Love for Others Pushes Estes to Organize Blood Drive Planned Feb. 23
Azariah Estes tries to make a positive impact wherever she goes.
In January, Estes served as student emcee of the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration hosted by St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley and North County Churches Uniting for Racial Harmony and Justice.
Fast forward a month, and Estes is spearheading an American Red Cross-Ritenour High School Blood Drive. Estes, who is dually enrolled at Ritenour and STLCC-Florissant Valley, is inviting the community to make a difference in the lives of others.
Estes is balancing coursework at Ritenour High School with general transfer studies at STLCC-Florissant Valley. She simultaneously will earn her high school diploma and associate degree.
Estes is eager to help as many people as she can through the blood drive.
“I just want people to know that this blood drive means so much to me and many others who battle with blood diseases,” Estes said. “Imagine being able to say, ‘I was able to be a part of something that's saving people's lives.’”
Estes noted that one pint of blood can make someone else's lifespan much longer.
“So please donate, and if you can't, please share this everywhere, so we can make an impact in the community,” she added.
The American Red Cross-Ritenour High School Blood Drive is Tuesday, Feb. 23, from noon to 5 p.m. at Hilton Garden Inn St. Louis Airport Ballroom, located at 4450 Evans Place Drive.
Anyone 17 and older interested in giving blood can donate. Prospective donors who are 16 can do so if they have a signed parental consent form.
To register in advance, visit RedCrossBlood.org, and type “Ritenour” in the “Find a Blood Drive" field, select Feb. 23 and secure a donation time.
Safety measure are in place to protect donors and workers. For example, masks are required, and temperature checks will be performed on workers and donors before entering the donation site. In addition, beds will be spaced 6-feet apart, surfaces will be regularly wiped down, and hand sanitizer will be available.
Donors have a unique opportunity to help patients fighting COVID-19, because blood donations are tested for COVID-19 antibodies. If a blood donation includes the antibodies, plasma from that donation may now help coronavirus patients who need convalescent plasma transfusions.
A Personal Interest, Motivation
Estes’ motivation for organizing the blood drive is personal.
“What pushed me was the fact that I have someone special in my life who had to use the blood of donors in order to survive,” Estes said.
“If it wasn't for the fact that that person is my boyfriend (Xavier Blake), and his battle with sickle cell has made our relationship stronger in the most beautiful way, then I probably would've been like most people who think the blood drive is a great thing to do but wouldn't donate,” Estes said.
“I never thought I'd ever be able to do something like this, but with the help of thinking about my relationship with my boyfriend and my love to help others, I had to give it a try.”
Estes will help register prospective blood donors and answer questions they have about donating. The day of the drive, American Red Cross volunteers and workers will ensure the drive goes as smoothly and safely as possible.
Connor Zielonko, account representative for donor recruitment with the American Red Cross, is impressed with Estes’ work to put the blood drive together.
“Azariah has been incredible throughout the entire process. She has really made a personal connection to the mission of the Red Cross and truly understands the importance of sustaining our community’s blood supply to help patients in need,” Zielonko said. “Our volunteers come from all ages, but for Azariah to take the reins on her drive at 16 is truly impressive. Her enthusiasm and determination are incredibly admirable.”
Living Her Purpose
Prior to these activities Estes, along with students across the nation, participated in a Youth Town Hall organized by America's Promise Alliance. She spoke on the topic of race and going back to school during a pandemic. America's Promise Alliance is a nationwide movement whose goal is to improve the lives and futures of America's youth.
Estes also spoke about ways young people can stop the spread of COVID-19 in collaboration with PrepareSTL. The organization is a collaborative of community and health organizations that are working to help St. Louisans to effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It brings absolute joy to my heart. I love helping other people, and this is the biggest way I've been able to do so,” Estes said. “My name means ‘helped by God,’ so this makes me feel like I'm living in my purpose,” she said. “I mean I'm literally helping to save people's lives. That is amazing, and it makes me happy every time someone registers since that means more lives are being saved.”