Save a life, eat cookies: it’s all in a day’s work for a blood donor.

This January, new and experienced blood donors across the country will celebrate National Blood Donor Month to raise awareness about one of the most important acts of healthcare-related service anyone can do. According to the Red Cross, 5 million American patients need blood every year. And each donation of a pint of blood can help save up to three patients’ lives.

Jewish values go hand-in-hand with blood donation. In fact, the tradition places saving a human life above virtually every other commandment. And during January, when winter weather and icy roads can lead to traumatic injuries and increase the seasonal need for blood, is a particularly good time to donate. So roll up your sleeve and donate!

Never donated before? It’s easy! Here’s how it works:

  • Step 1. Find a blood donation center near you by clicking here or here. If there isn’t a blood drive or donation center near you, volunteer to host one at your school or synagogue!
  • Step 2. Hydrate. The more water you drink before your donation, the better you will feel during and after. Stocking up on iron-rich foods – like dark leafy greens and lean meats – will also increase your chances of being able to give blood.
  • Step 3. Once at the donation center, but before you give blood, you will meet with a nurse or health representative who will ask some basic medical questions and test your iron levels to make sure you’re in good shape to donate.
  • Step 4. Take a deep breath and smile, you’re about to do something great! The blood drive representative will give you something to squeeze (to increase blood flow to the arm), clean your arm thoroughly and begin. The blood donation itself lasts about 10 minutes and is completely safe and sterile.
  • Step 5. Chill and refresh. While your blood is processed and packaged to be readied for donation, you get to hang out and refresh yourself. The blood donation center typically provides juice, cookies and other snacks to help restore your blood sugar levels.
  • Step 6. You’re done! Just be sure to refrain from serious strenuous activity for the next 24 hours to let your blood levels return to normal.

Did you give blood (or do you plan to this month)? Let us know by tweeting @repairtheworld.