Sweet Dracula

Catherine Novacek has coordinated blood drives at the Oak Ballroom for nearly 24 years.

Liz Morales, Lee Enterprises

Catherine Novacek flipped through a large, yellow scrapbook while sitting at her kitchen table.

The pages were filled with newspaper clippings from previous decades advertising and covering local blood drives.

Most of those drives were coordinated by Novacek.

Her involvement began in 1994 when a friend asked Novacek to help with a blood drive.

“I never realized I would become a coordinator,” she said. “I mostly scheduled appointments and made sure the Oak Ballroom was available, but I’ve been doing it for just about 24 years.”

The Oak Ballroom has been the host for local blood drives since 1952, she said, and others are held at Schuyler Central High School, CHI Health Schuyler, QC Supply and Cargill.

When Novacek moved to Schuyler from rural Butler County, she noticed there was a dire need for blood drives. There was another turning point for the local woman.

“In 1988 I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” she said. “I made a deal with God. I said, 'If I make it out of this, I’m going to do something to give back,' and that’s why I do this. This is my way to serve and give back.”

Of course, there have been a few changes since Novacek began organizing blood drives. One is technology.

“Back then we would just write all the appointments down on this paper,” she said, pointing to a lengthy spreadsheet. “But now it’s all done on the computer. I don’t really like that. But it’s interesting how people can make appointments online and see what the schedule is. The computer tells when the last donation a person made was and it knows when a person isn’t eligible. It’s all mind-boggling.”

Another change is how blood drives are advertised.

“Here is an ad from the Schuyler Sun about a drive,” she said of the advertisement dated Nov. 16, 1972. “It has every single donor published in here along with their gallon levels. Now if someone gives me their information, it’s classified. I like how it’s all very private now.”

Much of Novacek's job now is promoting upcoming blood drives.

“I make a list of the contacts for the donors, then I always make sure to schedule a good time for the Oak Ballroom,” she said. “I get in touch with the Boy Scouts so they can pass out the posters I give them. It’s just a lot of contacting and scheduling.”

Coordinating a successful blood drive has gotten more challenging over time, but that doesn't deter Novacek.

“This town has just changed so much,” she said. “We used to get 200 pints of blood every drive, but now the population has changed and a lot of farms aren’t around anymore. I just hope we can get people to understand its importance. You never know when someone may need to have blood.”

A blood drive honoring Novacek will be held 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 6, at the Oak Ballroom.

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