Business of the Week: Blood Center of North Central Wisconsin

Wausau Pilot and Review

Editor’s note: Business of the week is a sponsored feature that shares the stories of locally owned and operated businesses in the Wausau area, highlighting the products and services they offer and the ways they contribute to the metro area’s unique flavor. Learn how to pitch your business by emailing [email protected]

This week’s featured Wausau business is Blood Center of North Central Wisconsin, an organization with a clear mission: to offer a safe, reliable and voluntary supply of blood and blood components to alleviate suffering and save lives. Located at 211 Forest St. in downtown Wausau, the Blood Center of North Central Wisconsin team has served our local community as a non-profit blood provider since 1952, currently providing blood products to hospitals in Marathon, Langlade, Taylor, Portage, Wood Counties, Columbia , Lincoln, Oneida and Vilas. To better serve the community and save more lives, BCNW and The Community Blood Center (CBC) joined forces earlier this year, creating Midwest Blood Centers, an alliance bringing the two blood centers together under a new nonprofit organizational structure . This affiliation will help BCNW continue its mission of protecting the health and well-being of its community by ensuring that every patient and family in need has prompt access to blood and blood components.

Emily Jolin, president and CEO of the organization, said she wishes more people knew how easy it is to donate blood and how much it really is needed.

“I wish people knew how simple the process really is,” Jolin said. “It is the blood that is already available on the shelf that helps in an emergency.” Blood is perishable and has a limited shelf life. The stock must be constantly replenished. It is also important to note that blood transfused directly to patients must be collected from voluntary donors.

Here, she talks about the donation process, the critical need for blood now, who can and can’t donate – and how to get started. If you haven’t donated blood recently or have never considered it, now is the perfect time. Walk-ins are accepted or make an appointment today at

Walk me through the process. When someone comes to donate blood, what do they experience from start to finish?

When you come forward to donate blood, you will first be registered in our system and asked to complete a health history questionnaire. A staff member will then review your health history with you and perform a mini-physical exam (checking your pulse, temperature, blood pressure, and a fingerstick to determine your hemoglobin level). After this examination, you will head to the collection area where the unit of blood will be drawn – the actual blood draw usually takes around 10 minutes. After the donation, you will move to our canteen to enjoy a drink and a snack, completing the process in about 45-60 minutes.

In the summer, we often hear about critical blood shortages. why is it so

Summer is a perfect storm for lack of blood. There are usually fewer donors coming forward to give and potentially increased use of blood products. Donors are busy with summer schedules, vacations, travel, and we lose our school blood drives that take place throughout the year. Higher product demands may also result from increased injuries during the summer months.

How critical is the supply level right now?

We are very low at the moment, especially our O blood supply – but all blood types are welcome!

What are the different types of blood donation – and what does each one involve?

At BCNW, we are currently focusing on whole blood and platelet collection. Whole blood involves donating one unit (approximately 1 pint) of blood. This product can be processed into two blood components – red blood cells and plasma – so up to two patients can benefit from each donation. Platelets are collected using an automated method, and the process takes about two hours. Each procedure results in 1-3 units of platelet concentrate, helping up to three patients. We collect whole blood at our donor center and blood donations. Platelets are currently collected only at our donor center.

What are the qualifications for donating blood? Who can donate?

To be eligible to donate, donors must be at least 17 years old or 16 with parental consent, weigh at least 110 pounds, and be in generally good health. As part of the donation process, donors go through screening and a small physical exam to confirm they are healthy to donate. There is no upper age limit. Whole blood can be donated every 8 weeks.

What are some things that would disqualify you? For example, is there a waiting period after getting a tattoo or piercing?

The most common cause of postponement is low hemoglobin, so we encourage donors to eat healthy, iron-rich foods before donating (and stay hydrated!). There are several health conditions, medications, recent travel locations, and other risk factors that can lead to a delay, but the best way to find out if you’re eligible to donate is to call us at 715-842-0761. We are happy to answer any questions about eligibility. Most common prescription medications, such as blood pressure or cholesterol medications, are acceptable. Tattoos and body piercings done in a government regulated facility are acceptable as soon as they are healed.

Do you only participate in blood donation or can someone just make an appointment to donate at any time?

We have blood drives in many Central Wisconsin communities in addition to our inpatient location in downtown Wausau, which accepts donors every Monday through Friday, 8 am to 4:30 pm. We accept walk-ins or you can make an appointment at our Wausau location at by visiting We are open until 6:30pm at our fixed site every second Tuesday of the month. Many of our blood drives also offer evening hours.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

I would say the most challenging part of our job is just keeping the supply going. Specifically, making sure we retain current donors and attract new ones. It has become more of a struggle each year. Nationally, statistics show that the donor population as a whole is aging. From 2017 to 2019, there was a 15.1% increase in donations from those over 65 and a 15.1% decline from those aged 19-24. Given this trend, the blood supply will not be sustainable in the future if things continue as they are.

How about the most satisfying thing?

The most satisfying thing is to witness donors altruistically giving this precious gift so that it is available to their friends, families and neighbors. They are literally saving lives and we are honored to be a part of it.

Contact the Blood Center of North Central Wisconsin

  • Visit in person: 211 Forest St., Wausau
  • By phone: 715-842-0761
  • Online at
  • On Facebook HERE

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