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World Mission Society Church of God responds to Utah blood shortage

WEST VALLEY CITY — The World Mission Society Church of God opened its doors Sunday to help fill a critical need for blood in Utah hospitals.

Church members made donations in response to an urgent call from the American Red Cross to fill a summer shortage.

"We're one day out with O positive and a week out with all the other blood types," said Sheri Van Bibber, an American Red Cross donor recruiter. "Every summer we tend to get into this position."

Van Bibber said it's tough to get people to donate in the summer months, adding only 3 percent of Utahns give blood. For the past four years nationwide, 80,000 first-time donors annually haven't returned.

Red Cross volunteers have been working double shifts trying to catch up and keep 44 hospitals supplied with blood, she said.

Van Bibber said she called the World Mission Society to see if it would do a summer drive in addition to the large-scale event the church does each year that draws members from around the state.

"They've never done a summer drive or a second drive, and I just knew that they're amazing people," she said.

Sidney Rogers, of Salt Lake City, was among church members who donated. She said she gave blood for two reasons, as did other members who responded to the call.

"We realize the value of physical blood," she said, adding some members and their families have needed blood in medical care.

Rogers said the second reason is church members recognize the value of "spiritual" blood as well.

"We believe that Christ has given us his blood through the Passover. In the last days, the second coming of Christ Ahnsahnghong and Heavenly Mother Jerusalem have come to give us the Passover, which is Christ's flesh and blood through the bread and wine ceremony. So through the spiritual blood, we receive eternal life," she said.

Ahn Sahng-Hong, who died in 1985, founded the World Mission Society Church of God in South Korea in 1964. The church has about 2 million members and 2,500 churches in 175 countries, according to its website.

The church's volunteer work has been recognized internationally and locally, including receiving the President's Volunteer Service Award in Salt Lake City last year.