We are Advocates. This pronouncement is part of Ent’s culture, defining who we are. Our stated definition for what it means to be an advocate is:
- We champion your best interests
- We believe in you, our teams, and our members
- We act with integrity
- We seek to understand who you are and meet you where you are
Recently, our dedication to demonstrating advocacy in our community was put to the test.
Around midnight on November 19, an armed man entered Club Q in Colorado Springs, Ent’s home base city, killing five individuals and injuring nearly twenty others. Club Q was well known not only as a good time but as a safe space for the LGTBQ+ community.
The shooter was taken down by two individuals. But for the bold, heroic, incredibly courageous, and quick-thinking acts of these two people, we can only guess at the additional lives that would have been lost that evening. One of these men, Thomas James (a Petty Officer in the Navy) was injured and spent several days following the incident in the hospital. The other, Richard Fierro (an Army veteran), while not physically injured, openly shared the mental health impact the awful ordeal had on him. (In a fight, flight, or freeze scenario, I think we all want to believe we would fight. When put to the test, would we? And, regardless of our reaction, we can recognize the impact to our mental wellbeing.)
How shattered Colorado Springs was when waking up on November 20th, when many were finalizing preparations and plans for a day just around the corner focused on gratitude!
A few of us at Ent learned on Sunday that Mr. Fierro is a business member of our credit union and that one of the injured victims, Joanne Law, was a treasured member of our Ent employee family. In fact, these two lovely humans were friends and were together celebrating at Club Q. Joanne was shot five times and was released only recently from the hospital (in time for Christmas with her family) after countless surgeries. For us, this unthinkable tragedy hit very close to home.
Members of the Ent team came together that Sunday to discuss ways we could help the victims, the heroes, and, maybe most importantly, our team member. By Monday, as victims’ funds were started by other organizations, we promoted these funds internally and separately launched an internal contribution form for Joanne. This employee-led, employee-funded virtual collection plate raised close to $15,000 and will hopefully help her with unplanned expenses. After many ideas were shared, Ent leaders also decided to present a first ever (and now, annual) “Community Advocate” award to the two brave men who, together, stopped the shooter. These significant gifts were provided from our philanthropy (aka community advocacy) budget and the contributions were made unencumbered to the individuals.
As a credit union, we knew there may be some risks in making what became quite public gifts. Yet, we wanted to act boldly – a once in a lifetime gift for a once in a lifetime act of heroism. If you are wondering, we did hear from a few members of the community who were not pleased we provided these gifts. While we were disheartened, we were not necessarily surprised. Our world filled with beauty, love, and wonder is also sometimes filled with misunderstanding. What one perceives is the “right thing to do” is not what all perceive to be the right thing. In the end, we aimed to demonstrate what it means to be advocates – serving as champions of, and demonstrating our belief in, others. When put to the test, I hope all credit unions would step up boldly, take a risk, and be an advocate for the communities we serve.