Ohio Valley Media Day Blood Drive Honoring the Late Audra Jean Paul

Audra Jean Paul was known for her peanut butter fudge and her broad smile as she greeted regular American Red Cross blood donors.

For 65 years, Paul was the official snack lady at blood drives held at Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling and other drives throughout the community. She made sure each blood donor had his or her fill of cookies, pretzels — and, always, a piece of her homemade fudge — before they left the collection site.

Paul, a resident of Wheeling, died Nov. 30, 2016 at the age of 88.

Her passing left a void for those who came to know her over the years for her dedication to the Red Cross, while she also found time to volunteer at Middle Creek Elementary School as a reading tutor, serve as a Sunday school teacher and work with the local 4-H, among other ventures.

With the annual Ohio Valley Media Day blood drive set for 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Jan. 22 at WesBanco Arena, the Red Cross is holding the event in honor of Paul.

Her son, Carl “Worthy” Paul, said he used to be a regular blood donor, but a medication-interaction issue caused him to stop donating. He said his mother thoroughly enjoyed her time as a Red Cross volunteer.

“When she could no longer drive, she had my sister-in-law take her to the blood drives. It made her day. She actually started working with the Red Cross’ armed forces emergency services center,” Carl Paul said.

As aging issues ended Audra Paul’s volunteering days, she told her son she worried because many of the volunteers were getting older and there didn’t seem to be many stepping in to fill the void.

Carl Paul said his family — which includes two brothers, Mark and John — will be on hand at the Jan. 22 blood drive “for the Mom factor.”

He also reminds the public that there are health benefits to giving blood. The blood donation process screens each donor’s blood for diseases and may alert a donor if there is a health issue.

According to health officials, regularly donating blood reduces the risk of hemochromatosis, a condition that arises due to excess absorption of iron by the body. By donating blood, the iron stores in the body are maintained at healthy levels.

A reduction in the iron level in the body is linked with low cancer risk.

Blood donation also is beneficial in reducing the risk of heart and liver ailments caused by the iron overload in the body. The Ohio Valley Media Day blood drive on Jan. 22 offers free parking, child care and plenty of free snacks.