Members Register to Give the Gift of Life
Usually when church members discuss organ work, the conversation revolves around fundraising to restore keyboards, pedals, and giant silver pipes rising high to the heavens. First Church of Christ in Marblehead, Inc (aka "Old North"), however, chose to help bring awareness to a different kind of organ.
When Heritage Sunday and Deacon Sunday fell during November, the designated National Donor Sabbath Month, Old North knew it was the right time to create awareness for organ and tissue donation. Organ donation hadimpacted, in some way, several members of the congregation, including Deacon David Tips, who was scheduled to give the sermon that day.
"I had never really thought about organ donation much, certainly not growing up -- maybe as a passing thought in college or when asked to consider it while renewing my driver's license," said Tips. "It seems like you never think about those things until it affects a friend or a family member. And that's how it was for my family, and more specifically, my brother." Tips' brother Steve died because he needed a new liver after something unknown attacked his and caused it to shut down; a donor organ was not available at the exact time he needed it.
While Tips prepared his sermon and gathered stories from many members of the congregation -- who were recipients, live donors, relatives or friends affected by organ transplants or bone marrow donations -- it reinforced the idea that there was a need to raise awareness to the wider community.
Fellow deacon Michael Perez teamed up with Tips to sponsor an organ, tissue and bone marrow donor registration drive following worship service on Deacon Sunday. Perez was also personally familiar with the life-giving donation because his cousin was a recipient.
"Through a successful kidney transplant, a father was saved, and a son was born," he said.
They made some phone calls to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, the Be The Matchorganization, and the local newspapers. Volunteers from the New England Organ Bank and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute came to the sponsored event, handed out literature, discussed the specifics of signing up to be an organ or bone marrow donor, answered questions, and relayed their own personal stories. The hall was set up with a few tables for literature, form signing, and even cheek swabbing. A minimal number of church volunteers were needed to help guide visitors to the right table; two members who were nurses volunteered to help with the cheek swabs needed for the bone marrow registration. The local newspapers and online news site promoted the event.
During the 2-hour event, 12-15 people, including those outside the church, signed up to be organ donors, and 5 people signed on for the bone marrow bank. Many more people attended and confirmed they were already registered as organ donors. Tips and Perez were thrilled knowing that the people who attended would probably go home and discuss their organ donor wishes with families, bringing greater awareness to others. They are now contemplating sponsoring an annual drive, and seeking out a more visible location within the community.
"I urged the Deacons to find a way of combining Old North's special Sundays each year, with an accent on lifting up the faith-based motivation for the variety of work our laity are engaged in beyond the four walls of the church," said Rev. Dr. Dennis B. Calhoun, senior minister at the church. "I knew about Dave's work supporting research into liver disease and transplants, as well as the other members who had personal experience. When I learned about the National Donor Sabbath program, all I needed to do was plant the seed at a Deacons meeting. Dave and Mike took it from there. It was wonderful to witness their enthusiasm for the project and to help them see their passion as a gift for ministry."
"Organ, tissue and bone marrow donation is a faith-filled response to the needs of our neighbors near and far," said Tips. "The gift of giving life is an eternal heritage left behind by the donor."
Dave, Michael, and Dennis can be reached at the church office at (781) 631-1244 orOffice@onchurch.org.
To find out more information about becoming an organ and tissue donor, go to
www.donatelifenewengland.org. Please see www.bethematch.org for costs that may be associated with bone marrow donor matching, registration and other details about becoming a bone marrow donor. To be a registered bone marrow donor, you must be at least 18 years of age. Stickers are available at:www.transplantawareness.org/stickers.html.