OSSINING, N.Y. – For Edmund Cook, donating blood is a way to give back to the USA for all that the country has given him, and it's a relaxing time away from stress.
"I think it's one of the greatest things you can do as far as helping anyone else," said Cook, 70, who donated his 100th pint of blood at Phelps Memorial Hospital in Sleepy Hollow last week. "It's painless, it's not painful. They come and greet you, give you nice juice and cookies, sometimes homemade cookies. It's a wonderful experience."
Originally from Lithuania, Cook is thankful to the USA for giving him a home after he was kidnapped and abandoned in Germany during World War II.
During World War II, many people wanted to escape from Lithuania into Germany, but it was difficult to get onto a train to Germany unless they had a child with them, Cook recounted. A woman kidnapped Cook when he was about three years old so that she could get on a train, and then abandoned him in Germany as thousands of other kids had been abandoned.
"The GIs picked us up and gave us to the international Red Cross," Cook said. "We were a starving bunch of kids and we were stealing their food. They put us in an orphanage in Germany, and then being Lithuanian, they said I was Catholic and they signed me up for the National Catholic Welfare Service."
In 1950, Cook was adopted by a Lithuanian adoptive mother and an American adoptive father who lived in Donaldson, Pa. He was ten years old.
"They say I was an old man to be adopted," Cook said.
Cook joined the army after high school and he was stationed in Germany in 1961 when the Berlin Wall went up between East and West Germany. With the help of a German professor, he found his natural family and found out that he was the 12th out of 13 children.
"It was unbelievable. The more we talked, the more things fell into place," Cook said.
Cook still keeps in touch with his natural brothers and sisters, five of whom are still alive today. Two brothers and two sisters are living in Lithuania, and one sister is living in England.
Cook has been employed for 30 years as a social worker and counselor for the VET center in White Plains that helps traumatized veterans readjust to society. Though he is 70 years old, he doesn't want to retire because he enjoys his job.
"If you've got your heart in your job, that means it's not a job, it's giving," he said. "And the more you give, the more you get back, that is so true... With the veterans, we say 'Give a damn for your fellow man.'"
Cook plans to continue to give back to his fellow man by donating blood every two months for as long as he can.
"I've never fainted. There are no side effects from giving blood, it's all plus and positive," he said. "So I hope whoever's going to read this gets a little inspiration without the perspiration to give blood."
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