We are profiling just some of the Regions associates who give so much of their spare time giving back to their communities in our Evergreen Volunteers series. We hope these stories will inspire others to reach out and make a difference.
Working with individuals with disabilities.
Providing support to those in a hospital setting.
Pushing forward racial equity in the community.
When Alicia Somers isn’t helping others achieve their financial goals as part of her role as a Financial Wellness relationship manager at Regions, she is actively serving her community of Jacksonville, Florida, in all the above ways.
Her proudest contribution to date? Serving as a founding member of 904WARD, a racial equity and healing organization made up of people from Jacksonville’s private, public and nonprofit sectors committed to creating a community of inclusion for all of Jacksonville’s residents.
“In 2015, I got involved with a group of community leaders that gathered for lunch to discuss trying to rid Jacksonville of racism,” Somers said. “There were so many things happening, unarmed black men being shot, hate crimes against our Jewish and Muslim community, and this small but mighty group of people said, ‘How can we change our community?’”
Somers said after many years of work, this group that first gathered around a table has grown into a full-fledged organization with full-time staff, including CEO Kimberly Allen, Ph.D.
“I don’t want our organization to exist 10-15 years from now because I want us to have done what we set out to do, which is erase racism, so everyone thrives,” Dr. Allen said. “I don’t think it’s enough time to end racism, but we will have worked with the community in such a way that race isn’t such a big factor in achieving success as it is in people’s lives today.”
I don’t want our organization to exist 10-15 years from now because I want us to have done what we set out to do, which is erase racism, so everyone thrives.Kimberly Allen, CEO, 904WARD
Working towards that goal has been broken into many efforts by 904WARD, and one initiative in particular, the Race Cards, aims to bring about an inclusive community, beginning with understanding each other better. This tool was launched with help from Somers, who also serves as 904WARD’s Race Card Chair.
“Race Cards are conversation starters to get different perspectives about race,” Somers explained. “We worked with community leaders to get input on their content, and we not only have a physical deck of cards, but also developed an app recently so authentic conversations around race can start no matter where you are.”
Somers said hundreds of these conversations have been facilitated by 904WARD, and with the cards available online, they have learned of the cards being used across the world in places such as Belgium and Australia.
“When you enter these conversations, you have to enter with a listening, empathetic ear and an open heart,” Somers said. “You don’t know what you’re going to take from that experience, and you have to be willing to be uncomfortable and willing to learn. We’re privileged to listen and to hear stories that are not like ours.”
Even without a huge platform, you can change the world and
you can do it one conversation at a time.Alicia Somers, Regions Financial Wellness relationship manager
Added Dr. Allen, “Alicia is a connector – her friendly demeanor lends her so much to building bridges, and with a topic like race and racism, it helps to have someone that can disarm people to have these conversations so the community will not be turned off and will actually want to build relations and help us do the work and take the actions to help end racism.”
Somers said funds raised from the Race Cards go towards other important work 904WARD orchestrates and supports.
As she approaches 14 years with the bank, she says just like the work in her community to improve racial equity has evolved, she has been pleased to see the efforts being made in her workplace to improve diversity, equity and inclusion, something she has always been passionate about.
For others, like herself, interested in helping end racism, her advice is simple.
“You can be a changemaker in your community and it doesn’t have to be in large groups,” Somers said. “Even without a huge platform, you can change the world and you can do it one conversation at a time.”