PORTLAND – During the past four years, Michael Doyle of Falmouth has donated four gallons of blood.

On Thursday, at a blood drive held by the American Red Cross at the Holiday Inn by the Bay, Doyle donated the first pint toward his fifth gallon.

“I’m O negative,” Doyle said as he sat with other donors who were having juice and snacks after giving blood. “It’s almost like a moral obligation, if you have O negative, to donate at least once a year.”

O negative donors are crucial, said Ellen Russell, director of Maine operations for American Red Cross Blood Services.

“We’re looking for all types, but there’s a shortage of O negative,” she said. “O negative is the universal donor, so their blood can be given to anyone.”

Donated blood collected by the Red Cross is used to treat accident victims who lose significant quantities of blood, patients who have surgery and others.

In addition to Thursday’s blood drive at the Holiday Inn, a drive was held at the Bangor Elks Lodge.

“We’re hoping, in Maine, it’s the biggest one-day blood drive we’ve had in a long, long time,” Russell said.

Even before the doors opened, the American Red Cross had a record 460 people with appointments at the two locations. noon, 89 walk-ins had come to the Holiday Inn.

“At an average blood drive in Maine, we might see 50 people,” Russell said.

Much of the attendance could be attributed to on-air promotion of the events by WCSH-TV in Portland and WLBZ-TV in Bangor.

Between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, blood donations tend to drop off as potential donors travel. Donations fell further this week because of Monday’s snowstorm, which forced the cancellation of two blood drives and drastically reduced turnout at the two drives that went on as planned.

Thursday’s event in Portland attracted some first-time donors, including Jean and Jeff Webster of Yarmouth.

“We always had an excuse not to donate,” Jean Webster said. “But we decided to step up.”

Jeff Webster noted that the whole process was relatively quick, well-organized and even relaxing.

“We plan to donate now on a regular basis,” Jean Webster said.

Thursday’s events were organized with help from FairPoint Communications, which provided 250 employees to volunteer for the drive.

“We sponsor blood drives at our locations, so this was a natural progression to do a super blood drive,” said Michael Reed, president of FairPoint’s Maine operations.

All donors went home with gift bags containing a T-shirt, a pound of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and a fleece headband. Participants also had a chance to register to win Kindles, iPods, digital cameras, laptops and an Old Town canoe.

But, as Doyle pointed out, the event was really about giving, rather than getting.

“It’s one of the few things you can do to give back to the community that doesn’t cost a thing,” he said.

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

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