Local

Pint for Pint Blood Drive

Thursday, July 30, 2009

One of the nation's best blood centers will soon be up and running right here in Fresno. The new $20-million dollar, state-of-the-art "Central California Blood Center" is still a month from opening its doors to the public, but Action News got a sneak peek.

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The 22nd Annual Pint for Pint Blood Drive
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The sign for the Central California Blood Center is hard to miss from Herndon Avenue. But for one man, the name below it, Jenny Eller, stands out even more.

"This place is the realization, the concrete realization, of a promise that I made, the night my daughter died," said CEO of the Central California Blood Center Dean Eller. His journey from mortgage banker to blood banker started with a personal tragedy.

] In 1992 his daughter Jenny was a high school senior and softball standout at Bullard High when she was diagnosed with a deadly form of Leukemia. After four years of fighting Jenny lost her battle. But over a decade later, her spirit lives on in these walls.

"That really is just a testament to what a teenage girl can do. The life of a teenage girl changed an entire community," said Eller.

The community has grown so rapidly, the current blood center headquarters at First near Shields just couldn't keep up with the need. So the blood center broke ground last September and over the past 11 months the sprawling 70,000-square-foot building took shape on the 8 acre campus.

"We had to think 30 to 40 years from now"

The donation area doubled in size with 20 beds. The donor's canteen looks like a fancy coffee shop and the break room for the 100 employees rivals a restaurant. The board room is fitted with multi-media capabilities.

The lab rivals the best in the country, with high-tech testing equipment making our blood supply the safest possible. "All automated, no room for error."

The center will process 75,000 blood donations each year and serve 31 hospitals in five counties. The blood will be ready to go in freezers at a moment's notice. An enormous garage houses five bloodmobiles with room for five more.

Workers are putting the finishing touches on the center which is 10-years in the making and a monumental accomplishment for the center and the community.

In the end, as Dean Eller walks these halls, he's reminded of someone he wishes was walking beside him.

"Most children follow in their father's footsteps. I got just the opposite, I get to follow my daughter's footsteps, and they're great footsteps to follow in."

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