The East Georgia Red Cross is sad to announce that as of tomorrow it will be losing it’s beloved executive director, Jeff Taylor. Because of personal reasons, Jeff will be moving to Cincinnati to serve as a major gift officer for the University of Cincinnati Medical School.
For the past two and a half years, Jeff Taylor has lead the way in making the East Georgia Red Cross one of the most successful Red Cross chapters in both the state and the nation. He has inspired and motivated the community with his unmatched work ethic and passion. He has been a leader, a role model and a friend. We have asked Jeff a few farewell questions about his experience with the Red Cross. See below for some inspiring stories and advice:
Tell us a little bit about your first day at the Red Cross, what were your expectations? Were you nervous/excited?
I was scared to death. When I took the job, I had two weeks to get myself ready for a job outside of the church world. I didn’t know what I was in for. I knew I was going to have to take some difficult actions right away, such as closing a few local chapters and seeing a few staff members move on. These looming decisions alone had me paralyzed with fear.
On my first day, I met with my board chair at 7 a.m. at Waffle House to go over all the important information I needed to know. (laughs) To this day I don’t remember a single word he said because I was so scared! However, when he brought me to the office to introduce me to the staff it was love at first sight (corny I know!) After about two days of adjustment we had to jump on a United Way allegation proposal that was due the next week. So needless to say, it was baptism by fire.
What are the funniest moments you’ve had working at the Red Cross?
I think the funniest moment was standing in front of the board of directors one year after I got here. We had three months to close a minimum of a $75,000 donation gap, but ideally it was $210,000 gap. I made this great presentation but at the end of it my board chair stood up and just looked at me and said “it can’t be done.” Cautiously I said “what part?” She responded with “Probably the whole thing, it’s like a cake, we can give you the icing but not the whole cake.” Although she was convinced our plan couldn’t be done, I was determined to make it happen, so we broke the board of directors into two groups for 15 minutes to see what we could do. I wanted the icing AND the cake. Long story short, during that three month period of time, tornadoes in Alabama hit and donors responded in a huge way. We raised $240,000 dollars that season. At that point the board realized we were more than capable of having our cake and frosting it too.
The most I’ve laughed during this job, however, was working with Lauren Cruz. I mean, need I say more? She has so many great expressions. Her email address is shoediva411! The woman was hilarious.
And one more thing, back in 2010 we received a panic call from a satellite office. What was so funny about it? Well, our part-time employee down there was freaking out because there were rats in the office! The best part was she said they had been shooed away from the Waffle House down the street!
What was your favorite part about your job with the Red Cross and why?
Being able to see volunteers excel and exceed their own expectations. Whether it was board members, office volunteers, UGA interns or UGA Red Cross. I think of myself as “fire boy,” I’m the one who pours gasoline on everyones passions.
We know that you are inspired and humbled by donors and volunteers every day. What story from the community has had the biggest impact on you personally?
Two things really, the first is Michael Boucher from Oconee County. He is one of our marine vets from Afghanistan. He stepped on an IED while he was serving and, tragically, got his legs blown off. Since then, he has shown an unmatched amount of gratitude toward the Red Cross. We have gotten the amazing opportunity to hear him speak at both our Heroes Breakfast and our volunteer recognition dinner. His story is surely the most moving thing. The impact is powerful.
Secondly, I have been extremely inspired by Mike & Theresa Stonecipher. Their love affair for Red Cross began after tornado ripped through their home. Red Cross volunteers responded and since then the both of them have been an invaluable part of our organization. When you get to hear diferctly from people about how their lives were impacted by the Red Cross… it’s incredible.
Things like this really let you know that you are part of an organization that is truly restoring peoples lives.
Do you have any departing words to give to current volunteers/donors?
Keep pressing on. This is the greatest humanitarian organization in the world and it is not based upon any one person, it is always a team. The opportunities truly are endless. I think the great thing for the UGA students is that we have been able to provide a place where you all can use your own creative and natural stengths and gifts to do good. I will miss everyone dearly but am excited to see the chapter’s future successes.
Jeff Taylor has truly been a huge driving force for the Red Cross and the Athens community. He will be dearly missed by the Red Cross volunteers, interns and donors. We love you, Jeff!