By Gordon Williams
It takes more than willing volunteers for the American Red Cross to carry out its mission of caring for disaster victims. It takes money to house and feed the victims–and more money to fly Red Cross responders to far-off disaster scenes.
That is where such businesses as Coffman Engineers come into the picture. Coffman is an engineering consulting firm, with offices throughout the far west and across the country. Not only is Coffman a significant financial donor to the Red Cross, but three of its executives sit on the boards of Red Cross chapters in the Northwest region.
And there is more to report about the Red Cross-Coffman story. Timber Chinn, Coffman’s vice-president for human resources, is now a member of the Red Cross Tiffany Circle.
The Red Cross describes the Tiffany Circle as “a community of women leaders who advance the Red Cross mission through a focused investment of time, talent and treasure.” The name was inspired by the Tiffany glass windows at the Red Cross headquarters in Washington D.C. The windows–paid for through donations–were fashioned at the Louis Comfort Tiffany Studios in 1917.
Covid has made most events virtual, so Chinn, who joined the Circle at the start of the pandemic, has yet to meet face-to-face with other members. She did take part in one virtual session that dealt with assisting veterans. Serving the military is a major Red Cross function.
Chinn says what she has seen of the Red Cross and Tiffany Circle has her eager to get more involved once the pandemic fades. For instance, she wants to volunteer with the Red Cross Sound the Alarm (STA) campaign which seeks to reduce home fire deaths by installing alarms in homes that don’t have them. Coffman does fire prevention consulting, making the link to STA a good fit.
She is also intrigued by a new Red Cross program to assist caregivers to veterans. “That is an issue I really did not know about until the Red Cross brought it to my attention,” she says.
As HR vice-president, Chinn has a lot on her plate. Her responsibilities range from employee relations to recruiting and training to supervising the company’s wellness program. That doesn’t give her much free time. But she says, “I will be retiring in a few years. I should have more opportunities to devote my time to volunteering and plan to get more involved with the Red Cross after I retire.”
Coffman Engineers has a long history of supporting worthy causes–matching charitable contributions from employees with corporate funds. Chinn says the program became more formal after earthquakes in Haiti in 2010 and Japan in 2011. “A number of employees asked how they could help the quake victims,” she says. The Coffman board replied with the matching funds program.
Coffman’s ties to the Red Cross go back nearly 20 years, since Craig Lee first joined the board of the Greater Inland Northwest Red Cross chapter in Spokane. He is now a lifetime member of the board and Megan Snow, Regional Philanthropy Officer for the Red Cross in Spokane, calls Lee, “One of the most passionate advocates of our work that I have ever seen.”
Lee next persuaded fellow Coffman executive Tom Arnold to join the Greater Inland Northwest board and Arnold is now chairman of that board. Coffman executive Pat Piermattei is a director of the King County chapter in Seattle.
Coffman has contributed $100,000 a year to the Red Cross for the past two years–not only the largest contribution the company has made to the Red Cross but the largest single donation the company has ever made. Beyond that, Coffman employees raised money in 2017–which the company matched–to support Red Cross relief efforts after Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston.
The company not only supports STA with donations, but Coffman employees will again help with installing alarms once the pandemic lifts. And STA can save lives. The STA program has installed 2.2 million smoke alarms and saved 916 lives– individuals who escaped a fire because an alarm alerted them to danger.
“We appreciate that Coffman not only supports the work of the Red Cross through their generous financial donations, but through the involvement of so many of their company leaders. Coffman is definitely ‘all-in’ for the Red Cross,” shared Snow.