Sam Cowan didn't notice the signs all over St. John's Lutheran Church narthex about a drawing when she signed up to donate blood.
So when the Blood Alliance called in July, Cowan thought it wanted her to donate again, since her O-positive blood makes her a universal donor. It wasn't until Cowan was asked about her driver's license that she realized something was off.
The Blood Alliance didn't want a donation. It wanted to give her a new car.
"I didn't even know I was in this contest," she said and laughed Thursday. "I told very few people. I kept waiting to know if I was really getting it."
Cowan, who lives in Picket Fences in Port Royal, was drawn from a pool of 80,000 people who donated from last Aug. 31 through the beginning of July.
The Blood Alliance, Lucas Honda and HondasForLess.Net teamed up to give away the 2012 Honda Civic LX
She was given the keys Thursday by Dr. Brad Collins, chairman of the Blood Alliance at Beaufort's Community Advisory Committee, at the alliance's office at 1001 Boundary St., Suite A. But she actually got to test drive her new wheels Wednesday when she drove it home from Jacksonville, Fla. Cowan, who drives a Ford Expedition, said it's going to take some time to get used to the smaller vehicle.
The Blood Alliance of Beaufort is marking its 10th anniversary this year. The regional alliance, of which the Beaufort group is a member, was established in 1942 and is the sole provider of blood to Beaufort Memorial Hospital and about 40 other hospitals in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, its spokeswoman, Odette Struys, said.
"It's just a very selfless act," Collins said of giving blood. "You don't have to reach into your pocket."
The car drawing not only brought in regular donors, but those who had not been in for a while and new ones, he said.
Cowan said that although she donated only once during the contest period, her husband, Jim, donated several times.
Cowan has worked as a nurse for 35 years, the last 16 of which have been at Fresenius Medical Care, a dialysis company. She's seen firsthand how important blood donations can be to patients and has administered transfusions.
"The Blood Alliance does so much for our community, because all that blood stays here," she said.
The Blood Alliance accepts donations at both its Beaufort office and its bloodmobile. It takes about an hour to donate, and the alliance says it needs to collect about 360 pints a day to keep up with the needs of hospitals and medical clinics.