By Carol Stiffler

Mary Nutkins spent her professional years as a nurse, saving lives and caring for patients whose lives had come to a critical point. When she retired, she didn’t stop helping. She turned her efforts to managing a recurring local blood drive.

“After being a nurse for so many years, I know how important blood is,” Nutkins said. “It just seemed natural.”

Nutkins ran the local blood drives, which are now usually held at Trinity Lutheran Church, for 12 years. She led a team that contacted and scheduled donors, prepared the site for the mobile blood drive unit, and even baked highly popular cookies for donors to enjoy after. In the early years, she gave blood, too, one of an average of 40 people to contribute at each drive.

“Mary built this thing from the ground up,” said Cathy Moffat, who was recruited by Nutkins to help and now runs the Newberry blood drives.

And she built it well. All blood collected in Newberry is given to the U.P. Regional Blood Center, which shares its supply only with U.P. hospitals. Her work had the potential to help save more than 9,000 lives.

The center has long been impressed with Nutkins’ blood drives, and after her recent retirement from the effort, they presented her with a plaque as a gesture of gratitude.

It read:

With Our Greatest APPRECIATION
We Hereby Present
Mary Nutkins

You have stepped up when called upon and have provided a great amount of value to our community blood drives and the hospitals that we serve.  Your work with excellence and your contributions are many.  You exemplify our values and have proven to be a tremendous asset to our community.  THANK YOU FOR HELPING SAVE SO MANY LIVES

You Are Being Honored
With Much Appreciation And Gratitude

Nutkins was surprised with the award at last week’s blood drive, held during the Monday, December 7 snowstorm. Twenty-nine brave souls dutifully trekked to the blood drive, despite the weather.

Rachel Heath, Coordinator of Blood Collections for the center, said Nutkins was wonderful to work with.

“All of her blood drives have always had really great turnouts,” Heath said. “She gets really involved with the community and has passion in doing these blood drives…It was always a special treat to be able to go to the blood drives in Newberry and be able to work with her on coordinating the blood drives.”

Through Nutkins’ organization, the Newberry event became and is still the highest-producing blood drive in the U.P., per capita, Heath said.

“Newberry blows Marquette, Sault Ste. Marie, and Escanaba out of the water when it comes to blood drives,” Heath said.

Blood drives are happy events, Heath said, full of camaraderie and friendly chatter. Regular donors often become friends with staff, to the point where they share life updates and remember to ask after each other’s families.

Heath said donating blood hurts less than stubbing your toe.

“You don’t feel [the needle] once it’s in your arm,” she said. “You get to sit there, relax, and take those 5-10 minutes in the chair… It’s nice to be able to know that you’re doing something good for somebody else.”

That’s something Nutkins has never lost sight of, though her own health concerns have led her into retirement.

“I really appreciate people willing to give blood,” Nutkins said. “It’s really needed.”