Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Agencies Team Up to Save Lives; Florida Georgia Blood Alliance and Jacksonville Firefighters Work Together

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Agencies Team Up to Save Lives; Florida Georgia Blood Alliance and Jacksonville Firefighters Work Together

Article excerpt

Byline: Sandy Strickland, Staff writer

With its dramatic silhouette of a firefighter, its raging flames and its rich earth tones, this bus is in stark contrast to the rest of the bloodmobile fleet.

It's the result of a partnership between the Florida Georgia Blood Alliance and Jacksonville firefighters. It's a natural alliance, both groups said. The blood bank is in the business of saving lives, and so are firefighters.

This newest addition was unveiled this month at the Fire Training Academy behind Florida Community College at Jacksonville's South Campus off Beach Boulevard. More than 40 firefighters turned out to donate blood.

The vehicle was bought by the alliance, which also paid for half the cost of the "skin," or artwork, said John Helgren, marketing and public relations manager. The Jacksonville Association of Firefighters pitched in the other $5,000.

"The response to it has been very positive," Helgren said. "Visually, it's very appealing."

The alliance has eight bloodmobiles that go to businesses, organizations, churches and schools to conduct blood drives.

Since 1989, Battalion Chief Terry Dennis has spearheaded the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department's blood drive efforts. The Riverside resident, who has been dubbed "Chief Blood" and "Chief Vampire," was asked to take it over because he had been promoting the need for organ and blood donations.

In 1986, his son Matthew, then 3, had a disease that was destroying his heart. Matthew became the youngest patient to receive a heart transplant in Florida. As he lay near death, the boy was given electric shock treatment to slow a wildly racing heart enlarged to three times its normal size. Today, he is a student at the University of North Florida.

Since Dennis took over the department's campaign, the number of donors has dramatically increased to well above the national average of 5 percent. Its 1,000 employees had been giving 50 units a year, he said.

"That wasn't that good for that many employees," he said. …

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