SANTA CRUZ -- The inherently competitive nature of police officers and firefighters was seen on Saturday as they rolled up their sleeves to have blood drawn in a contest over which department could give the most.
The Santa Cruz Police and Fire departments engaged in a polite battle in the Freight Building at Depot Park, the second year of the event organized by the American Red Cross at a time the organization is experiencing a shortage in donor blood.
The departments, which often partner and work together when responding to emergencies around town, enjoy certain bragging rights of their own.
"They're always talking about how much better they are than us," said police Detective Wendy Bynes, a 16-year veteran of the department who's married to a firefighter. "Having a family member be the recipient of donated blood made me realize the importance of donating."
Chandra Matteson, a team leader for the American Red Cross, said there's a "critical need" for blood at this time because of a lull in donors during the holiday season.
Matteson said she was happy to see a strong turnout of police and firefighters, saying it really doesn't matter who wins in the end.
"The inventory is just low right now," Matteson said. "We need as many donors as we can get."
The fire department pulled off a victory in last year's blood drive contest by the slimmest of margins -- one pint.
Firefighter Ryan Baker, 31, did his part to help the department win again.
"We want to win, but it also feels good to donate," Baker said. "I like to give blood generally, and this is for a good cause."
Todd Meyer, a Santa Cruz firefighter of five years, said he enjoyed the healthy competition.
"It's a good thing to do to help with the blood bank supply," Meyer, 42, said. "The community benefits because every day there's a need for blood."
The number of pints collected and number of donors throughout the day had yet to be tallied on Saturday.
The American Red Cross will give two awards after the final numbers are counted. One for the department with the greatest number of donors and one for the department with the most donors from its own organization.
Follow Sentinel reporter Shanna McCord on Twitter at Twitter.com/scnewsmom