Blood Bank relaunches permanent center on Kenai Peninsula

The new location joins others in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and Wasilla

Well over a decade since its previous Kenai Peninsula location closed, the Blood Bank of Alaska has opened a permanent location in Soldotna. Intended to serve the many communities of the peninsula, the Kenai Peninsula Center began taking donations in February and will have a grand opening event this weekend.

Blood Bank of Alaska CEO Robert Scanlon said Monday that restoring a permanent presence for the blood bank on the peninsula is exciting because peninsula residents have historically been “some of our strongest supporters.” He said mobile donation drives have seen great success on the peninsula, and that blood donated from the local communities has saved lives statewide.

The new location joins others in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and Wasilla.

The closure of Soldotna’s previous location, Scanlon said, was “a mistake on the part of the blood bank.” From his first days as CEO in 2012, he’s received repeated requests to return. Those requests came from dedicated donors with a desire to give regularly, who found that impossible.

“We’re back, we’re here to stay, we’re not ever leaving the community again,” he said. “We have an obligation to serve the community on the Kenai.”

Establishing a new center, Scanlon said, requires significant logistical and regulatory considerations. In addition to ensuring adherence to Food and Drug Administration and Association for the Advancement of Blood & Biotherapies certification, they have to manage the transport of donated blood to Anchorage, where it’s tested and processed before distribution as a variety of products.

All donated blood is tested for blood-borne pathogens and other qualities — “to ensure the safety, purity and potency of the blood supply.”

Long term, Scanlon said he’d like to see the local center developed further, into a location that can store blood for use in medical facilities — “sometimes the road gets closed, and we want to make sure there’s ready-to-use blood down there.”

Anybody looking to donate blood can call the appointment line, 907-222-5630, to set up a time for donation. Scanlon said a donor will then come to the facility, where their identity will be verified and they’ll be screened for a variety of factors — like blood pressure, pulse, exposure to certain diseases or other conditions.

“When you come in, we’re as concerned about your health and safety as well as the patient’s health and safety,” Scanlon said.

If all is well, the donor will be brought to the donor bed, where their blood will be collected. Scanlon said donors are encouraged to wait 15 to 30 minutes in “the canteen” afterward, where they can have juice and cookies.

“We’re very, very appreciative of the donation that that donor is bringing to us,” he said. “It’s a gift of life, that they’re providing so that another can be treated in the hospital — maybe their life saved. It’s a very worthwhile and fun process.”

Soldotna, and the Kenai Peninsula, “is going to be a major supplier of blood to the state,” Scanlon said. The blood bank has seen the community’s attitude and dedication in the success of mobile drives, and the regular calls asking for a permanent center. Those drives have made “a real difference” in statewide supply of blood.

Scanlon said he’s appreciative of the warm welcome the new center has already received, the patience of residents who have requested a local center, and the support they will receive in blood donations going forward.

“Whenever we’re down there, they always roll up their sleeve,” Scanlon said. “We’re making it easier for them to do it, and we owe that to them. They are just fantastic donors, and we’re really honored to serve the community.”

A grand opening and ribbon-cutting event will be held at the Blood Bank of Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula Center on Saturday, running from 10 a.m. to noon. The center is along the Kenai Spur Highway in Soldotna, across from Sweeney’s Clothing.

For more information about the Blood Bank of Alaska, visit bloodbankofalaska.org or find “Blood Bank of Alaska” on Facebook.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

A sign for the Blood Bank of Alaska’s new Kenai Peninsula center is seen in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, June 17, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A sign for the Blood Bank of Alaska’s new Kenai Peninsula center is seen in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, June 17, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

The Blood Bank of Alaska’s new Kenai Peninsula center is seen in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, June 17, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

The Blood Bank of Alaska’s new Kenai Peninsula center is seen in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, June 17, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)