(WHNT) — Many hospitals, including those in North Alabama, continue asking for blood donations as the Red Cross reports a crisis-stage shortage across the nation.

“This is serious. The Red Cross is experiencing the worst blood shortage in over a decade,” says the American Red Cross website. “The dangerously low blood supply levels have forced some hospitals to defer patients from major surgery, including organ transplants. Your donation is desperately needed this holiday season. Please schedule an appointment to give now.”

The North Alabama chapter of LifeSouth community blood centers is hoping to encourage more donations in a unique way. Its clinics are offering $20 E-Gift cards to several restaurants and retailers for donors who come in by January 2.

Kami Mitchell from LifeSouth tells News 19 that low donation rates from the summer and fall combined with the Omicron variant of COVID-19, make blood units especially needed now.

“We service 17 North Alabama hospitals with 100% blood products,” Mitchell said. “But to make sure that the patients have the blood that they need, we need our donors to come out and roll up their sleeves to really make a difference to make sure that that blood is on there.”

The Red Cross has made it easier than ever to donate, from answering questions about eligibility, offering incentives and even a free blood donor app that will help you schedule an appointment and keep track of your blood type.

“Because you never know when you or someone you love may be in need of that blood,” Mitchell concluded.

Mitchell adds anyone of eligible age and health can donate blood, regardless of when you got the COVID-19 vaccine.