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BLOODLINES: Executive Director Anthony Roberts says CBCO vehicles travel 1 million miles a year transporting blood products.SBJ photo by WES HAMILTON
BLOODLINES: Executive Director Anthony Roberts says CBCO vehicles travel 1 million miles a year transporting blood products.

SBJ photo by WES HAMILTON

Business Spotlight: An Altruistic Objective

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Community Blood Center of the Ozarks may rely on residents in its 39-county service area, but the relationship is mutually beneficial.

The nonprofit launched in 1995 collects and processes blood before shipping it to some 40 hospitals in its three-state service area.

“That’s what distinguishes us from the Red Crosses,” says Chris Pilgrim, CBCO’s media relations representative. “We provide local blood for local patients.”

CBCO Executive Director Anthony Roberts says the organization’s relationship with the communities it serves is critical.

Of the 35-40 percent of U.S. citizens eligible to donate blood, only 4-7 percent actually do. The typical donor gives 1.6 times per year. Unlike such companies as BioLife Plasma Services – which pays for plasma to use in pharmaceuticals – CBCO donors are not compensated.

“It’s really an altruistic thing,” says Roberts, the nonprofit’s second director after founding leader Don Thomson retired in 2014.


Market position
On Jan. 1, CBCO signed West Plains-based Ozarks Medical Center as its 40th client. The nonprofit’s territory spans as far east in Missouri as Mark Twain National Forest, dips into the southeast corner of Kansas and covers all of northwest Arkansas.

Roberts says CoxHealth and Mercy are CBCO’s largest clients, together buying 30-35 percent of the organization’s products.

Hospitals are charged nearly $200 per unit – which equates to 440-500 milliliters – for red blood cells, the most common product.

“What we charge hospitals is what it costs us,” Roberts says, noting CBCO’s prices are usually in the lower 25 percent among members of America’s Blood Centers, an organization of 67 independent blood centers.

Since CBCO started in 1995, it has been the sole provider of blood products to CoxHealth. Previously, American Red Cross was the hospital’s provider.

Becky Cook, blood bank director at Cox South, says the hospital typically uses 30 units of blood per day and daily shipments from CBCO range from 10-50 units.

“CBCO does a great job of keeping me stocked every day,” she says. “If there is anything that we need that they can’t provide from their stock, they tend to look for it elsewhere.

“Certainly, CBCO is the provider that everybody donates to.”

CBCO this year is operating on a $16 million budget – without fundraising – which covers staffing for 170, marketing and mileage. Over 70 percent of blood collected is through blood drives, and officials say CBCO’s vehicles travel 1 million miles annually transporting the products.

“Our purpose is to make sure the blood is there when it’s needed,” Roberts says.

The rest is collected at the organization’s four donor centers, including one at its headquarters, a former Summer Fresh grocery store just off of South Campbell Avenue and Plainview Road.

Constant need
Officials say CBCO collects 70,000 donations a year, around 54,000 of which is red blood cells. It also filters out and collects plasma and platelets.

The need is great.

CBCO requires 200-220 red blood cell collections a day to adequately supply its hospital clients. Once collected, blood only is good for 42 days, which creates a nonstop cycle of donations and asks via social media.  

Then there’s delays that are difficult to predict.

On Jan. 13, when meteorologists predicted an ice storm in Springfield, CBCO missed out on five blood drives. Due to such unpredictable events, the organization recently issued alerts to let its communities know blood is needed.

Type O-negative – considered universal because it can be transfused to people with any of the other three blood types – is the greatest need.

“If you don’t have the time, find the time,” Roberts says.

To incentivize donations, CBCO holds donor events at such places as Ocean Zen. CBCO also has a hall of fame for those who have given over 20 gallons. There are over 400 names in the hall of fame, which also includes board members and companies who have helped with in-kind donations.

One of those names is Mary Alice Krueger, a retired nurse who most recently worked at Mercy.

Krueger donates platelets every 10-14 days. On Jan. 27, she submitted her 320th donation to CBCO.

“It’s a neat feeling to say I have a blood product that is like medicine to the patient receiving it,” she says. “We come in all ages and shapes and sizes and occupations.”

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