Trumbull resident to donate 20th gallon of blood to Red Cross Saturday

Jim Stevens has been donating blood since the Korean War.

And thanks to more than six decades of dedication, the 83-year-old Hampton Road resident will celebrate a special milestone Saturday, Dec. 19, when he gives away his 20th gallon of blood to the American Red Cross blood drive at Nichols United Methodist Church on Shelton Road at 8 a.m.

“I remember my father telling my brother and I that our boys in Korea needed blood,” Stevens recalled in an interview with The Times Thursday. “That was 65 years ago — a long time ago.”

Stevens grew up in Fairfield and said he gave away his first pint of blood at a church on Old Post Road.

He was fortunate enough to grow up between wars, selling insurance for MetLife for 23 years and settling down in Trumbull more than 50 years ago.

The key to reaching the 20 gallon mark is simply persistence, according to Stevens.

“Whenever I could, I’d make it,” he explained. “I donate wherever it’s locally convenient, and as long as I can get there. Sometimes it’s in Fairfield; sometimes it’s an Easton. Mostly, I like donating here in Trumbull when I can.”

His tenacity and resolution to donate was tested about 10 years ago when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which prevented him from giving away blood for five years.

“I lost five good years,” Stevens said.

As for the cure to beating cancer, the parallels are similar to giving blood for 65 years: perseverance.

“Nothing to it,” the Trumbull resident said. “Do what the doctor says and follow his orders.”

Since recovering, Stevens has achieved donating his 19th gallon to the Red Cross — a moment that was celebrated at the Trumbull Center firehouse a few years ago.

Also along the way, the 83-year-old donor has been invited to a special dinner party for those who have reached 100 donations in their lifetime.

“That was quite a while ago,” Stevens said. “But it was a fantastic evening that I’ll always remember...

“The Red Cross keeps track of the donations for me in their records,” he added. “That way I don’t have to keep count…

“They’ll call me whenever there’s a drive nearby.”

He doesn’t know of any special plans set for him Saturday when he goes to donate; however, Stevens remains a loyal Red Cross donor, championing the cause to everyone around him.

“What I say to people is ‘I’m busy a lot of the time, but most of the things I’m busy with are really not all that important’ — they’re not as important as contributing to save someone’s life,” he said. “Saving someone’s life — there’s nothing more important that we can do. That should be our greatest motivation and that’s why I do it.”