Last year, Darden sent representatives to the Out and Equal Workplace Summit. This event offers seminars, workshops and teaching opportunities for the LGBT workplace community. The goal is to provide attendees with information and resources to create an “out and equal” workplace. Darden was a sponsor of the event. Many large companies were represented. I found it wonderful to see so many corporations advocating for all employees to feel like they can come to work as their authentic, genuine selves and especially to see Darden as a sponsor of the event. After leaving the conference, those of us who attended will be sharing everything we learned with other members of the organization at an upcoming Lunch and Learn. It was refreshing to see how well Darden already does to create an inclusive environment and to learn other ways we can leverage our growing Pride Alliance ERG and continue to expand it.
Outside of Darden’s walls, Pride Alliance is also very active in the community. Many members of the Darden family participated in the Come Out with Pride parade in Orlando. Beyond just participating in the parade, we had an information booth promoting our core values of Diversity and Inclusion at the event. We had a great turnout from employees from the Restaurant Support Center and all our area restaurants ready to help staff the booth and participate in all the festivities.
In one of the most fulfilling experiences of last year, I joined members of our Pride Alliance ERG and hundreds of other individuals who either rode their bicycles or volunteered as support crew to complete the 165-mile bike ride from Miami to Key West as part of the SMART Ride (Southern Most AIDS/HIV Ride Twenty-Thirteen). This bike ride raises awareness and makes a real and significant difference in the lives of those infected, affected or at risk for HIV/AIDS. I raised $1,420. The overall total raised this year was $1,047,514. Every penny raised by the SMART Ride goes directly to non-profit organizations that help people with HIV/AIDS. One of the best aspects of the experience was seeing one of our Olive Garden restaurants donate the opening dinner and one of our Red Lobster restaurants donate the closing lunch to all who participated. Yard House also hosted a leadership dinner for about 30 people. It was truly an amazing, life changing event. I’m already looking forward to the 2014 ride!
We have many more activities led by our Pride Alliance ERG this year, such as an upcoming AIDS Walk, where we’ll walk as a Darden team. I truly appreciate Darden living and breathing its core values and seeing the great level of community involvement. I’m proud to work for an organization that supports its LGBT community.