Monday marked the annual showdown between the Newton Fire/EMS Department and the Newton Police Department at the community "Battle of the Badges" blood drive.

Each year, the two departments compete to see who can bring in the most blood donors. Community members who donate blood can vote for their favorite group, and the winning agency gets "bragging rights" for the year, as well as a traveling trophy.

Newton PD is the reigning champion, ending the Fire/EMS Department's longtime winning streak last year. Although the departments have fun competing, the real goal is to raise awareness about the work of the Red Cross.

"We try to encourage all of our members to donate on a regular basis, whenever the American Red Cross calls," said Steve Roberson, Newton Fire/EMS battalion chief. "... The blood banks are low. We all need to help each other out when we can."

"It's a good opportunity to promote the American Red Cross and the need that they have for blood and plasma," agreed Police Chief Jim Daily.

This year's "Battle of the Badges" was at First Church of the Nazarene in Newton. The drive celebrates community heroes like emergency responders, but there are other heroes working behind the scenes: the volunteers and staff who run the blood drive.

Emma Nugent, who served as Monday's canteen coordinator, has been volunteering for 30 years, ever since she was asked to help with registration at a drive.

"I've been volunteering ever since," she said.

Nugent was assisted by April Reynolds — whose husband, Jason, works for the Harvey County Sheriff's Department — and Debbie Thompson, who said she sees volunteering as a way to help others.

"I've had so many people helping me, so I wanted to pay it back," she said.

For more information about donating blood, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit Watch the Kansan for results from Battle of the Badges.