TUCSON – (KVOA) Julie Katinas walked into the school gym at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church on Tucson’s northwest side Sunday afternoon and rolled up her sleeves.

Katinas has been donating blood during the pandemic.

“It’s easy for me to do this to help people, and I know it’s necessary,” he said.

The need is great. According to the nonprofit blood bank Vitalant, right now 900 hospitals across the country are experiencing drastic shortages with blood supplies at the lowest levels this year.

Vitalant said that changes in work habits brought about by COVID-19 have caused blood drives organized by companies to drop by 50 percent in the last three years.

“It doesn’t cost you anything, it just costs your time to come and donate a pint of blood,” said Gary Gazaille, a volunteer with the blood drive. “By doing this, we’ll have a constant supply in hospitals for emergencies and things like that.”

“This is one of the most selfless things anyone can do and it only takes 45 minutes,” said Vitalant’s Thomas Bryson. “They are doing something very special to help the community. They don’t know where the blood is going. They are anonymously helping save someone’s life.”

Donor Brianda Sarmiento sees the shortage up close.

“I work in a laboratory at a hospital,” Sarmiento said. “So, I experience every day what is the need for blood during surgeries or treatment of patients with certain diseases.”

Katinas will likely never meet the people whose lives she is helping to save.

“It just makes me feel good in my heart that I’m doing something good for other people,” Katinas said. “A part of you is entering another person, maybe even a stranger, and that’s even more rewarding.”