A little over two years ago Ernest Chang, Strategic Initiatives Advisor at BMO Harris Bank, learned about Erie Family Health Centers through his in-laws. Now he is one of Erie’s most active advocates, regularly attending Erie’s Board of Directors meetings and leading the Auxiliary Council into increasing its outreach and fundraising efforts as Council Chair. But he admits he wasn’t always interested in health care.
“Preventative health care was completely new to me,” he said. “With my family it’s always been like, ‘Oh, you have an issue? Go to the ER.’ I’d paid for health care benefits my entire life and hadn’t taken advantage of them.”
Ernest’s mother-in-law previously managed the program for high-needs students at Evanston Township High School. At the time Erie was building a new health center to serve the Evanston and Skokie communities and she was interested in tapping into Erie Evanston/Skokie as a potential resource for the students. She arranged for a meet-and-greet with President and CEO Dr. Lee Francis. Ernest came along.
“Erie struck a chord with me,” said Ernest of that initial meeting. “Being made aware that of the general lack of knowledge around health care, I thought that Erie was a really meaningful organization that I would like to support and advocate for.”
The Erie Family Health Centers Auxiliary Council served as his opportunity to become more involved with Erie. The Auxiliary Council is composed of young professionals who are committed to spreading awareness about Erie’s mission. They have strategized, planned, and hosted the Eriedescence fundraiser for the past four years, raising over $225,000 for Erie’s health and wellness programs, including Erie’s award-winning HIV/AIDS program, Lending Hands for Life.
Ernest came on board in October 2013 and stepped into a leadership role on the Council in July 2014. Seeing that the Council was in need of reinvigoration, he reconnected Council members with Erie’s mission. “I think everyone would agree that we’ve made a lot of great progress,” said Ernest of his experience as Council Chair. “We’ve redefined who we are and what we do.” This September, the Auxiliary Council was proud to run alongside Erie’s Lending Hands for Life patients in the 2015 AIDS Run/Walk at Soldier Field.
Though making the time commitment to be an active advocate and volunteer can be challenging, Ernest continues to dedicate his time to Erie because of the passionate people he’s met within the organization. “Everyone has this desire to provide great service to the patients—the doctors, the nurses, administrative staff,” he said. “This is why I do this, why I’m here.”