CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It happens every summer. Blood shortages.

But this summer, the shortage is critical and it s happening sooner than expected, according to the Community Blood Center of the Carolinas.

Hugh Harkey and Paul Fleming are longtime friends who have jumped in to help for years.

It s just a valuable gift to give to someone you don t know. You can help them, said Hugh Harkey as he gave blood at the Community Blood Center of the Carolina on South Boulevard, where he s been donating blood for literally decades.

Harkey and Fleming are long time friends who now give blood together six times a year.

It s not something you can schedule when you need it. Availability of blood is very critical, said Fleming.

Critical just may be an understatement. The shelves at the Community Blood Center of the Carolinas are usually full at this point in the summer. Right now they re almost empty. K.C. McNutt oversees the supply.

This one and the one behind me are completely empty, she said as she stood in the Blood Center s freezer.

We re used to bins all over the place and processing and getting them out, but we re running low right now, she said.

It s worrisome to Adam Eberhart, who also keeps an eye on supply for the Blood Center. Part of the problem, he says, is that students who make up about a quarter of the donations, are not giving right now. They re out of school and many are out of town for the summer..

Our hospitals never shut down. Our patients always need life saving blood, said Eberhart.

So Eberhart and McNutt are making a plea, asking for donors now. Next week is Fourth of July, traditionally an extremely busy time for need, they say.

AS for Harkey and Fleming, they ve done their part. And yes, they ll be back at it in exactly 56 days.

It s relatively painless and doesn t take much time and it s a big step to people who need it, said Harkey.

If you d like to find out how to donate, or if you re interested in holding a community blood drive through your church, neighborhood or civic group, click on the link below:

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