WAHOO – Karen Boop sat at a table surrounded by pictures and memorabilia from the 17 years she has been in charge of the American Red Cross Blood Drive in Wahoo.
Last week Boop was in charge of her second-to-last blood drive, and she was soaking everything in and creating lasting memories of her experience as coordinator.
Boop will step down in December, handing the reigns to Verna Rezac. Her assistant for the last few years, Mary Hohn, is also turning her duties over to a new person, Valerie Lindgren.
One of Boop’s final tasks is to put together a scrapbook from the blood drives that have been held over the years. The pages display images of smiling faces holding a mug that signifies a two-gallon donor, or pictures of her grandchildren riding in the Saunders County Fair parade representing the blood drive. She will also sew a wall hanging made up of a patchwork of t-shirts she has gathered over the years. Some are from other states.
The scrapbooks and the wall hanging will be displayed along with other Red Cross memorabilia at future blood drives, where Boop will be a donor, rather than the coordinator. She has given a total of five gallons of blood over the years, and has been the recipient of donated blood herself.
After a recent operation to remove her gall bladder, Boop found herself hooked up to a line that was providing blood. The surgeon had run into slight complications during the procedure, finding that Boop’s gall bladder was attached to her liver. As they separated the two, Boop began to lose blood.
Boop was grateful to see the familiar bag hanging there when she woke up in recovery.
“I know what it takes for that blood to get here,” she said.
As a retired nurse, she is also familiar with the reasons why blood is so vital to the healing process.
“I was happy to know there was blood available to me when I needed it,” she said.
Boop retired after a 39-year nursing career. She grew up in Lexington and moved to Lincoln when she was 18 years old. There, she attended nursing school. After graduating in 1965, she stayed in Lincoln and worked at hospitals there and in Fremont.
Once their children were out of high school, Boop and her husband, Ron, opted to move to a small town. They had a few friends in Wahoo so they headed there.
“We grew up in a small community and came back to a small community,” she said.
Not long after she retired in 2003, Boop was swimming at the Civic Center when Caroline Welton approached her, asking her to help out making phone calls for an upcoming blood drive. Welton was very persuasive, Boop remembered.
“She wore me down,” she said with a laugh.
Boop was willing to lend a hand, but soon found the blood drive was without a coordinator, creating a bit of chaos, she said.
“I told my husband, either I take over and get things organized or not do it at all,” she said.
That’s when Boop stepped up and became coordinator. Overseeing blood drives has given her a new perspective on the importance of blood donation.
“With my nursing background, I administered (blood) a lot, so this has let me see overall these years the other side of it as far as collecting,” she said.
Another benefit of being the blood drive coordinator was meeting more people.
“I got to know a lot of people in Wahoo,” she said.
Boop had a trusty assistant for the past few years. Mary Hohn, also a retired nurse, helped coordinate the blood drives, which are held about every nine weeks. The next blood drive will be held on Dec. 19.
Most of the blood drives are two-day affairs, usually on a Wednesday and a Thursday, as was the case last week. For the past three years, they have been held in the Wahoo State Bank “shed,” a building that is much nicer than its name implies. The new building was built by the bank’s owners to hold their fair float, but has turned into a building that is frequently used by the community. Before the blood drive was located at the shed, it was held at local churches and before that at the Civic Center.
In addition to coordinating the blood drive, Boop also does tax service and helps take care of an elderly client. Her duties have grown in those areas, so she decided to give up the title of blood drive coordinator.
“I realized I needed to have somebody take this over because of my other responsibilities,” she said.
Her timing is also due to the fact that her successor just retired from teaching last May and was ready to take over.
Rezac said she had just announced her retirement when Boop approached her about becoming the coordinator that same day.
“I think it’s the way it’s supposed to be when things like that happen,” she said.
Rezac knew she wanted to volunteer in Wahoo, her hometown, once she retired.
“It’s important to give back to the community and help out,” she said.
Rezac has been helping at the blood drive since May, so she is soaking in all that she can before Boop steps down. Boop said it will be hard to let go of her job as coordinator, but when she does, it will be with a smile.
“It’s been a lot of work, but there are a lot of wonderful memories,” she said.