I am very sorry to share with our supporters the news that we lost one of our valued staff members, Eduardo “Eddie” Estrada, over the December Holidays. Eddie was the Peer Navigator for Project imPACT, our reentry employment program located at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College. The Peer Navigator is the “glue” between clients, potential clients, and the program. The Peer Navigator recruits new clients for the program and develops relationships with existing clients so they remain involved and meet their employment goals.
Eddie was so good at this. He cared about people very much and that is the one quality the position has to have when hired. It is difficult to train someone to care about others. I don’t know much about Eddie’s prior life other than he ended him up in prison at some point in time. What I wanted to know about him in the job interview was how he presented himself, how he spoke about the duties of the position, and whether I could sense from him a passion for the work. I quickly discovered that the answers were yes – yes – and yes.
Eddie had several tattoos, including one large one on the top of his head. I had never hired anyone with so many visible tattoos but it only took me about 30 seconds to get beyond that. The quality of him as a person, his obvious compassion, and his intellect won me over quite readily. I last saw him at our Holiday Staff Party on December 21. I asked what he wanted from his “Secret Santa” and he responded “a gift card from Bed, Bath, and Beyond.” “For your girlfriend or partner?” I asked. “No,” he responded, “for me.” I like the Teakwood fragrance . . . the body wash, the spray, and the cologne.” I chuckled to myself, thinking “This is not the response I thought I would get from this former gang member, tatted-up, rather large individual.” But, then I remembered one of the first lessons I got at Friends Outside, which was not to judge a book by its cover. Some of the finest persons I have met in my life are ex-prisoners. And, Eddie is on my short list.
Rest in Peace, Eddie. We will miss you.