By Daphne Williams, EHF Director of Human Resources and Operations
Walk into the doors of Empire Health Foundation (EHF) and immediately you know this place is different than other organizations in Spokane. You just aren’t sure how. Then you realize – the heavy focus on results, hiring the best people to perform the functions needed within this organization and ensuring that employees have everything needed to do the best work. One thing the organization lacked when I first started, and we knew it would be challenging to attain in our majority Caucasian town, was diversity. And that was it, my marching orders. “It’s not about finding that rare unicorn. It’s just going to take time and a belief it can be done.” Trust me, the first few times I’d heard Antony Chiang, EHF President, give me that rousing speech of encouragement, I was extremely doubtful. But, I knew I had nothing to lose if I put in serious effort.
On a Friday night, I began calling friends, emailing their contacts and meeting with different people in the community, all of whom were people of color. Talking to people on the street and at restaurants as they passed by no longer gave me pause. And a year and half later from my first day, our organization went from 11% racially diverse to 49% racially diverse (59% racial, LGBTQ, disability, veteran combined).
Really, it’s not about unicorn hunting. It just took time, initiating relationships and a belief it could be done. And we did it! We now have the ability to better relate to and help more diverse communities in Spokane because we have staff who live in, relate with and understand these communities. Internally, EHF provides a place that supports our staff and their authentic selves as well as one that fosters personal and professional growth. And for people of color and minority groups in Spokane, when you walk in the doors of the Philanthropy Center, there is someone who looks like you, understands or lives in your community, and is advocating for your whole-person health.