A Conversation With Karin Schroeder

Karen Schroeder.
Karen Schroeder.

By Kathryn G. Menu

The insurance agent at Dayton, Ritz & Osborne, CPR and first aid instructor, and lifelong Sag Harbor resident talks about her family’s second annual blood drive in honor of her father, Jim Federico, and why donating to volunteer agencies is a family affair.

This is the second year your family has teamed up with the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corp to host a blood drive in honor of your father, Jim Federico. What was the reason you decided to honor his memory with this kind of event?

There were a number of reasons, but first and foremost it is to pay it forward. My father suffered from MDS [Myelodysplatic Syndromes] and then Acute Leukemia, both deplete your blood. Over the last two years of his life, my father received 93 units of blood and platelets from anonymous donors. We were given the gift of time with our father, which we are so grateful for. I am especially grateful for these two years because my sons were so young when he died. They now have memories that they will keep forever.

How many units of blood were you able to raise at the inaugural drive?

Last year we collected 129 units on site. We had one other friend give a pint that morning at another location. We’ve tried to encourage people outside of the area to find a blood collection site, and then share their donation on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #apintforjim.

Speaking of the hashtag, #apintforjim, this year businesses are offering “A Pint for a Pint.” Can you explain?

We thought it would be fun to ask local business if they would be willing to donate “pints” for the donors. Basically, you come and give us a pint of your blood, as we will give you a coupon for a pint of beer, soup, coffee, ice cream, etc. So far, we’ve confirmed coupons for beer from World Pie, The Corner Bar and Page. We’ve also secured coupons for pints of soup from The Corner Bar and Sing City. We have inquiries out to a few other businesses, so its possible we will have more options on Friday. The supply isn’t unlimited, but we’re up to 65 total pints coupons at this point.

Another tradition, that I would imagine we will keep, is to honor the person who donates the 93 pint of blood, as it is the number my dad received. Last year we gave a gift certificate for Espresso. This year, I went to Conca D’Oro to see if they would sponsor it. Frankie asked me how much I wanted. I said, “Can you do $50?” He came back and handed me a $100 gift certificate. He looked at me and said, “I loved Jimmy.” So, thanks to Frankie, there’s a $100 gift certificate for the 93rd pint.

A long-time volunteer yourself, how critical is it to donate blood, particularly during this time of year?

I had to give up volunteering with the Sag Harbor Ambulance as a member, but I still teach CPR and First Aid with them.

We are in a nationwide emergency blood shortage, and in the winter, it makes it that much worse. Snow and cold keeps people at home. It looks like this week’s snow will miss Friday, but if it doesn’t, that’s potentially 100 pints of blood that aren’t donated. I also think it is so important that those who can give, do. Many people can’t give because of travel, or low iron, or a million other reasons, not the least of which is fear. Donating is not for everyone, and I totally respect that. I would never want someone to give if they were uncomfortable doing so. That’s why those of us who can do it easily, have to do it, and should try to do it every 8 weeks.

Last year’s blood drive was truly a family affair, with even your own children – Brian and Lance. How did learning about their grandfather’s experience help educate them about the importance of supporting volunteer emergency services?

My father was a volunteer in fire department throughout his life, first in Center Moriches and Mastic, and later in Sag Harbor, when he and my mom moved here is 1970. He was a member of the Lions Club, and probably sold Christmas trees to many of your readers. Beyond that, Sag Harbor is a community filled with volunteers, and I think that its sort of a way of life when you live in a small town. I try to remind my boys that we are so blessed in many ways, and it’s really easy to do a good thing for someone in need. And I know that my mother, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews feel the same way. We are so happy to be able to work together on this event again year, along with the help of our friends at the Sag Harbor Ambulance.

What are some of the other ways you recommend community members’ give back to local volunteers?

Our local volunteer emergency services give countless hours to training, in addition to the time spent at fire and ambulance calls. We are very lucky to have them. I think saying thank you goes a long way. When I was a member of the ambulance, I loved the part of the meeting where they read letters or cards from people we helped. They would send a note, and perhaps a donation, and its just amazing what it does for morale. Or send a letter to the paper. Or better yet, JOIN!

The Federico blood drive, sponsored by the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corp with the aid of several local businesses, will be held at the Sag Harbor Fire Department headquarters on Brick Kiln Road in Sag Harbor on Friday, February 10 from 2 to 8 p.m.