A remarkable request from a remarkable woman

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 28, 2003

One-hundred-seventy-six people were willing to lay down and bleed for Cecilia Etheredge.

And on her 90th birthday, they lined up at the American Red Cross in Alabaster to do just that.

On Jan. 24, a day officially named &uot;Cecilia Etheredge Day&uot; in both Pelham and Alabaster, the Shelby County Donor Center held a birthday blood drive honoring the long-time volunteer.

The little lady, affectionately known as &uot;Miss Cel,&uot; has donated more than 2,000 hours of her time to the Red Cross each year for the last 25 years.

&uot;We probably wouldn’t have much of a blood program in Shelby County if it wasn’t for her,&uot; said June Fletcher, chief executive officer of American Red Cross Blood Services. &uot;She is the mother of the blood services in Shelby County.&uot;

Miss Cel was one of eight children growing up in Woodlawn.

Her mother was a volunteer nurse in World War I.

&uot;I would think I was just born to be a volunteer with the Red Cross,&uot; Etheredge said. &uot;I guess I was just destined.&uot;

Miss Cel began volunteering with the Red Cross during World War II and worked with the Veterans Administration Hospital in the 1950s.

She first came to Shelby County in 1970s, moving to Pelham after the death of her husband, Jack &uot;Red&uot; Etheredge.

Miss Cel went to work right away, helping foster the Red Cross Blood Services in Shelby County and also volunteering as a poll worker.

&uot;If it is anything from a blood drive to voting properly, she will be sure you do it right,&uot; said Pelham Mayor Bobby Hayes.

Fellow Red Cross volunteers say Miss Cel is of the &uot;old school,&uot; the kind of volunteer that won’t let a donor open his own pack of Fig Newtons or Oreo cookies.

She will open your complementary snack with a smile, but keep your hands out of her cooler.

&uot;I have had these hands slapped,&uot; said Pat Tyler, Red Cross customer service coordinator. &uot;She will very cheerfully get you anything you want &045; you just can’t put your hands in her cooler.&uot;

Described as always working and always smiling, Etheredge even worked the canteen at the blood drive held to honor her.

A total of 176 pints of blood were collected at the drive, which she had requested as her birthday wish.

&uot;When they asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I told them I wanted 90 pints of blood,&uot; Etheredge said.

Friends, family, coworkers and city representatives helped Miss Cel celebrate her birthday milestone with a special ceremony following the blood drive last Friday.

Pelham and Columbiana presented her with keys to the city, and Alabaster and Pelham gave her a plaque commemorating the naming of Jan. 24 as &uot;Cecilia Etheredge Day&uot; in both cities.

The Alabaster Fire Department even presented her with a burn permit, a good-spirited play on the fact that her birthday cake was complete with 90 candles.

Miss Cel said she doesn’t have plans to give up her volunteer efforts anytime soon. She told the Red Cross she would be there for 10 more years.

Representatives from the American Red Cross said they are critically in need of blood due to seasonal shortages.

The Shelby County Chapter of the American Red Cross is located in Alabaster just off Highway 119 in the Bruno’s Shopping Center.

The donor center is open Fridays from 12-6 p.m. and walk-ins are welcome.

For information or to schedule an appointment, call 663-4290 or 1-800-GIVE-LIFE