Floyd Pitts is the Chief Diversity Officer of the American Red Cross. His nephew, Ryan Pitts, also works for the Red Cross, as an associate in Volunteer Management. Although a generation apart, the Pitts family instilled the same idea of service in the two men from the day they were born.
Meager Means Nurtures a Spirit of Community
Both Ryan and Floyd grew up in southeastern Ohio, across the river from Wheeling, West Virginia. In the sixties when Floyd was young the area was thriving with coal mines and steel mills. “There was plenty of work in that area,” he says. “But not for blacks.” The best job his grandfather could get was leading mules—even though he was a minister and founder of a well-attended church.
Ryan’s dad and Floyd, actually first cousins, grew up as brothers. Due to meager means Floyd, his siblings, and many of his cousins shared toys, food and clothes. Since they all lived close to one another, most of their non-school time was spent together at an aunt’s or uncle’s home—where, again, they ate, played and fought together.
Their grandfather’s Pentecostal Church was the cornerstone of their life. “Our parents could not leave us a legacy of wealth,” Floyd said. “Our legacy was providence through prayer.” He goes on to say all 60 grandchildren, of which he is one, were taught that it is really important to do right by and for other people, and by doing that they would help themselves.
Red Cross Employment Offers another Way to Serve
“I was taught to help your family,” Ryan said. “The Red Cross principle of alleviating human suffering is no different than what we strive to do in our own family—it makes me proud to work here.” Floyd echoed the sentiment: “I chose the American Red Cross because I believe in what it stands for.”
Ryan originally moved to Washington, D.C. to work for an international youth exchange organization. Floyd invited his nephew to breakfast and during the conversation asked Ryan if he had ever considered working for the Red Cross. Ryan liked what his uncle told him about the organization, and watched for a suitable job posting.
He says working for the Red Cross has “opened horizons” and offered “amazing opportunities.” Ryan has been involved in some initiatives that are pivotal to the organization, and has traveled to Germany and is soon going to Japan. But Ryan’s most memorable experience is being deployed to New York during Superstorm Sandy. “I saw our work come to fruition after that storm,” he said. “Knowing what we can do to help others makes it easy to be part of this organization.”
Confidence in Family Traditions
Floyd and Ryan lived on different sides of the country while Ryan was growing up and they didn’t see each other often, but that didn’t stop Floyd from encouraging Ryan to apply for the position. “I know from whence he cometh and that he has the utmost character,” Floyd said. “And I know he couldn’t be raised without learning the value of hard work.” He described Ryan’s position as a “win-win-win”—for the Red Cross, for Ryan and for himself.
“I will stake my reputation—and even a little money—that Ryan will be good for the organization and the organization will be good for him,” Floyd said, smiling. “I couldn’t leave a better legacy to this organization than Ryan.”