Cascade Regional Blood Services has served Pierce and South King Counties since 1946.
In 1946 the Pierce County Medical Society recognized a need for a community resource that supplied blood to the people of Pierce County. Using resources established by local organizations after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, the society worked with the Pierce County Central Labor Council to establish Tacoma-Pierce County Blood Bank, now known in the community as Cascade Regional Blood Services. Tacoma-Pierce County Blood Bank opened its doors at 728 1/2 St. Helens Ave, Tacoma in August 1946.
By 1947, the Tacoma-Pierce County Blood Bank received donations from industrial plants and organizations throughout Tacoma. In this photo, a Tacoma-Pierce County Blood Bank nurse helps a prisoner in the Pierce County Jail make a blood donation.
Any group or organization could create a transfusion pool at the blood bank. These blood pools guaranteed that blood would be available for organization members while at the same time providing blood for emergency transfusion services. Mrs. Helen Clinenpeel (second from right), in her white nurse’s uniform, was happy to see these 18 loggers when they came to the Tacoma-Pierce County Blood Bank at 728 1/2 St. Helens Avenue in July 1947. The men, who worked for the St. Regis Paper Company at its logging operation in Mineral, had come to Tacoma to donate blood to their AFL Local No. 2587, Lumber and Sawmill Workers Union blood pool.
After the blood bank opened in August 1946, membership cards went on sale for $1 each. “This card entitled the owner and minor dependents of the member’s family free blood transfusion indefinitely,” according to H.S. McIlvaigh, author of “History of the Tacoma-Pierce County Blood Bank.” If a family member needed blood, the blood bank member was required to see that each unit used was replaced. Tacoma-Pierce County Blood Bank soon had 30,000 members and needed a larger facility. In September 1951, Tacoma-Pierce County Blood Bank opened this newly-built facility at 1211 South 12th Street, Tacoma.
Tacoma-Pierce County Blood Bank quickly became a trusted and valuable community resource, connecting volunteer blood donors with patients in community hospitals. In 1952, when 10-year-old Peggy McKay was stricken with a serious blood disorder requiring a pint of blood every other day, there was an acute shortage of blood at the Tacoma-Pierce County Blood Bank. Head Nurse Helen Ettlin pours coffee for four Navy men who heard the call and donated blood. Left to right the sailors are Kenneth McLaughlin, Martin Thielmann, James Lysaght and John Sheehan.
In the 1950s, Tacoma-Pierce County Blood Bank’s first bloodmobile hit the streets. Much as our fleet does now, the bloodmobile allowed blood collection from outlying districts, industries and areas, which could then come back to the blood bank for processing and distribution to community hospitals and clinics. CRBS currently has four self-contained bloodmobiles, as well as other vehicles in operation, which allow us to conduct community blood drives at the drive sponsor’s location. We conduct up to 100 blood drives per month which makes it more convenient for our donors.
Tacoma-Pierce County Blood Bank celebrated its 10th anniversary in 1956. Here, a technician works with blood samples and a microscope in the lab. Blood was tested for purity, type and RH factor. It was then stored under refrigeration in the lab. Whole blood could only be kept for 21 days, requiring a continual supply.
US Army Reservists of the 359th Gen. Hosp. lined up to donate blood July 22, 1957 in a Tacoma-Pierce County Blood Bank self-contained bloodmobile. These vehicles were initially converted school buses. More than five decades later, CRBS continues to provide support to Madigan Healthcare System. We also occasionally provide support to other facilities across the nation through our national resource sharing network.