Newbury Park church partners with American Red Cross to save lives and serve others
By Tom Horan, Public Affairs Volunteer
While he was still relatively new to being a pastor at Living Oaks Church in Newbury Park, Lead Pastor Austin Axen clearly remembers the devastation that befell his community in November of 2018. “All of a sudden we heard siren after siren going by our house and then learned of the tragic shootings at the Borderline,” he states, only to be followed soon after by the ravaging Woolsey Fire. “We had several of our church members who lost their homes in that fire,” Axen adds, seeing firsthand how people’s lives could be turned upside down in such a short period of time.
Living Oaks Church had been providing emergency preparedness classes and signed up to serve as a Red Cross emergency evacuation shelter and jumped in to make sifters for survivors of the Thomas and Woolsey Fires. But Pastor Axen felt there was, even more, the church could do to assist those in need, so he started organizing Blood Drives at the church, and was first up to give. “Giving blood is so important to help others and saves lives. As Christians, we are called to love God and love our neighbors, and what more meaningful way than to give blood?” The church has now conducted four drives with additional ones scheduled for the future. “I am so blessed and proud of the members of our body who step up to donate,” he says. “Our first drive was during the pandemic and we still had a great turnout.”
Executive Associate Pastor Conrad Wozniak has helped Axen in getting the drives organized. “We know there is a very tangible need for blood in the community. Our desire is to open our facilities and provide a location that is easily accessible for those inside and outside the church to be able to give,” Wozniak notes. “With health clinics, emergency services, and hospitals all inundated with need during the pandemic, this is a simple yet impactful way in which Living Oaks Church can contribute to our community and partner with the Red Cross,” he adds. The drives are open to all donors, whether they are members or not.
For the most recent drive on September 2021, Living Oaks posted impressive numbers with six first-time donors, six Power Red donations, and fourteen whole blood donations for a total of twenty-five units collected, helping seventy-five recipients.
Helping to boost Living Oaks’ numbers is church member Kurt Reithmayr. Reithmayr, who retired from the City of Thousand Oaks, is a Super Donor who donates platelets in Woodland Hills every two weeks. “It is so easy to donate blood,” he adds. “I have been giving blood since I was a freshman in college. I just think it is so important. It is so easy to help save a life.”
Reithmayr knows firsthand how important blood donations are. His grandson received donations during multiple visits to the Stanford Hospital during the height of COVID for treatment of a serious illness including bone marrow transplants. His grandson is doing well now and has even considered a career in medicine. Kurt adds that while donating platelets can take longer, he averages about six minutes to give a unit of blood. “It’s so fast and easy. I really want to encourage everyone to give it a try. It means so much.”
Wozniak closes with stating that “Living Oaks is so proud to partner with the Red Cross to help serve our community and save lives. We look forward to expanding this great relationship in the years to come.” Since Summer 2020, they have hosted four blood drives and have helped collect 195 units of lifesaving blood.
To learn about hosting a blood drive, visit RedCrossBlood.org/host.