The Hutterites in rural north central Montana like to give back to their fellow human beings by donating blood at the local American Red Cross blood drives held regularly in their region. According to a story in the Great Falls Tribune last week, their contributions during the blood drives often make up a sizeable portion of the donations.
The reporter, Kristen Inbody, recently interviewed people at the blood drive in the town of Choteau, 45 miles northwest of Great Falls, including Ben Wipf from the Miller Colony near Bynum. Wipf admitted he hates being stuck by a needle, but he just gets it out of his head and does it anyway. He told her that he goes to the blood drive center whenever he has the chance. Why? Because he simply wants to help, either the local community or anywhere else in the world. “We feel if we’re able to give blood, for the kindness of our country and our fellow citizens, that we should give freely,” he said.
Sometimes the members of the colonies need blood themselves. The day before the Choteau blood drive, a serious accident occurred at the New Rockport Colony. A chain snapped while colony members were attempting to free a tractor from some mud, severing an arm of a young Hutterite. The next day, colony members, including George Hofer, were donating blood as they usually do at Choteau.
The reporter spoke with Hofer. He said his father had always encouraged colony members to give blood. It is something you just do if you’re healthy. Later, Mr. Hofer Sr. would be given 13 or 14 pints of blood himself after a pickup truck overturned onto him, though he was crushed and died anyway. George Hofer said he never forgets the lesson—he has so far donated 15.5 gallons of blood.
Another person from New Rockport, Rebecca Waldner, earned a pin the day the reporter was there in Choteau for reaching four gallons of donated blood. She said she had started donating at age 16, as many young Hutterites do. “I like to help out and save lives,” she said. “It makes me feel good.” She added that she felt especially compelled to give that day, considering the accident at the colony the previous day.
The Tribune reporter wrote that five different colonies give blood at Choteau, their donations making up 48 percent of all donors at the last three drives in that town. The statistics she provided for Hutterite contributions at other blood drives in rural Montana are nearly as impressive. Scott Shanahan, the blood donor recruiter in Great Falls, had nothing but praise for the Hutterites. He said that their contributions represent a large part of the donations in the whole state of Montana.