A fond farewell and a chorus of rowdy “Huzzahs” for our friend, russ elliott

When it comes to honouring the legacy of someone like russ elliott, where do you even start? 

As a member of the RAVEN community, you may know russ as the friendly voice at the end of the phone who guides you to what you need, whether it’s a tax receipt or a deeper understanding of how we work. Or you may know them as the person who welcomes you (with radical hospitality) as a new volunteer. For those of us who worked alongside them on the RAVEN team, russ has been a tremendous source of inspiration, leadership, and organizational growth. 

Now, russ is moving on from RAVEN, and we want to send them off with the rowdiest of ‘huzzahs!!’

The period russ served as Operations Manager saw RAVEN moving from our origins as a scrappy, grassroots start-up into a full-fledged NGO capable of tackling multiple campaigns, stretching across the country and embracing thousands upon thousands of supporters in a circle of allyship with Indigenous Nations. As we weathered the covid pandemic, russ helped us manage a rapidly evolving digital presence while keeping accessibility at the forefront. 

Serving for a time as the Acting Executive Director when RAVEN underwent our first organizational leadership transition, russ profoundly shaped how we work together. “From my first phone call to RAVEN, it was russ who picked up the phone and took the time to tell me about the organization. It was after that call that I decided to apply to work here,” says Gilberto, our Development Manager. 

Gilberto continues, “Since then, they have been a supportive colleague and friend, from whom I’ve learned so much in a short time. Their kind and caring presence and their brilliant sense of humour will be missed by all of us.” 

Campaigns Director Leslie Anne seconded these sentiments with “It was russ who made sure when colonization got me down, no matter how badly I wanted to hurl glassware, I never did.”

“Thank you, russ, for everything,” said the glassware.

Driven by a strong sense of community, and a thirst for justice and equity, russ pushed RAVEN to move past ‘inclusiveness’ and towards genuine accessibility for all. That translated to things like making our events hybrid, so folks can now attend many events virtually as well as in-person, to fostering a culture of deep listening and hospitality within our team and our larger community. They initiated RAVEN’s first-ever accessibility policy, beginning the organization’s long journey of accessibility work ahead. russ is the person who would always ensure people were heard, affirmed, and invited. Like the raven in northwest coast stories, russ would circle back to the places where we stumbled, in order that we learn the good lessons that come when you slow down, and listen up. 

“russ has not only taught me how to properly slow down and listen at work, they have also taught me what compassionate, relationship-based leadership feels like,” says Levin, RAVEN’s Grants and Campaigns Coordinator. “They regularly checked-in with every person at RAVEN to make sure they were seen and heard. russ’ deep care in a leadership role is something I will never forget.” 

That sentiment is echoed by RAVEN’s Development Director, Carly Eldstrom. “russ was RAVEN’s rock, and mine individually as well. Their absence is already felt but their legacy will live on!”

There is a russ-shaped space at RAVEN now. But, they’ve taken care to give us guidance so we can continue to nurture the seeds they planted: with deep compassion for our fellow humans, with scrupulous attention and care for details, and with a lighthearted-yet-super-serious attitude towards a movement that is as diverse as it is determined. 

While russ is irreplaceable, they’ll remain part of the environmental justice world as Georgia Strait Alliance’s (GSA) new Campaigns Manager. We hope to be intersecting and partnering with GSA on future campaigns, but in the meantime we wish russ the smoothest of transitions as they dig into the fertile work of helping to protect the Salish Sea. 

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