MANKATO — The Fourth of July can be a nice break from the same old routine, but it often leaves a gap in blood donations.

Donating blood or organizing a drive gets harder when people are on holiday. The busy period led to 680 fewer blood donations in the American Red Cross’ Minnesota region last week.

The shortage spurred the organization to put out an emergency call for donations, as local blood drives kick in to help replenish stocks.

Sue Thesenga, American Red Cross communications manager, said shorter blood supplies are a common occurrence in summers. Blood’s finite shelf life means it can’t be stockpiled.

“We have less than a three-day supply of most blood types, so we’re encouraging, urging actually, individuals to give blood right now so we can help prevent delays in medical care,” she said.

Red blood cells are good for just 42 days, and donors can only give blood every 56 days. It makes it challenging to keep reserves up during slower periods.

Summer, when college and high school blood drives grind to a halt, is a particularly rough season.

“During the school year about 20 percent of donations come from high schools and colleges,” Thesenga said. “It is a challenge.”

With the Fourth of July now done, blood drives are picking up in southern Minnesota. Karen Winters, a dedicated Red Cross volunteer, said she’s trying to rally fellow volunteers and donors for the upcoming drives.

“I think the biggest challenge is trying to get people to realize how important it is to continue donating (through the summer),” she said.

She said some of the most dedicated donors mark the exact date when they can give blood again on their calendars. She’s hoping they and new donors show up for blood drives this or next week to address the shortage.

Upcoming blood drives include:

Mankato12:30-5:30 p.m. Thursday at American Red Cross, 105 Homestead Drive

9 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday at American Red Cross, 105 Homestead Drive

Noon-5 p.m. July 22 at Hy-Vee, 410 Riverfront Drive

Noon-5 p.m. July 22 at Hosanna Lutheran Church, 105 Hosanna Drive

Noon-5 p.m. July 23 at Mankato Public Safety Center, 710 S. Front St.

12:30-5:30 p.m. July 29 at Wow! Zone, 2030 Adams St.

10 a.m.-3 p.m. July 31 at Blue Earth County Library, 100 E. Main St.

North Mankato

Noon-6 p.m. July 18 at Belgrade Avenue United Methodist Church, 325 Sherman St.

10 a.m.-3 p.m. July 23 at South Central College, 1920 Lee Blvd.

Lake Crystal12:30-5:30 p.m. July 22 at Zion Lutheran Church, 211 E. Robinson St.

Garden City11 a.m.-4 p.m. July 27 at Blue Earth County Fair, 340 Fairgrounds St.

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