Darden’s African-American Network (DAAN), of which I serve as co-chair, shares the late civil-rights leader’s dedication to strengthening our communities through volunteerism.
DAAN embodies the spirit of community and volunteerism. Every winter, we conduct a holiday toy drive at the Restaurant Support Center (RSC) in Orlando, FL. Last month, we collected about 300 toys donated by RSC team members and their families. The toys were given to children at the Boys & Girls Club of Eatonville, FL.
It warmed my heart to know that 300 children would have a special gift to open.
DAAN has two other important areas of focus — to provide team members with opportunities for professional and personal development and to educate Darden about African-American culture.
When I joined Darden 12 years ago as an employee relations specialist, I knew I was capable of doing much more. Once I joined DAAN, which provided me with access to a community of people who not only looked like me but were also striving to grow with the company, I immediately felt a sense of belonging.
In 2012, I attended a panel discussion called a Fireside Chat at an executive’s home. We discussed leadership competencies and career progressions, which led to me to create a career action plan. I stayed in touch with the leaders and team members I met at the Fireside Chat, and I believe my networking and action plan played a big role in my promotion to my current role as a director.
DAAN also plans special events to celebrate Black History Month in February at Darden. Each year we all learn something new about African-American culture in these exciting events.
This year’s theme will be “The Great Migration,” the relocation of more than 6 million African-Americans from the rural South to cities in the North, Midwest and West between 1916 and 1970. We will highlight culinary influences from that time to discover new paths ahead in culinary and beverage innovation such as veganism, featuring a local chef; a wine tasting; and a grilling competition featuring little-known Orlando barbecue joints.
I couldn’t be prouder to co-chair DAAN and help enrich Darden team members and improve our community through service. I intend to give back everything that has been given to me.