With 5,000 Blood Drives in the Books, Jamila Wilson Keeps Pushing Forward

To commemorate Black History Month, the Red Cross is celebrating team members and how they’re making a difference to the mission.

When Jamila Wilson joined the American Red Cross in 1997, her original plan was to stay for five years and pursue another career opportunity. She ended up staying, and in May she will celebrate her 26th year.

“I’ve aways loved working for the Red Cross,” said Wilson, a blood donor services account manager, a position she has held for the last 19 years. “I felt the mission of the organization lined up with my values, personally. This particular position I’m in, I love so much because I feel like I make a difference.”

In her role, Wilson plans and manages blood drives in southern Macomb and Oakland counties. It is a position that requires an event planner’s attention to detail, multi-tasking and relationship-building skills, and the rapport and enthusiasm of a sales professional. Coordinating a blood drive has enough moving parts that planning begins a year in advance of the actual date on the calendar, especially given the number of blood drives the Red Cross manages on a weekly basis.  

“All of us, my colleagues and I, share the same passion in trying to help and push through no matter what the challenges are because the reward is greater than any day-to-day things we have to overcome to make a blood drive happen,” Wilson said.

“We have to fill our calendars because that’s the only way we can accurately predict how much we can supply to hospitals. There is literally no way we could do that, inside of 12 weeks, let’s say. (Hospitals) have to have the ability to project out (the blood supply they need).”

By Wilson’s guesstimate, she has managed roughly 5,000 blood drives in partnership with high schools, colleges and universities, places of worship, and businesses. There are also “in honor of drives,” which are held in honor of someone who was the recipient of donated blood and the family wishes to give back to the Red Cross to help others in need.

Taken together, those drives translate to thousands of pints of blood donated, many times over.

One blood drive close to her heart is a two-day and multi-store collaboration with the Gardner White furniture store. When she first took over the account, the Red Cross had drives at three stores; today, drives are held at 11 stores. She has worked with three generations of the store’s ownership.

“I’ve worked with the grandmother, I’ve worked with her daughter, and now I’m working with her granddaughter,” Wilson said.

Wilson is immensely gratified by the people she has met and come to know over the years. This includes the countless donors, many of whom return to her drives. For those who have not yet donated, she has a simple ask.

“If you are eligible to donate, absolutely you should donate,” she said. “If you’re not eligible, there’s still a part for you to play. You could sponsor a blood drive, you could volunteer. But I tell people, if you’ve never saved a life before, you can certainly do it by helping to donate blood. You’re only donating one pint, and your body has about 10 to 12, then it replenishes it. God gave us extra for a reason, to share, and people should.”

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