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“I Made a Commitment to Make People Whole”

Changemaker Ralph Weaver started the Sunshine Fund, Hope Loans, and a Salary Reimbursement Initiative to take the sting out of the pandemic for employees.

MeetingsNet’s annual Changemaker list recognizes 15 outstanding meetings professionals for their efforts to move their organizations and the industry forward in unique and positive ways. Find all the profiles here.

Ralph D. Weaver

Founding President & CEO 
East West Connection

For creatively and generously supporting employees during the COVID-19 economic crisis


Making Change

When meetings and travel stopped as a result of the coronavirus, I had to make some tough decisions. The employees are the foundation of our company, but to keep afloat, I had to cut 12 of our 77 people and ask the rest to take a 20 percent salary cut. That was very difficult because of the real impact it has on people’s lives. So, I asked “what can I do to help people during this difficult time?” I came up with the Sunshine Fund, a program offering interest-free Hope Loans to help employees with their living expenses. The program is being facilitated through a third party to ensure confidentiality. I don’t even know who the recipients are, but I thought it was important to give people their dignity during these difficult times and to say that EWC is a company that is there for you. 

We also put in place the Salary Reimbursement Initiative, which will reimburse our employees’ 20 percent pay cuts once business rebounds. I made a commitment to make people whole, and the Hope Loans don’t need to be repaid until we’ve done that.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m very optimistic. As a small company we’ve always been committed to doing the right thing and valuing our employees. So even during challenging times we want to be a resource for our employees and to treat people fairly. It’s important to let people know that we’re in this together and that there is an end in sight. And to get through this means maintaining the respect I have for my team and the respect we all have for each other.

Managing Change

The company will be celebrating its 30th anniversary on August 1. We’ve reinvented ourselves over the years from our start as an importer of decorative objects to the full-service meeting, events, and incentive travel company we are today. But our guiding principles of integrity, respect, and creativity remain the cornerstone of how we operate. 

What’s Next?

We’ve been using the downtime during the pandemic to self-evaluate. How can we be of more value to our clients? What kind of company does EWC need to be to stay relevant? After the pandemic, meetings are going to be different. We’re thinking about our registration systems, timelines, processes, use of space in a distanced environment, and how we can be a more effective strategic partner.

In early May, EWC began offering the Joyful Living Virtual Experience, a series of online 30-minute sessions focused on helping people maintain a balanced life during the pandemic and beyond. Aimed at making social connections among employees, clients, vendors, and others, the Joyful Living Experience will offer yoga and meditation classes, parenting workshops, and more.

Business Lesson

Don’t surround yourself with people who are just “yessing” you. Surround yourself with people who know more than you, and don’t be intimidated by that.

Best Advice

Early in my career when I worked at a big company, there was someone who was a great speaker, who seemed to do everything right. I worked to emulate that person, but that caused a lot of stress because it wasn’t natural for me. The advice I got from someone who was there to see the struggle was, “Ralph, be you. Follow your own path. Be comfortable with who you are and then you’ll shine.” When I finally took that advice, that’s when I started to see success.


What has guided me all these years has been my faith, and it has led to my optimism and my belief that things always will work out. My mom instilled in me the importance of having faith and believing, and I’ve walked with those inspirations every day of my life. 



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