The relentless string of winter storms the East Coast has endured in the first month of 2011 has left American Red Cross blood banks in rough shape but the group got a small bump Monday when Connecticut’s top elected official personally donated blood.

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The storms have led to the cancellations of 1,800 platelet donations in Connecticut and 18,000 in the East half of the country, according to Paul Sullivan, CEO of the Connecticut Red Cross. So the Red Cross made an urgent appeal to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and was thrilled when he decided to donate at a blood drive, Sullivan said.

“We reached out to the governor to let him know that we were calling on donors due to our very low inventories and he immediately jumped to it and said that not only would he visit the blood drive and support the cause but he, himself would donate,” Sullivan said.

It’s the first time in recent memory that a sitting governor came out to donate, Sullivan said but added Malloy also donated as mayor of Stamford. Attorney General George Jepsen also donated as one of his first acts in the office, Sullivan said.

The drive was held at the University of Connecticut School of Law in Hartford.

Lying on one of the donor beds, Malloy said he’s been donating blood since the spring of 1974 when he was attending Boston College. He hoped his donation would encourage other Connecticut residents to give during this critical time, he said.

Sullivan is hoping for the same thing.

“Frankly we’re at levels we’re not comfortable with,” he said, noting that inventories are lower than they’ve been in years. “The only way out is people rolling up their sleeves and giving blood.”

It took Malloy about six minutes to donate his pint of blood, after which he ate a snack and chatted with some UConn students who also donated.

Sullivan said that typically when local blood banks run low the Red Cross reaches out to blood banks in neighboring states. However, since the whole region has been hit by the storms other states are also experiencing shortages.

Blood supplies must be replenished constantly since platelets have a shelf life of only five days, according to a Red Cross statement. The Connecticut chapter has set a two-week goal of 6,250 donations.

“Now through February 15 we’re trying to make up as many of those donations as we can simply so that we can rebuild our inventory for area hospitals,” Sullivan said.

The group is looking for all blood types, especially type O negative. Donors should be at least 17 and weigh at least 110 pounds. Donors 18 years old and younger have to meet certain height and weight requirements, a Red Cross statement said.

To find blood drive locations visit or call 1-800-733-2767.