Editor’s note: The Employee Resource Groups are an integral part of Inclusion and Diversity at Darden. Open to anyone, they include Pride Alliance, African American, Women’s, Hispanic, Asian and Dares (about creativity and innovation) and provide a forum for members to share their unique perspectives and ideas.
Today marks the first anniversary of the tragic events at Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016. It feels like an appropriate time to reflect on what took place and how our Darden family joined in to support the Central Florida community in its time of need.
Early that Sunday morning, news started trickling in … 20 … 30 … 49 killed, many more wounded. I sat numb in front of the TV, head and chest pounding with each new report. Endless text messages and Facebook updates accounted for friends and family. Among them was a message from my leader at work, “Are you all right?”
As we struggled to understand what was happening, Darden leaders not only worked to organize support for team members in our local restaurants and at the Restaurant Support Center but also for the Orlando community.
When I came into the office the next day, our team gathered to share what they knew and who had been affected. I talked with Pride Alliance friends throughout the day to see how they were holding up. Each of the day’s interactions began with a hesitant smile and the question, “Are your family and friends okay?”
That evening, we attended a vigil on the lawn of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Local political, spiritual and civic leaders took to the stage to provide comfort and hope for a way forward. Among them were Darden executives delivering a $500,000 contribution to the One Orlando fund. I swelled with pride. How fortunate I am to work for a company that cares so much for our community.
As we worked to heal, we felt support at each step. Team members at the Restaurant Support Center gathered for a photo to show that we were #OrlandoStrong. With hands in the shape of a heart, we found the strength to smile together. Our Inclusion and Diversity leader organized a panel discussion with community leaders to talk about the effects of the tragedy and ongoing safety efforts.
And here we are a year later, preparing to commemorate Orlando United Day. As I look back, it’s because of all these efforts that I remember the goodness and the light that emerged from a very dark time.