Determined volunteer Gail Solomon is not talking about pints of beer.
Since 2008, Solomon has chaired the quarterly blood drive at Ahavath Achim Synagogue, which regularly falls around her birthday. Solomon said, “This year, it actually landed on my 80th birthday which made it a perfect way to give back and celebrate turning 80 at the same time. My goal is to live to be 100 and be healthy and active.”
The blood drive is also co-sponsored by: the Jewish War Veterans, Post 112; Fulton Lodge No. 216 F&A; and congregations Shearith Israel and Or VeShalom, which has sponsored 54 blood drives, and collected 3,269 units of blood from 3,425 total donors.
Solomon said, “Being a blood donor costs you only an hour of time. Not only do you save lives, but you also get a mini-physical when you donate. Donating blood is giving the gift of life. There is no greater gift.”
Solomon has donated 111 pints of blood. When her mother had colon cancer surgery, she needed seven pints of blood on the operating table to survive.
Solomon continued, “What, if then, the blood was not available? Someone needs blood every two seconds. There is no synthetic blood. Donating blood is doing a mitzvah, giving of yourself to someone you don’t know and someone who will never know the donor, but someone whose life you have saved. One pint of blood can save up to three lives.”
To coordinate with her outsized birthday, and as a huge Disney fan, Solomon entered a contest with WSB-TV to win a cruise on the Disney Wish, their newest cruise ship.
She explained, “Every morning they gave a word that had to be texted to a number to enter. Both my daughter, Caren, and I did just that…she actually won a trip for four. This year, in addition to celebrating my 80th birthday, in November, my oldest son celebrates his 55th and my youngest son celebrates his 50th birthday, so nine members of our family are celebrating the November birthdays on the Disney cruise in January.”
On her first Disney cruise, Solomon celebrated her 60th birthday. She said with emotion, “That was the most family bonding we have ever taken.”
Solomon also volunteers at the Georgia Aquarium, but her “happy place” is working at Mercedes-Benz Stadium where she welcome guests at the South VIP entrance for special events and guided tours of the stadium.
She said, “Mercedes-Benz Stadium is the only platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified stadium in North America. Arthur Blank’s vision to build the stadium, an icon in downtown Atlanta that would bring people and communities together in an environmentally sustainable way, is truly a gift to Atlanta. The stadium will be a Zero Waste stadium by the end of this year.”
When asked about her secret to longevity, Solomon shared: “To me, the most important things are a positive attitude and the choices we make every day. I wake up and chose to do aerobic exercises every morning. I feel that doing aerobics helps my body, heart, and brain. I combine it with strength training and stretching. It gives me natural energy which keeps me young in mind, body, and spirit. In every situation, I look for something positive. And helping others is what makes me happy. Life is not about what happens to you, but how you choose to react to the circumstances.”
Solomon is also credited with starting the successful Mature Active Adult Community at Ahavath Achim. She remarked, “COVID happened, and we were all forced to shelter at home. Keeping in touch with the senior members of the congregation and planning Zoom programs kept us all connected with activities to which we could look forward.”
Count the rather numerous candles, Gail, on becoming a proud octogenarian heralded for your good deeds!