By Gordon Williams
When an individual joins a local American Red Cross board, it strengthens his or her ties to the community and earns praise for their organization as a good corporate citizen. The Red Cross chapter, in turn, gains new useful skills, an expanded local network, and access to new resources. Among other contributions, board members help raise the money the Red Cross must have to carry out its humanitarian mission.
That mission received a significant gift of support this year thanks to three Red Cross board members representing Coffman Engineers. Coffman is a multi-discipline engineering consulting firm with offices throughout the far west, including Seattle and Spokane. The Red Cross Northwest region serves Washington and the Idaho panhandle.
Coffman contributed $100,000 to the 2020 Red Cross Sound the Alarm campaign, an initiative to reduce home fire deaths by installing working smoke alarms in homes that lack them, and may look to extend this commitment to future years.
This is the largest financial contribution Coffman has ever made to the Red Cross, and the largest single donation in the company’s history. Megan Snow, Regional Philanthropy Officer for the Red Cross in Spokane, says the money will support the Sound the Alarm program in six Red Cross regions: Northwest plus Hawaii, Alaska, San Diego, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. Coffman has offices in all six regions.
Giving money is far from the only thing Coffman does for the Red Cross. The company has seats on the boards of two Red Cross chapters. Craig Lee and Tom Arnold serve on the board of the Greater Inland Northwest chapter, headquartered in Spokane. Pat Piermattei is on the board of the King County chapter in Seattle.
Snow finds the Coffman directors “engaged — really excited about what we do.” She has had ample opportunity to see the Coffman team close-up, since her previous job was executive director of the Greater Inland Northwest chapter.
Craig Lee, now a lifetime member of the Greater Inland Northwest board, started the Coffman-Red Cross connection when he first joined the board 17 years ago. Lee explains he had been in the ski patrol, using the Red Cross first aid manual in his training. “When I started thinking about what I wanted to do next, the Red Cross immediately came to mind,” he says.
After years of working together, Snow calls Lee “One of the most passionate advocates of our work that I have ever seen.” She says that Lee “is constantly working to attract new board members, get new volunteers and do things to teach people about our lines of service.”
Tom Arnold was the next Coffman engineer to connect with the Red Cross. He joined the board in 2014, after serving as Spokane city engineer, and now leads the GINW Board Community Outreach committee.
Pat Piermattei came aboard in 2019, joining the King County board in Seattle. Coffman was expanding — opening new offices and moving into new fields of engineering. “It seemed like a good time to think about getting on the board in King County,” Lee says.
The story of Coffman’s gift to the Red Cross begins with Piermattei’s arrival on the King County board. Piermattei is a CPA — chief financial officer of Coffman for the past 27 years. “After his first board meeting,” Snow says, “Pat went back to his partners and said, ‘the Red Cross is amazing, we should think about making a statement with a sizeable gift.’”
Coffman’s commitment to the Red Cross runs even deeper than those boardroom ties. In 2017, Coffman employees raised money to support Red Cross relief efforts after Hurricane Harvey ravaged Houston. Now, Coffman employees will join other volunteers in installing smoke alarms as part of the Sound the Alarm campaign.