DACULA - On Thursday afternoon, a steady stream of donors filed in and out of the Hamilton Mill Golf Club, there to give blood during an American Red Cross blood drive.
For regular donors and first-timers alike, there is no better time to give.
A "critically low" level of blood in the Southeast Division has prompted the Red Cross to urge people to donate as soon as possible.
The summer is always a challenging season for collecting blood, said Randy Edwards, CEO of the Red Cross' Southern Blood Services Region, due to the absence of high school and college blood drives, which account for about 20 percent of all donations.
This year, in particular, Edwards said, has been tough with economy-related issues such as layoffs and business closings.
"Unfortunately, the need for blood doesn't go away," he said.
April Phillips, Southern Region communications specialist, said Georgia is consistently in need of outside help to supply its hospitals.
"We often rely on blood donations from neighboring regions like the Carolinas region," she said. "When they're not able to make up that difference, we're greatly, greatly impacted."
According to statistics provided by the Red Cross, only 38 percent of the population is eligible to donate blood. Only a fraction of those people, officials say, will donate.
Donors must be:
At least 17 years old;
Weigh at least 110 pounds; and
Be in general good health.
In the Southern region, made up of Georgia and very small areas of South Carolina and Florida, the Red Cross must collect 1,200 units of blood each weekday to keep up with patients' needs.
And there is no substitute for blood, no other source than donors.
Dacula attorney David Lawler is a regular donor. He coordinated the Hamilton Mill drive, along with his partners at Business Network International, because it seemed like a "natural fit."
"It's a pet project of mine," he said. "I was looking for a way to get involved with the community service side."
Not quite halfway through the five-hour event, Lawler was well on his way to meeting his goal of 50 donors, as No. 32 walked up to the counter.
Buford's Michael Brosofsky has donated blood twice this year. He said it was a regular event for him in college and that he has always believed it was the right thing to do.
"There's definitely a great need for it," he said, "but I wasn't aware just how critical it is."
Dacula's Chad Parson, sitting across the table from Brosofsky, said he also didn't realize the need was so great. Admitting that it's been a while since he donated, Parson said knowing the demand is so great will be his reason for giving more often.
Both men have Type O blood, the most requested of all types.
Phillips said that despite recent public pleas, the supply of three blood types - O negative, A negative and B negative - continues to decline. There is an urgent need for these types, but all donors, Phillips said, are welcome.
In Gwinnett, at least 20 blood drives are scheduled between today and Sept. 4. The Red Cross also has a Donor Center in Duluth that is open six days a week.
To schedule an appointment, log onto www.redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE.
SideBar: Upcoming Blood Drives
Today: 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Glenn C. Jones Middle School, 3575 Ridge Road
Aug. 19: 2:30 to 7:30 p.m., Zoar United Methodist Church, 3895 Zoar Church Road
Sept. 4: 2:30 to 7:30 p.m., Shane's Rib Shack, 4017 Annistown Road
Wednesday: 11 a.m.to 4 p.m., Lawrenceville USPS, 1557 Buford Drive
Aug. 17: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Golden Living Medical Arts, 213 Scenic Highway
Aug. 18: 2 to 7 p.m., St. Lawrence Catholic Church, 319 Grayson Highway
Aug. 28: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Gwinnett County Public Schools Transportation Department, 610 W. Crogan St.
Aug. 30: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Bethesda UMC, 444 Bethesda Church Road
Sept. 3: 2:30 to 7:30 p.m., North Metro First Baptist Church, 1026 Old Peachtree Road
Sept. 7: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wal-Mart Supercenter, 3388 Lawrenceville, 1400 Lawrenceville Highway
Aug. 23: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Oak Road Lutheran Church, 1004 Oak Road
Aug. 26: 2 to 7 p.m., Lilburn Municipal Complex, 76 Main St.
Monday: 3 to 7 p.m., Robert Fowler YMCA, 5600 W. Jones Bridge Road.
Aug. 14: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Technology Park, Technology Parkway, Building 157
Sept. 3: 1 to 7 p.m., First Baptist Church of Sugar Hill, 5091 Highway 20
Thursday: 2 to 7 p.m., Richland Community Clubhouse, 2074 Quinton Place
Aug. 14: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Suwanee Dental Care, 4355 Suwanee Dam Road
Aug. 17: 2:30 to 7:30 p.m., The Georgia Gymnastics Academy, 145 Old Peachtree Road
Aug. 19: 2:30 to 7:30 p.m., Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - Suwanee, 4836 Suwanee Dam Road N.W.
Aug. 21: 1:30 to 7:30 p.m., Grand Cascades Subdivision, 199 Rivergate Drive