Bill Boyd’s drive to help others got its start in an unusual place: a funeral home. Bill’s father was a mortician and disaster responder in Idaho during a time when ambulances were operated out of funeral homes, and Bill frequently tagged along with his dad to house fires.
Those early experiences watching his father, who was also a first aid instructor for the Red Cross, pointed Bill in the direction of public service. He started his career as a paramedic and eventually became chief of the Bellingham Fire Department, a position he retired from in 2012. “In my role as a fire captain in the field and as chief,” Bill says, “we relied heavily on the Red Cross to help people who were sitting on the curb in their bathrobes. The Red Cross would swoop in to help and took a big load off of us.”
The Red Cross also made a big impression on Bill after the Olympic Pipeline explosion in 1999. He was a fire commander during the first week, working with the pipeline president and government officials in a high-stress environment. Red Cross volunteers had food lines set up and ready for them. “I remember the Red Cross volunteers in their vests smiling and asking how we were doing. That meant a lot. It showed the community support during this horrific event.”
He also remembers a Bellingham house fire that had been started by a teenager while his parents were gone. “The volunteer team that arrived to help showed so much compassion and guided the situation for the parents and kid,” Bill recalls. “They brought the family together.”
After Bill retired from the fire department, he turned to the Red Cross as a way to continue serving the community. “I believe in the mission of the Red Cross. It’s a noble mission. The organization is made up of people who are drawn to helping. Board members are well connected in the community and have a passion for helping the community, and the Red Cross is an excellent vehicle for doing that.”
Now, as the chair of the board of directors for the Northwest Washington chapter, Bill is responsible for coordinating with executive and regional directors to make sure the board supports the Red Cross mission by acting as conduits to local businesses and public agencies. Board members serve as ambassadors and champions for their local chapter, seeking new volunteers and funding sources and advocating with the public. Bill says, “The thing I like about it the most is interfacing with the other board members, all of whom are business leaders, believers, and champions for the Red Cross. They are proud but humble in their support of our great group of volunteers and staff.”
Bill wants current and potential volunteers to know that their participation is extremely valuable. “Don’t underestimate your talents and your ability to help,” he says. “Just the
fact that you’re willing to step out and help—the Red Cross will find something for you to do. Everyone’s got a niche or a skill that can come into play. Everyone can have a role in fulfilling the Red Cross mission, whether it’s answering phones, office work, bookkeeping, or disaster work. We can use the help.”