Donors return, pay it forward at Vincent Jones Blood Drive


EATON — The eighth annual Vincent Jones Memorial Blood Drive on Saturday, July 22, at Eaton First Church of God honored the memory of a young father with the tradition of encouraging blood donations in a summer of critical need.

Vincent Jones died of leukemia in June 2016. His widow Mindy Sue Jones-Vannatter began the memorial blood drive to help Community Blood Center during the summer shortages, and to raise awareness that it was blood donations that helped Vincent live long enough to see the birth of his second son Jeremiah.

“Through all of it, God provides,” said Mindy as she gave double red cells for the first donation of the day alongside Vincent’s brother Craig Jones, an Eaton police officer, who kept made his traditional platelet donation.

“As of yesterday, we had only three open spots. It speaks volumes about what we’re doing to honor Vincent’s legacy,” said Mindy. The blood drive totaled 53 donors, including 48 whole blood and double red cell donors, five platelet donors, and four first time donors.

Vincent received more than 50 blood products in his nine-week battle with leukemia. Craig began donating platelets during Vincent’s treatment when he learned platelets are vital for cancer patients and his rare AB blood type was ideal. He made his 39th lifetime donation Saturday.

“My goal is I want to hit my 50th at one of Mindy’s blood drives,” he said, referring to the mid-summer memorial blood drive and the January blood drive, also at the church, that she began in 2018.

Mindy’s mom began donating at the first memorial blood drive and made her 12th lifetime donations Saturday. “I remember she said, ‘I might as well do it,’” recalled Mindy. “She said, ‘Some people are getting deferred, and I should get up and do it.’”

It’s a tradition for family members to wear orange “Vincent Strong” t-shirts and bracelets, honoring the fight against leukemia and lymphoma.

“It’s a way of honoring Vincent’s memory,” said Vincent’s dad Jim Jones, who greeted his son Craig before donating. “He got a lot of blood when he was in treatment. Without the gift of blood, he wouldn’t have survived long enough to see his youngest son born. He was able to see him and hold him.”

Other traditions included the pancake breakfast sponsored by the Richmond IHOP, boxes of cookies shaped like leukemia ribbons, photos of Vincent, and a reunion of friends.

“We see the same faces year after year,” said Craig. Donors included Eaton Police Chief Steven Hurd and his wife Stephanie, and Jill and Ryon McKee, whose son plays soccer with Mindy’s son Gabriel. “We’ve been here every year since the first year,” said Ryon.

“Every year we come together as a family to pay it forward,” said Mindy. “Our success in the blood drive is only because of all the people who gave at the previous drives to create the ripple effect.”

Make an appointment online at, call 937-461-3220, or use the Donor Time app.

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