The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.
“I really love the Red Cross. It’s not always perfect, but it’s a great organization,” says Becky Williams. An even more powerful statement of her love for the organization is that earlier this year she officially retired from her position as Director of Emergency Services at the Mid-South Chapter and now she is back as an unpaid volunteer.
Williams is dedicated to giving services to those in need. She recalls one incident when a family with five children living in a trailer lost everything in a fire. The woman came into the chapter offices to ask for help. We supplied blankets, diapers, modest financial help, and assistance in contacting other relief agencies. Tears began to stream down the woman’s face. “My children will not spend Christmas without a blanket,” she shared. It turns out the children had been sleeping on the floor of a relative’s house without blankets to stave off the cold.
In 2006 Williams jumped at the opportunity to join the American Red Cross at its national headquarters in Washington, DC. Prior to that she had spent more than 25 years working in the insurance industry where she used her skills as a Certified Public Accountant. At the Red Cross National Headquarters she served as Senior Director in the Office of Investigations, Compliance and Ethics and was responsible for investigating financial records to assure maintenance of a high standard of compliance with the Red Cross ethical code. Williams also taught ethics courses to Red Cross workers and managed two telephone hotlines, the Concern Connection Line and the Biomedical Regulatory Line. These are telephone lines that Red Cross staff, volunteers, and clients can use to make confidential disclosures of what they view as breeches of ethical standards.
Having grown up in Memphis, Williams had maintained deep roots in the community where she has children and grandchildren. Memphis is where she ultimately wanted to retire, so she made the decision to return to her hometown in 2011. At that time the Mid-South Chapter of the Red Cross had an opening for Director of Emergency Services and Williams was selected to fill the role. She was responsible for all the disaster services provided by the chapter from home fires, which average about two per day, to larger scale local disasters that are handled by the chapter, and chapter support of even larger disaster responses that involve the regional or national organizational level.
Earlier this year Williams officially retired from her position as Director of Emergency Services, but soon, after returning from a much-deserved vacation, she could be found at the chapter offices getting ready to head out on a local fire call, or helping out with a neighborhood safety blitz, or busy with a Service to the Armed Forces function. As a volunteer she also plans to be involved with Executive Director Laura Vaughn in continuity planning for the organization and to serve as a Red Cross liaison with various government agencies. Williams also anticipates deploying to national-level disasters when needed, possibly to assist with mobility, government relations, staffing, or mass-care functions.
“Volunteers are crucial to making the organization work. If you want to make a difference in people’s lives, the Red Cross gives you a platform to do it in whatever way you are comfortable,” says Williams.
When not working with the Mid-South Red Cross Williams enjoys activities with her three granddaughters. She is also a dedicated quilter, a hobby she has pursued for over 25 years. An active member of Uncommon Threads Quilt Guild, Williams is currently working on a quilt with a Storm at Sea pattern that involves over 3,000 pieces of fabric. She enjoys both the challenge of quilting intricate designs as well as delving into the history of antique quilting patterns.
Williams grew up in Memphis where she attended Immaculate Conception High School. She attended Memphis State University for much of her college career and completed her degree studies at the University of Missouri in St. Louis with bachelor and master degrees in accounting.
Profile Posted September 17, 2013
Story and photo credit: Robert W. Wallace