Luzana Flores woke up like many people on October 2: sad, frightened, worried, devastated. She called her parents, who are overseas, to tell them she was okay, then looked for ways to help.
An anemic, the 23-year-old couldn’t donate blood. She called up friends Reina Hohener and Heather Toledo. The three decided to slap together a quick donation drive that day. They phoned friends at Bunkhouse Saloon—where they usually go on Monday nights for karaoke—and asked if they could use the venue to collect bottled water, non-perishable food, blankets and other items to deliver to local blood banks. With similar events taking place across the Valley, their expectations were minimal. “We had no plans other than saying, ‘Hey we’re gonna meet up. If you can help, come by,’” Flores says.
Within a few hours, cars were lined up outside the Eleventh Street venue. Several volunteers were making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to give to blood bank staff and those waiting in line to donate. They’d already hauled a few loads off to places such as the Family Assistance Center at the Convention Center and Ronald McDonald House. And people kept coming.
“We weren’t expecting to get as much support as we did,” Flores says.
Flores, a songwriter and producer who goes by the moniker OLAN, is embedded in the Downtown community. She performs and DJs in the neighborhood often, including an upcoming gig October 15 at Beauty Bar. She says she felt compelled to give back. “I feel powerless,” she says. “How do I wrap my head around someone going out and doing this? … If you think about it too much it can be anxiety-inducing. It just made sense to this.”
Residents displayed kindness and compassion across Las Vegas Monday. Donation centers and blood banks were overwhelmed by an influx of donors, so much so that people were being turned away from some locations. But all of the items collected at Bunkhouse will be put to use. Those that are no longer needed at food and blood banks will be distributed to various homeless shelters, according to the organizers.
Flores, Hohener and Toledo chose to hold their donation drive Downtown because of its collective spirit.
“I’m always impressed by the Downtown community,” says Flores, who moved to Las Vegas from Atlanta a year ago. “I’ve never been to a city that was so supportive … the city is so small and people are so willing to help.”
Photos by Krystal Ramirez
For ways to contribute to local efforts, visit Vegas Seven’s resource directory at vegasseven.com/vegasstrong.