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Morongo drive helps to replenish

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MECCA, Calif. ? The Morongo band of Mission Indians conducted a blood drive and marrow registration project to replenish blood supplies in New York and Washington. Traditionally blood supplies fall off in the weeks following a disaster such as the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

'When such tragedy strikes, we can all help. In every major conflict America has faced, American Indians have given more lives than any other individual group. We will continue to stand with our country and our president and offer our resources and support in every way,' said Morongo Tribal Chairman Maurice Lyons, the drive's first donor.

Lyons said he was informed by the Rancho Mirage Community Blood Bank Center that it is 'critical' to maintain a steady supply in the months following a disaster since blood only has a limited shelf life.

'We had an overwhelming response and because of the response by the tribal members, employees and community members, we want to do this again,' Morongo communications specialist Waltona Manion said.

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Manion said the drive was processing people at the rate of one every 20 minutes and netted more than 180 donors by 3 o'clock and expected several more people by the close of the blood-drive at 5 p.m. Sept. 26. Each donor was to give a pint and Manion reported that one-pint is typically given to three recipients.

Concurrently the tribe sponsored a bone-marrow matching program. This is especially important for American Indians and other minorities because matches usually must be ethnically specific and there is often a chronic shortage of available bone marrow for American Indians. Manion said the bone marrow also would go to replenish supplies in Washington and New York.

'A steady donation flow means there will always be blood even through a crisis. It is very important for the blood bank to collect a minimum of 80 pints of blood a day, every day. Traditionally, we collect only about 30 to 40 pints a day. But blood is needed all the time, 24 -hours a day, 365 days a year,' Community Blood Bank spokeswoman Rosemarie Tessier said.

American Red Cross representatives also set up a truck on the Morongo reservation and accepted donations. Morongo previously gave the organization $25,000 for its disaster team to go to New York. American Red Cross executive director Pam Anderson said at the time it was the largest donation in their history.

Red Cross representatives were also at the Morongo Pow Wow on the Sept. 29-30 weekend, where the tribe also planned a special candle lighting ceremony before each entry.