This Pride Month, we’re celebrating our staff and volunteers who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Each and every day they work to carry out our humanitarian mission in communities across the country. This week, we’d like to highlight Eric Williams who helps manage logistics and our emergency response vehicles during disasters. He also serves as a Co-Chair for the American Red Cross Pride Team Resource Group. Here is a conversation we had with him around Pride Month and the importance of diversity and representation.
Why is Pride Month important to you?
Pride Month is important for me because it always denotes the past, but for me it’s more of a driver of where I would like the LGBTQ+ community to go. I see Pride Month as a catalyst to embolden the community to see what progress has been made and realize how much further we must go to obtain equality. It also helps us realize that achieving such a measure will require collaboration with other entities that seek to be treated appropriately as well. I believe Pride Month signifies awareness, togetherness and action. Nothing worthwhile can truly be achieved alone, you must hold the hands of your brothers and sisters, tell your story and request their assistance, but also offer your assistance to their cause as well. Compassion for the plight of others will help you understand another person’s emotions and feelings and perhaps help you achieve your goal through unique and progressive measures.
What drew you to the Red Cross?
The Red Cross was my second position out of college and a great opportunity. I saw it as a place where I could serve the diverse communities of the United States and grow as a humanitarian, individual and professional.
What is one of your favorite Red Cross moments?
During 2011, the Joplin, Missouri, tornadoes disaster operation was the largest operation I had the opportunity to support on site. One night I went to a Walmart to get a special brand of toothpaste my dentist makes me use, and I met a woman in line whose name I don’t recall, but I remember that she looked stressed. I inquired if she was alright. And we started to discuss how the tornado had affected her and her boyfriend and how they were coping and dealing with their road to recovery. After hearing her story, I told her why I was in town and where she could go to get support. She told me she already knew and planned to go when they had time. Even though she was clearly affected in her current state of events, she took the moment to truly smile and to thank the Red Cross and me for coming to support her community. I remember thinking, you don’t have to thank me. Knowing that I can impact people’s lives in a positive manner is why I do this and that is more than enough.
What is the Red Cross Pride Resource Group and how does it help Red Cross staff and volunteers?
In addition to my paid position, I volunteer on the Pride Resource Steering Committee as a Co-Chair. As a steering committee member, I help to foster a supportive environment for the LGBTQ+ community, but more importantly, a place where all people should feel welcome. We do this through presenting programs and opportunities to engage and understand the issues facing the LGBTQ+ populous and show how the Red Cross can be a part of the solution. We strive to help the Red Cross understand the unique issues facing the LGBTQ+ community and how we can work within the organization’s principles to ensure that the Red Cross community is a comfortable place for all people.
What does giving back mean to you?
I think of giving back as a compassionate spark of action (whether through money, time or knowledge) that is meant to help a community reach a goal that can move them to new heights.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give your 20-year-old self?
Be bold, take more risks and try to have fun. It’s not that serious – well it is, but take it in small doses. In fact this is actually what I’m telling myself now.
What would you tell someone who is interested in working or volunteering with the Red Cross?
Come ready to learn and practice what you’ve learned. Always have feedback. The Red Cross is a place that is continually growing and changing for the better, and we need people like you to make that change happen.