January 8, 2007

Red Cross: Blood needed

Supply of types O Negative, A Negative critically low


Photos by Joe McIntyre/staff photographer    
A Red Cross worker draws blood from Rob Morgan, of Virgil, Saturday in the basement of St. Mary’s church during a blood drive. The Red Cross is facing low levels of blood, particularly types O Negative and A Negative. Morgan is a double donor and gave two pints of blood rather than one Saturday. His blood was put through a centrifuge which separates the red blood cells while the plasma component of Morgan’s blood was returned to his circulatory system.

Staff Reporter

Robert Morgan is a double red blood donor — he donates two pints of blood instead of the standard one.
Morgan gave blood Saturday in the basement of Saint Mary’s Church. He started donating blood 17 years ago and has been a double red donor for two years.
“It just seemed like the right thing to do,” Morgan said. “I feel very good. It is a rewarding feeling.”
The blood drive at Saint Mary’s was just one of many being held in the area to ease a blood shortage.
Blood types O Negative and A Negative in particular are at critical levels, said Jill Hoekstra, account manager for the American Red Cross in Cortland, Chenango and Delaware counties.
Hospitals in the region are operating on a one-day supply of O Negative, Hoekstra said. O Negative is the universal blood type. Hoekstra said a five- to seven-day blood supply would be ideal.
“We almost never have that,” he said. “A three-day supply is considered somewhat safe.”
If the blood supply does not increase, Hoekstra said, blood would be rationed to hospitals for life threatening surgeries. Elective surgeries — non-emergency or non-life threatening surgeries — would be put on hold.
To encourage more blood donors, the American Red Cross for the New York-Pennsylvania Region is holding a random drawing in which everyone who donates blood in National Volunteer Blood Donor Month, which is January, is eligible to have their gas and electric bill paid up to $500 for a month. Two winners from the New York-Pennsylvania Region will be chosen.
Shortages are at the highest during the holidays and summer months, said Robbin Smith, one of the supervisors of operations for the blood drive at Saint Mary’s.
“People are busy during the holiday season,” Smith said.
She also attributes the shortages to people just not coming to donate blood.
Wilda O’Mara has given blood over a span of 20 years and she has just the kind of blood needed — 0 Negative.
“I think everybody, if you are able to, should give blood,” said O’Mara. “It gives you a good feeling to help people.”
Deborah Hobart said she has been donating blood since 1977, when her mother-in-law “dragged her along.” Hobart said she has donated 74 pints of blood, which translates to about 9 gallons.
“It is the only thing I do to help people,” Hobart said of donating blood. “That and participating in the United Way.”
Smith said on Saturday the Red Cross wanted to collect 39 units of blood. As of 11 a.m. Saturday 25 units were already donated. She said 35 units could help approximately 70 people, depending on individual need.
The Red Cross reached its goal of 39 units; a unit is just under a pint.
Smith said the blood would be processed in Rochester and in two to three days it would be ready for use.
Anyone 17 years or older, weighing a minimum of 110 pounds and in good health is eligible to donate blood. In New York state, individuals who are 16 can donate blood with a signed New York State Informed Parental Consent form, which can be found at
“It is important,” donor Virginia Fleischman said. “It is needed.” She said she intends to give blood as long as she can.


State reps take up Assembly positions

Staff Reporter

The committee assignments of local state Assembly members are poised to provide Brian Kolb, Gary Finch and Barbara Lifton the opportunity to enact and affect legislation in ways that could be of benefit to local communities.
Finch (R-Springport) retains three previous committee assignments: membership on the Committee on Agriculture, the Committee on Economic Development, Commerce, Industry and Job Creation, and the Committee on Energy.
“I don’t have an agricultural background, so I thought it was very important that I be on that committee,” especially since agriculture is the largest industry in the county, Finch said.
The recent level of milk prices (some of the lowest they’ve been in years) need to be remedied, Finch said, and he hopes the committee will take a close look at the implementation of the Rogers-Allen Act, which allows the commissioner of agriculture to establish an emergency price for Class 1 milk that is higher than the federal order’s price, as well as the pricing formula used to determine that emergency price.
“Bottled water costs more than milk — there’s something wrong with that,” Finch said.
Finch said he also sees the region gaining more and more high-tech, small firms, and points to the area’s proximity to so many higher education institutions.
“It’s very, very interesting to talk to these people because they’re taking the academic and the abstract and putting it into reality in the form of jobs.”
As deputy whip within the Republican conference, Finch — who represents most of Cortland County, excluding Preble, Virgil, Cortlandville, McGraw and the city of Cortland — will be responsible for new member orientation and ensuring that Assembly members are properly briefed on the legislation before them.
As a member of the Committee on Energy, Finch said that with the cost of energy in the state so high, he is interested in a plan stating that by 2025, at least 25 percent of the energy used in New York state will be renewable energy.
In addition to his role as minority leader pro-tempore, or floor leader, Kolb (R-Canandaigua) has also been appointed to the powerful Rules Committee and has retained his position on the Committee on Insurance. When legislation comes before the Rules Committee, the group decides for how long it will be discussed on the floor and prescribes conditions for its debate and amendment in the Assembly.
Kolb said he hoped anticipated decreases in property taxes, as announced by Gov. Eliot Spitzer and the state Senate, would be of particular benefit to farmers in Preble and Moravia, which are part of Kolb’s 129th Assembly District.
Reducing the cost of workers’ compensation, and hashing out a comprehensive energy policy focusing on alternative fuels, renewable energy and the dependence on foreign oil will also be beneficial to the state, Kolb said.
Lifton (D-Ithaca) is chairperson of the Task Force on Women’s Issues, and a member of the Committee on Agriculture, the Committee on Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry, the Committee on Election Law, the Committee on Environmental Conservation, the Committee on Higher Education, the Committee on Mental Health, and the Commission on Rural Resources.
Although the Democratic caucus has yet to dole out new committee assignments, she said she hopes to retain all of the posts she has. She said she will seek to ensure local control of electronic voting machines and continue to push for new models of elder care in the state that could involve colleges and universities. Other initiatives include more transparency in economic development issues and holding the state to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, she said.



Study finds dioceses deal with embezzlement

85 percent of those surveyed report theft. Area priests cite no local cases.

Staff Reporter

While 85 percent of the Catholic dioceses that responded to a nationwide survey reported embezzlement of church funds in the last five years, two local priests said they have never come across such instances in their tenure.
The Rev. Michael Minehan, who presides over Saint Mary’s Church on North Main Street, said stealing church funds “is a pretty bad thing to do.”
Minehan said he has been a priest for 26 years and he has never had an issue with people embezzling funds from the church.
The survey — conducted by Villanova University researchers Robert West and Charles Zech — found 11 percent of the dioceses responding reported that more than $500,000 had been stolen. The survey was sent to 174 Catholic dioceses in the nation and 78 responded.
Zech, who heads Villanova’s Center for the Study of Church Management, is now preparing a financial survey of 3,000 Catholic parishes.
“As with any crime statistics, you can view the news in two ways,” Zech said in an interview. “You can say it’s bad news there’s a lot of embezzlement, or you can say we’re catching the crimes. But still, I think it’s bad news. There’s far more of this than there should be.”
Embezzlement was only a part of West and Zech’s survey, which also queried dioceses on such matters as deficits, oversight and reporting. Of the responding dioceses, 46 percent reported more than one annual deficit during the last five years with large city dioceses reporting the highest number of annual deficits — an average of 2.8 in five years, well above the national average of 1.7 for the same period.
Minehan said he was not qualified to talk about the survey because he did not know about it, but he noted the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse, which includes all Cortland County churches and St. Mary’s School, has some safeguards in place to protect church funds.
Minehan said many people count all collections.
“It is secured once mass is over so it can’t be lifted or taken by anybody,” Minehan said.
The Rev. Mark Kaminski, of St. Anthony’s of Padua Church on Pomeroy Street in Cortland and Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Cincinnatus, said the diocese conducts frequent audits, and has a professional accountant.
Only 3 percent of dioceses reported they conducted annual internal audits of their parishes and 21 percent said they “seldom or never” audited parishes, according to the study.
The Syracuse Diocese posts audited financial reports on the Internet dating back to 2002. According to the last year posted — the fiscal year ending June 30, 2005 — the diocese had $82.4 million in its investment portfolio. Third-party investment managers handle daily activities and a standing Diocesan Finance Committee monitors the managers’ performance.
Last year a number of priests allegedly embezzled money in some other dioceses. The Darien Times reported that after a financial audit, the Rev. Jude Fay, a priest at St. John’s Roman Catholic Church in Connecticut, embezzled approximately $1.4 million from Jan.1, 2000, to April 2006. According to the Times, another $350,000 remained missing at the time of the audit.
Not only is stealing a sin, “but also it is breaking of a moral code,” Kaminski said. “People trust us with money because they support us.”

—— Staff reporter Ida M. Pease and The Philadelphia Inquirer contributed to this article.