Community activist Melvin Giles. Credit: LifeSource

Melvin Giles is a community activist from St. Paul’s Rondo community, whose passions include the Rondo neighborhood, Peace Poles, blowing bubbles and organ donation. When his life partner Mary passed away, Melvin became very involved with LifeSource to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation in communities of color.

We caught up with Melvin to hear about his experience with LifeSource and organ donation during National Donate Life Month this April. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

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Tell us about yourself and your partner, Mary.

My life partner of 19 years, Mary, was a registered organ donor, and she continues to live in other people’s lives simply because she was an organ donor. Mary and I supported each other. Gardening was my work. Her life was the 4-legged, cats and dogs, and I tried to support her work, volunteering for her.

She started MN’s feral cat trap and release programs that traveled throughout the state, places like Walker, MN, Red Lake Nation, and Rochester. It was really wonderful for me, just spending time with her at her job. She had this way of helping my family, this community. When she passed, she became an organ donor, which means she continues to rescue not just animals, but also humans.

Mary and I believed in magic, synchronicity, and divine presence. Even now, people will email or call me when their loved one or their particular pet has passed on. They’ll let me know by saying, “Will you please ask Mary to walk them down at the rainbow bridge?” And most of the time, I just say, “Yeah, Mary, is there waiting for them already.”

What is your experience with LifeSource?

I learned about LifeSource right after Mary’s death when I got a call about donation. They’re the organization that helps out with organ, eye and tissue donations, and they provide education and bring awareness about the opportunity to save lives.

Donation is another way to keep Mary’s spirit alive and kicking, shining bright. I know I’m always happy when I receive word of how Mary was able to help relieve a burn victim, or restore sight. That does something good for my heart and for me, I would like to encourage my family and then people in my community to also to please consider checking that box on the driver’s license to be an organ donor.

It’s a good way to give back, and as the old saying goes, “You never know whose life you could be saving.” I just think it’s a very responsible and accountable action, and a very easy action that we can do as human beings. It’s a good way to show our love and kindness to others and to the planet.

Are you a registered donor?

I am a registered donor and bubble-blower.

Tell us about bubble blowing.

They’re peace bubbles. I blow them to diffuse tension in the community and inspire joy in daily living. I also encourage bubbles instead of bullets.

What have you learned about donation and transplantation?

LifeSource has been a good foundation and a good source of guidance for my grieving process in being able to reach out to staff and volunteers who understand what it means to lose a loved one. Through that process, I have learned how a loved one can continue to live through organ donations, and I just think that’s a super-cool thing.

I’ve also learned that many of the folks waiting for a transplant are BIPOC people. So we need more folks in communities of color to check that box. I definitely encourage everyone to check that box and be a life-giver. I can’t think of a better legacy.

What would you say to someone who is unsure about making the decision to register as a donor?

When I come across people who have some doubts about being an organ donor, I simply tell them to call LifeSource. It can be fearful for people who haven’t thought about it before. However, once people realize the power that they have, the power that they can contribute, I think it helps to change their minds and attitudes, and more so, helps to change their hearts.

Looking for more information? Read more frequently asked questions and join the donor registry.

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