When news broke in August that a blood plasma center would move into an old Aldi grocery store that’s located right across the street from Proviso East High School in Maywood, many residents expressed alarm and frustration. They were concerned that the center, located at 215 Madison St., would attract loitering drug addicts and other criminal elements, and possibly even students from the high school. 

During a public meeting held Nov. 4 at the Lightford Recreation Center, 809 W. Madison St. in Maywood, officials with Griffons addressed those concerns and sought to bolster the benefits that a blood plasma center might bring to the village. The center could be open before the year is out.

Colin Seal, the corporate public affairs manager with Grifols, said that although people must be between 18 and 69 years old to donate, he’s confident that few, if any, high school students will frequent the center.

The extensive screening process itself would be a strong deterrent, considering that prospective donors are required to have a driver’s license, proof of residency and proof of their social security, he explained. They’ll also be required to undergo an extensive medical examination, during which they’ll be asked about their medical history. 

“High schoolers are not our donor base,” Seal said. “We’re not worried about them … This isn’t the only center we’ve had within walking distance of a high school.”

Addressing worries among residents that the establishment would attract loiterers and criminal elements, Seal said that loitering isn’t tolerated, and that the center will have a security guard and a “sophisticated security” system. He added that many of its donors, particularly regular donors, often “self-police,” meaning that they actively discourage bad behavior.

Seal also said that the screening process frustrates drug users, because it reveals diseases such as HIV and STDs. People who have those diseases cannot donate blood plasma. The average payout per donation will be roughly $35 to $40 at the Maywood center. People are limited to donating twice a week. 

Scott McCabe, who will manage the Maywood center, said that doesn’t expect any quality of life problems, either.

“We try to make sure that a community is inside there,” said McCabe, who added that he’s already joined the Maywood Chamber of Commerce. Seal and McCabe said that they also met many village officials during the Maywood Police Department’s National Night Out event this summer.

Sandra Smiley, a center manager at a Grifols blood plasma center in Chicago, said that her center sees about 1,200 to 1,500 people a week without incident. She also lauded her center’s community outreach efforts, which include donating to various food and toy drives, among other initiatives.

A proposed ordinance that would increase the minimum age of blood plasma donors from 18 to 21 was recently tabled by the Maywood Board of Trustees. The ordinance was brought up as a possible means of preventing students at East from donating blood plasma at the center.

During a regular meeting held Nov. 6, Seal told board members during public comment that the proposed ordinance wasn’t a good idea. The age of blood plasma donors is regulated by the state, he said.

Seal and an attorney with Grifols, who also spoke, both urged the board to meet with the company before voting on the ordinance. During a community meeting on Nov. 4, Seal said that high school students will not be among the center’s donor base.

The board is expected to take up the proposed ordinance again at its next board meeting on Nov. 25.