DAYTON, Ohio - Father Michael Kreutzer and Pastor Steven Kimpel may preach from different pulpits, but they have worshipped together, walked the Holy Land together, and share yet another brotherly bond of devotion to others. On Friday, March 7 they arrived within minutes at the downtown Dayton Community Blood Center (CBC) so they could donate blood together.
They are clergy from different denominations, but long-time friends. Mike is rector at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Riverside, while Steve is pastor of both Faith Lutheran Church in Belmont and St. Mark's in east Dayton. "It was in November of 2001," said Steve. "I started at St. Mark's and he called me on my first day of work to welcome me to the area."
"Two of our churches are only about a mile apart," said Mike. "We've worked together, our congregations have worshipped together, and we're both in the same ecumenical biblical study group."
They've also had adventures together, with the highlight being in 2011 when Michael and his wife Judy and Steve and his wife Diane led a group of 36 people from local churches on a 10-day trip to Israel. "We visited all over Israel," said Mike. "Tel Aviv, Haifa, the Sea of Galilee, Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. The people were very moved by it."
But despite their many interactions, it wasn't until fairly recently that they discovered their mutual dedication to blood donations. Both are long-time apheresis donors. Mike donated platelets and plasma Friday for his 107th lifetime blood donation and Steve donated plasma for his 102nd lifetime donation.
"It was a number of years before we realized we were both donors," said Mike. "It came up in a casual conversation," Steve said. "Like, 'I have to go give blood tomorrow.'" They finally crossed paths at CBC on Feb. 7. "I came to donate and Steve was right there in the next chair, just getting finished," said Mike. It was Mike who suggested they schedule their Friday appointments together.
Both men started donating in 1970. "There was a priest I knew," said Mike. "In his church they had a boy that needed blood. I believe he was a hemophiliac. They needed platelets. It was a very early form of apheresis. At that time they would draw your blood and take it to another room to centrifuge it and bring back your red blood cells. I started doing regular apheresis donations then."
"I started back when I was a student at Miami University," said Steve. "They had a blood drive and we said, 'Let's go.' I didn't donate consistently until I came to Dayton in 1983. When I first donated platelets (at the Dayton CBC) we were up there on the second floor, I think it was 1985. They took it out of one arm and put it back in the other arm."
It was a time when many donors were "on call" when needed for special attributes in their blood. Steve was negative for the cytomegalovirus, making him a good donor for infants. "I got a call around 1:30 in the morning about a sick child," he recalled. "My platelets were good for children. I came down at two in the morning to donate."
Steve says his own children have grown up and he has more time now to donate. "I've been giving my quota!" he said. Mike has two grown children, but also has 13-year-old, boy-girl twins Mark and Micaela. He has a granddaughter two years older than the twins, but the twins think of her as a cousin. "We tell them they became an aunt and uncle when they were born!"
They are "men in black," both for the cloth of clergymen they wear, and the black "Donor for Life - 100 LTD" jackets they received from CBC after making their milestone 100th blood donations. They also share a sense of duty to donating.
"It's certainly a friendship," said Steve. "But it's also a faith inspired wish to help your neighbor."
Mike agreed. "We are all part of one community," he said. "We're happy to reach out with local giving through the years. It's a community responsibility. We all need to be working together to take care of the people in our community."