CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As often as they can, Mitch and Roberta Balaban donate blood at the Red Cross blood donation center in Kanawha City.
With the exception of the fall, when Mitch referees soccer games, the husband and wife try to donate every 56 days, the minimum medically required time period between blood donations. They even make the visit to the blood center into a date night, before they get dinner.
"It's not a fancy dinner," Mitch Balaban said. "It's just a night out in the middle of the week."
But they'll have to find a new date night. They, and other regular blood donors at the Kanawha City facility, were disappointed to hear that the donor center will close at the end of the year.
"We look forward to coming and doing this as much as we can when life doesn't get in the way," Roberta Balaban said.
But they intend to keep donating blood elsewhere.
"We'll go to blood drives," Roberta Balaban said. "I'd rather not do that but I've done that before."
Officials with the American Red Cross Blood Services Division said the decision to close the center at 4501 MacCorkle Ave. S.E. in Charleston was made to save money and increase efficiency.
"The American Red Cross, like so many organizations across the country, is facing difficult business decisions that will allow us to continue operating and serve the American people in the best possible way," American Red Cross Blood Services spokeswoman Cheryl Gergely said in a prepared statement. "We regularly evaluate our operations to determine how best to use our resources to maintain an efficient blood collections operation."
Because "mobile" employees from the Red Cross's Huntington and Parkersburg offices staff the Charleston center, no employees will lose their jobs as a direct result of the closure, Gergely said.
The Red Cross did, however, lay off 45 employees across the Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region, which serves 100 counties in parts of Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.
Gergely did not say how many of those employees were from West Virginia.
"We don't have that number broken down by state," she said in an email. "It is a regional number, in our case the Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region. Since we collect blood in parts of six states our employees work throughout the states in our region."