The Western New York Chapter of the American Red Cross is now being led by an East Aurora resident.
The American Red Cross operates out of four regions in New York State. Nick Bond is the new Regional Director for the WNY Chapter, which encompasses 27 counties, extending north to Orleans County and southwards to the Pennsylvania border. The territory also includes the cities of Binghamton, Buffalo, Corning/Elmira and Rochester. Bond entered into this role in November 2021 after working in the nonprofit sector his entire career. Most recently, he was the vice president of Operations and Program Innovation for the YMCA Buffalo Niagara. He says what surprises him the most about the Red Cross is that volunteers make the organization run to capacity.
“We have 45 staff members for the 27 county region, but we have over 2,100 volunteers that really do the work,” Bond said. “That’s 90 percent of the Red Cross’s workforce.”
Bond experienced working with this network of volunteers during the recent windstorm last month that left thousands of people without heat and electricity. Volunteers throughout the region were updating Bond about the conditions of where they lived, and in Rochester a warming shelter was opened so that people could eat, get water and stay warm.
“We opened it as a precaution and families showed up,” Bond said.
The American Red Cross provides 40 percent of the nation’s blood, and the need for donated blood has been making the headlines during this pandemic. Bond says in his region, there are still people willing to donate blood, but COVID-19 has impacted the organization’s ability to conduct blood drives. In years past the Red Cross would conduct a number of blood drives at area high schools and college campuses, but those opportunities were lost when schools shut down or closed to the public.
In addition, when people do donate blood for the first time, it is usually while they are a student, so not operating blood drives in school settings has also led to a drop in first time donors.
“We had a drop of 34 percent of first time donors throughout COVID. This is huge,” Bond said.
When blood drives are scheduled at schools, nearly everyone is a first time donor. The organization hopes to inspire them to donate throughout their lives.
The Red Cross recently held its first Gay Alliance Blood Drive in Buffalo last month, in conjunction with the non-profit Blood is Blood, an organization formed in 2015 that works to encourage the FDA to “seek and implement blood donation policies that are non-discriminatory towards gay & bisexual men.” The drive had a goal of collecting 40 units of blood, and they collected 54, with seven first time donors participating.
“It is about raising awareness about our need for blood. It is critically low,” Bond said.
The Red Cross could also use more staff members to run blood drives. Most days, the agency is running around 20 blood drives per day, but they do not have the capacity to run more.
“Right now, the drives that we are running are seeing good turnouts of people. People are donating. But we don’t have enough staff to do more drives,” Bond said. “We are trying to recruit individuals as staff.”
Bond graduated with a degree in Criminal Justice from the University of New York at Fredonia in 2003. He initially took a part time position at the YMCA while he was waitlisted to join the Department of Homeland Security. Two years after graduation, he was still receiving letters from the department that they were interested in him, but they needed more time, and an opportunity for full time employment opened at the YMCA. He took it, and hasn’t looked back.
“My degree is not being put to use, but the point of the degree is,” Bond said. “I went into criminal justice to help people. I was looking at the humanitarian piece and non profit work has its impacts. I am glad for the way things worked out. It has been positive for me.”
Bond moved to East Aurora in 2015 while he and his wife Maria were expecting their first child, and they could not think of a better place than East Aurora to raise a family.
“This is such a great community,” Bond said.
Editor’s Note: In a joint statement issued Jan. 10, 2022, the American Red Cross announced a national blood shortage crisis, stating that blood centers across the country have reported less than a one-day’s supply of blood of certain critical blood types, the lowest levels seen in years. Donors are needed. Read the statement and find information on how to donate here.