the donors and the parishioners who provide the homemade cookies.

“I have gotten to know so many people I would never have run across before,” she said.

The memories are sweet, the stories a record of the inherent value of donating blood. “I feel fortunate to have had the connection with all these people and to hear the stories of people whose lives have been saved because of our blood,” Kozleski said.

Kozleski recalls the mother of a young child who received blood transfusions twice a week for 10 years. The mother is alive today thanks to the 100 pints of blood from Woodland Park.

Or the woman who was severely injured in a car crash and needed 30 pints of blood immediately — the blood came from donors in Woodland Park.

“Blood is something that has to be given,” Kozleski said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, male or female, young or old, if you’re in the hospital and need blood it has to have been donated.”

In many ways, Kozleski was a natural for heading up the blood drive. “My dad was a multi-gallon donor,” she said.

A favorite childhood memory is of her dad leaving the house late at night after a phone call from the Red Cross.

“He drove two hours, 100 miles, to University Hospital in Minneapolis to give blood for a young man suffering a terrible disease,” she said. “I guess that’s been in the back of my mind.”

Kozleski measures success in hearts and gallons. “It takes 8 pints of blood to reach a gallon,” she said, adding that people who hit milestones are rewarded with chocolate hearts.

For instance, one man has come in 56 times, donating one pint at a time, another person has come in 24 times.

“That’s loyalty,” she said. “This is in the middle of people having their other life going on.”

Kozleski is turning over the leadership role to Leo and Felicia Vetter. “It will be hard to leave; it’s been wonderful,” she said. “But I want to give someone else the opportunity. The blood drive is important, life-giving.”

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