Joliet couple donates $782,000 to Red Cross
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain firstname.lastname@example.org December 5, 2012 3:06PM
Updated: January 7, 2013 7:00AM
The more Jay Bergman learns about the Red Cross, the more impressed he becomes with its mission.
That’s why Bergman, a lifelong resident of Joliet, and his wife, Lori, recently decided to donate $782,000 to the Red Cross, Greater Chicago Region, to fund a new blood center and lab.
The gift is the lead donation for the $1.3 million project, which will be named the Jay and Lori Bergman Blood Services Facility.
While most people just hear about Red Cross assistance during major earthquake or hurricane disasters, the agency helps families survive personal disasters every day, said Bergman, who is president and CEO of Hinsdale-based Petco Petroleum Corp. For instance, each year the Chicago Red Cross handles 1,200 incidents, many of them fires that displace families, Bergman said.
“The Red Cross just does wonderful things,” he said.
The agency also provides 40 percent of the U.S. blood supply, so a new blood center was sorely needed at the Chicago office because the old one was “really dated” and it had no lab, he said.
“We really couldn’t do the scientific work,” he said.
After another Red Cross board member donated about $280,000 for a new blood mobile, Bergman said he decided to chip in for the blood center, which also will be funded by $500,000 in tax increment financing district funds from the city of Chicago.
The new blood center will be within the Red Cross Regional Headquarters, the Rauner Center, in Chicago.
The state-of-the-art blood center will have more storage and improved product distribution, and it will significantly decrease the time needed to match rare blood types, according to a Red Cross news release. The closest reference lab is in Peoria.
The center also will include an apheresis collection site, which gathers blood components from donors and returns the remaining blood back to donors. The technology is being used to support life-extending treatments for stage four prostate cancer patients.
“We are so grateful to Jay and Lori for their extremely generous gift,” said Fran Edwardson, CEO, American Red Cross, Greater Chicago Region. “It’s going to allow us to expand our blood operations in Chicago and ultimately, and most importantly, help save lives by getting a wider range of blood products to people in need much more quickly.”
Bergman graduated from Joliet Central High School in 1966, Joliet Junior College in 1968 and Illinois State University in 1970. His company, Petco, operates oil and gas fields nationwide.
He also serves as chairman of the board for American Heartland Bank and Trust Co. in Sugar Grove, and he is on the Illinois Board of Higher Education and the board of trustees for Illinois State University.
Lori Bergman has an IT consulting business, and she serves on boards for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties and Guardian Angel Community Services in Joliet.