WINTHROP — When searching for reasons to smile during the pandemic, a common source of comfort has been the sacrifices made by many Mainers as they have looked past their own needs in hopes that those in greater danger might be helped.

Look no further than St. Denis Church in Whitefield and St. Francis Xavier Church in Winthrop. The churches, part of St. Michael Parish, not only found ways to safely hold blood drives in 2021 during the pandemic, they shattered records while they were at it.

Between the churches, over 470 people donated blood, nearly 500 units strong. These are triple the numbers the blood drives produced before the pandemic.

“Blood drives at St. Francis Xavier produced 30 percent more than the year before, the most since our current database launched in 2006,” said David Stires of American Red Cross Blood Services in Portland. “Each unit of whole blood can be separated into three products (red cells, platelets and plasma) so the amount collected at the two churches potentially saved the lives of more than 1,300 people. The support is greatly appreciated now because it has helped us maintain a strong blood supply for patients during an unprecedented public health crisis.”

The commitment of St. Michael Parish to continue holding the blood drives during the pandemic turned out to be crucial as many venues that traditionally host blood drives have stopped as a result of the crisis.

“When so many schools, businesses, and churches closed due to the pandemic, the parish made the courageous decision to keep its doors open to help others during this time of need,” said Stires. “It has helped us maintain a strong blood supply for the patients who are counting on us. We are incredibly grateful for the support of St. Michael Parish.”

“It is very impressive how responsive parishioners and others are to the blood drives,” said Fr. John Skehan, pastor of St. Michael. “Even in a pandemic, people are thinking beyond themselves and helping care for people they don’t even know! And they do so without looking for anything in return. They just want to help someone in need. It’s wonderful.”

For more information about the future blood drives at the churches, including how you can help, call the parish at 207-623-8823.