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Blood Assurance CEO J.B. Gaskins addresses Fort Oglethorpe Kiwanis

On Friday, May 24, the Fort Oglethorpe Kiwanis Club became acquainted with J.B. Gaskins, president and CEO of Blood Assurance.

After lunch at Park Place Restaurant on Lafayette Road, Gaskins introduced himself and shared some of the things that have motivated him in his career, as well as the needs that Blood Assurance has.

Blood Assurance has a donation center at 2720 Lafayette Road in Fort Oglethorpe that serves the greater Northwest Georgia area.

"I got into blood banking by sheer accident," Gaskins said. "I also believe it was part of my destiny. And every time I question my life, I remember that God has a hand in what's happening in my life."

Gaskins began his blood banking career in 1979 as a part-time phlebotomist in Gainesville, Florida, while he was attending college. Past that point, he moved up in the company, spending a few years as a donor recruiter, regional director, and executive director before he became vice president in 2001.

He spent 15 years as vice president, and was senior vice president for two of those years, before becoming president and CEO in 2017. The same year, he retired from the US Army Reserves as a lieutenant colonel.

His hobbies include photography, outdoor activities such as hiking, paddle-boarding, and biking. He is the father of three adult children and one grandson, and is the youngest of seven siblings.

Gaskins shared a story of his older sister, Sandra, who was in a car accident when he was 10 years old. She was pregnant at the time and thrown through the front windshield of her vehicle. Sandra, who was found around 40 feet away from the car in a ditch, was rushed to the hospital, and the doctors said she wouldn't make it. She was given her last rites, and the family was told that even if Sandra survived by some miracle, she would suffer brain damaged. Due to medical intervention she was able to survive and continue her life.

"My sister went through 85 units of blood in 36 hours. That's 85 blood donors. I attribute much of her survival to that."

Sandra had a baby girl, who now has children and grandchildren of her own.

"The blood supply is the community's responsibility," Gaskins said. "Blood Assurance is the steward of the blood supply, but it is community responsibility. This is a critical time of year for us. Schools are getting out of session, but there's no delay or postponing of surgery because kids are out of school. In fact, this is the busiest time because many people will be traveling or put off surgery until summer when the kids are out of school."

But timing can be tricky, he said. An individual is permitted to donate blood every 56 days. Blood is only good for 22 days, under the circumstance that it makes it all the way to expiration. This leaves a large amount of time where patients could potentially be in need of blood, which is why Blood Assurance is in need of as many donors as possible, he said. The same idea applies to platelets, which can be donated weekly and are only good for five days. Two of those days are used for processing, so essentially they are only good for patient use for three days.

"When people ask what blood type is the most rare and needed, I always say that it's the one we currently don't have on our shelf. It varies." Gaskins said.

O-negative, to that effect, is worth mentioning, as it is universal and can always be used. Anyone of any blood type can receive O-negative blood. O-negative patients, however, can only receive O-negative blood.

Right now, Gaskins said, blood Assurance is in need of all donors and blood types, but especially platelets.

Jordan Mooney is a reporter for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and The Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.


Body of missing man found in creek

The Catoosa County Sheriff's Office has identified a body found in South Chickamauga Creek to be that of a missing Ringgold man.

According to Sheriff Gary Sisk, on Saturday, May 25, at about 12:50 p.m., the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office was contacted about a body being discovered in the South Chickamauga Creek near Graysville Road.

The body was identified as 30-year-old Matthew Edward Scruggs of 69 ME Arnold Circle in Ringgold.

Sisk said via press release Tuesday, May 28, that Scruggs drove to the Tri-State Steele & Drum property to go fishing on Wednesday, May 22, in a vehicle he was planning to purchase. The vehicle was later located on the property by the Sheriff's Office.

"On Saturday evening, May 25, 2019, a family member contacted the Sheriff's Office to report Mr. Scruggs missing, and that is when the identity of the body was determined to be Mr. Scruggs," Sisk said.

The body was taken to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's Crime Lab for an autopsy.

Sisk said there were no obvious signs of injury.


Inspections for Catoosa and Walker counties for May 23-29

Catoosa County: Six inspections earned a perfect score during the week of May 23-29. Nine restaurants earned between 90 and 99, while two restaurants scored between 80 and 89.

Walker County: For the week of May 23-29, there were no inspections.

Catoosa County

Las Fiesta, Inc. D/B/A Fiesta Mexicana #15

110 Kristin Drive, Ringgold

Inspection date: May 23

Score: 91

Inspection notes: Observed salsa sitting out on trays at room temperature at 54 degrees Fahrenheit. Salsa in reach-in cooler was 46-47 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lake Winnie Water Park — Winnie 500 Slide

1730 Lakeview Drive, Rossville

Inspection date: May 23

Score: 100


GROWING HABITAT
Catoosa Habitat for Humanity will hold public meeting to explore expanding to Walker County

Catoosa County Habitat for Humanity is holding a public meeting in mid-June to explore the possibility of expanding into Walker County.

Penny Mahon, executive director of Catoosa Habitat, says Habitat International contacted her about the feasibility of including Walker County in what they offer. "I love the idea," she says. "I get a lot of calls from people in Walker County looking for help with housing."

Each Habitat is an independent organization, says Mahon. "We all come under the mother umbrella of Habitat International. They charter us and offer a lot of practical support, but we find our own projects, raise our own funds and operate independently of any other Habitat."

Mahon says there would be many advantages to having one Habitat organization serving two counties. "This would give us some real advantages and save money. We would still only need one insurance policy, one office, one Habitat International membership. Our critical repair and cleanup programs would not need to be duplicated, only expanded."

While Habitat's primary focus is on building new affordable housing, they are increasingly helping in other ways, Mahon says. Their "Re-Habitat Critical Repair" and "Community Cleanup" programs help improve existing housing and properties, and Mahon says local Habitats are encouraged to keep informed about everything from housing options and costs to programs to help with utilities and food. "Habitat International urges us to network with other nonprofits to help however we can. I often connect people with churches and programs that can help with needs that Habitat can't address."

Whether or not Catoosa Habitat expands into Walker County, says Mahon, depends on how much the community is interested and willing to get involved.

MORE INFORMATION

Catoosa County Habitat for Humanity will hold a public meeting to explore the possibility of expanding into Walker County on Thursday, June 13, at 6:30 p.m. in the Rhyne Board Room at the LaFayette/Walker County Library, 305 S. Duke St., LaFayette. All are invited to attend. To learn more about Catoosa County Habitat for Humanity, visit catoosahabitat.org or contact Penny Mahon at 706-861-5858.

Mahon says many people think there's not a role for them in Habitat because they have no building skills. "That's not true at all," she says. "We need people who can plan events, who are good with finances, who can do fundraising, research, grant writing and other things. We need people with construction skills, too, of course."

Catoosa Habitat already owns some land in Walker County, says Mahon, so they have a bit of a head start getting established. If they can find people in the county willing to serve on their board and on committees and willing to get involved in promoting their programs in the county, Mahon says they will be on solid ground to proceed.

"We have so many wonderful people, groups and businesses who help us," says Mahon, "and I'm excited about expanding that kind of community involvement into Walker County. We hope many people will come out to the meeting to learn more."

Tamara Wolk is a reporter for The Catoosa County News in Ringgold and Walker County Messenger in LaFayette.


Catoosa Habitat for Humanity: Interesting facts

• Meeting about expanding into Walker County: June 13, 6:30 p.m. at Lafayette/Walker County Library, 305 S. Duke St.

• Catoosa Habitat was established in 1991 by community members concerned about a lack of affordable housing.

• Catoosa Habitat funds no-interest mortgages for the people they build homes for.

• Catoosa Habitat keeps costs down through donations, buying practical accessories for houses, keeping house sizes modest, and depending on volunteer labor.

• Catoosa Habitat just finished building its 18th home and is about to begin its 19th.

• Catoosa Habitat has built a number of homes to accommodate wheel chairs and other special needs.

• People getting a Habitat home must invest at least 300 hours of "sweat equity" in the building of their home (work or if they are unable to work, "social sweat equity" in the form of things like thanking helpers and handing out water to workers).

• People getting a Habitat home must take a class in managing personal finances and in maintaining a home.

• People getting a Habitat home are assigned a family nurturer to help them navigate their new role as homeowners.

• Some Catoosa Habitat homeowners have already paid off their mortgages.

• Catoosa Habitat has a ReHabitat Critical Repair program that helps home owners with important repairs on their houses and requires "sweat/social sweat equity" similar to that required in the new home program. Habitat's Community Cleanup program operates in the same way.

• Catoosa Habitat helps connect people in a housing crisis with groups that can help them.

• Catoosa Habitat is a 501©(3) nonprofit and is funded completely by donations, grants and the money new home owners pay back on their interest-free loans.

• The community is deeply involved with Catoosa Habitat. Local churches, businesses, schools, civic groups, families and individuals donate money, building materials, flooring, paint, appliances, landscaping supplies, food for volunteers and labor.

• Learn more at catoosahabitat.org.

Tamara Wolk is a reporter for The Catoosa County News in Ringgold and Walker County Messenger in LaFayette.