PEORIA — The American Red Cross will no longer be supplying blood products to any hospitals in the Peoria area come January.

All three of UnityPoint Health’s area hospitals — Methodist, Proctor, and Pekin — will be switching over to the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center Jan. 1, following the lead of OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center, which began using MVRBC early last year.

Executives at the Peoria Red Cross declined to be interviewed for this story, but Laura McGuire, external communications manager, issued a statement:

“We are disappointed by this decision as the Red Cross has been a reliable supplier to three hospitals within UnityPoint Health Peoria; however, we understand this is a business decision. We stand ready to provide blood products to the community when patients are in need and will continue to host blood drives in the community.”

Meanwhile, MVRBC is ramping up operations in Peoria. It opened a distribution center here in March and plasn to open a donor center at 1123 W. Glen, next to Sherman’s Appliances, in December. It has also been holding blood drives throughout the community all year.

Opening a distribution center in Peoria was a strategic move for MVRBC. When it came to Peoria it also expanded to 13 other counties. The new Peoria distribution center will likely serve clients as far east as Livingston County. The goal is to be no more than a 90 minute-drive from a customer.

“This new distribution center was a must. It closed the gap in our area,” said Michelle Simms, director of inventory management and distribution for MVRBC. “The distribution center is where we receive orders from hospitals and where products are held, packed and sent out.”

Based in Davenport, Iowa, Simms was in town with other MVRBC administrators Oct. 23 to attend the official ribbon cutting ceremony for the Peoria center.

Compared to the American Red Cross, MVRB is a small operation. Along with its growing Illinois territory, it supplies blood products to counties in Eastern Iowa and Missouri, and a couple counties in Wisconsin. With its expansion last year, it now provides services to most counties in downstate Illinois, excluding a few in the far south and eastern edge of the state.

Though MVRBC is new to Peoria County, it is not new to either UnityPoint Health or OSF HealthCare, said Kirby Winn, manager of public relations.

“We’ve worked with OSF for decades, probably since the '80s,” he said.

As the management team enjoyed a catered lunch following the ribbon cutting, business continued as usual at the distribution center. An order for platelets from OSF HealthCare came in, and within minutes it was being packed up by Keri Bledsoe and Heather Lane, two of the 35 employees at the center.

“Ultimately we will employ 60 people in Peoria,” said Winn. “They will be a mix of part-time and full time jobs. We have positions open, and we train. The most important thing is that they believe in the mission.”

To learn more about employment opportunities at MVRBC, visit To donate blood, call (800)747-5401, or visit

Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or Follow her on, and subscribe to her on