In Memory of Eddie

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.

Mary Weaver

Executive Director

Thomas Fleming Rhodes: A Wonderful Man and Volunteer

Thomas Fleming Rhodes was the epitome of a volunteer.

He began volunteering at our Pasadena office so many years ago that we don’t even remember exactly when he began.  We think it was sometime in the late 70’s.  9:00 – 12:00 Tuesday morning was Tom’s perennial shift.  He was a supervisor’s dream – always on time, seldom missed work but called on those rare occasions when he could not be at work, and always willing to do what you asked him to do.  Wherever he was, there was always Tom’s radiant smile and his laugh, lilting and lively.

Those of us who had the privilege to know him remember a man who never complained, in spite of physical and mental challenges that would have given him sufficient reason to do so.  Through Tom, we discovered that an individual, no matter their personal challenges, always has something to give.

A couple of years ago, Tom called to tell us that he was no longer able to volunteer.  He left us as unassumingly as he had come to us.  The Tuesday morning slot would no longer be filled by this selfless, kind, and gentle soul.  We were saddened to learn that Tom passed-away quite suddenly last September at the age of 63.

Tom’s siblings, Margaret, Richard, and Ted, granted us permission to memorialize Tom.  But, how do you honor a man who answered our telephones for about 25 years.  At a rate of about 10 calls per hour, Tom likely handled somewhere around 37,500 telephone calls!  How do you memorialize a man whose service helped us meet the conditions of our contracts, a man who gave not only of his time but also of his monetary resources, a man who asked nothing of us in return but to be given a place and a means through which he could serve his community?

And so it is, with the blessing of his three siblings, we are proud to announce that we have named our most well-loved and enduring community activity in Tom’s honor, the “Thomas Fleming Rhodes Memorial Holiday Party for Children.”  In doing so, we sincerely hope that we have done justice to his life, his values, and his many contributions to Friends Outside and our community.