Darden Provides Support to Louisiana Flooding Victims

September 16, 2016

Louisiana is still recovering after 13 people were killed, at least 60,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, and thousands of people were displaced during several days of flooding that began Aug. 12.

It was the worst U.S. natural disaster since Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and Darden, our restaurants and team members were proud to join countless others who offered flooding relief aid:

  • The Darden Foundation donated $100,000 to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation Flood Relief Fund for victims — in addition to the $500,000 we give the American Red Cross every year for assistance in natural disasters like this one.
  • Our signature employee giving program, Darden Dimes, has provided $57,000 in grants so far to assist team members who lost their homes, cars and belongings — representing the very best about our culture: team members across all our restaurants helping each other in times of need.
  • Olive Garden Culinary Manager Taylor Valois in Kenner joined six friends in four boats and rescued about 40 people and 10 cats and dogs in the Denham Springs area. “There were hundreds of regular people like me in boats saving lives,” he said. “Sometimes people would call us and ask us to check on certain people and at other times we heard people screaming for help. We went out there to help people and that was it. I have three family members who lost everything. It’s very humbling.”
  • The Olive Garden restaurants in Baton Rouge and Lafayette opened their doors to displaced team members, offering shelter to about 40 people.
  • Prep and Line Cook Kathy Blackmon at the LongHorn Steakhouse in Gulf Shores, AL, felt she had to do something. She and her husband, Doug, owners of a distribution company, and other Darden team members gathered donations of food and supplies from LongHorn Steakhouse restaurants and guests in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. There were enough emergency supplies to fill a tractor-trailer, which they drove to the LongHorn Steakhouse restaurant in Denham Springs and delivered on Aug. 26, soon after the flooded restaurant reopened. “We were honored to do it,” Kathy said. “At Darden and LongHorn Steakhouse, we take care of each other.”
  • The Olive Garden restaurant in Bossier City partnered with other Olive Garden restaurants in Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma to fill more than 250 backpacks with school supplies for children in Lafayette. Many general managers donated money for the supplies. “Everybody put their best foot forward to make this successful,” said Bossier City General Manager Sinclair Washington. “We talk a lot at our restaurant about being able to win at the table, but we also want to win with our community. And it’s not just our community within a 5- or 10-mile radius, but even if it’s three hours away.”
  • The Lafayette Olive Garden fed 210 people at the Heymann Performing Arts Center, which was turned into a shelter for those displaced by the flooding. The team, in partnership with the Baton Rouge Olive Garden, also fed groups of rescuers and AmeriCorps NCCC FEMA Corps officials.

Seven Darden restaurants were affected: the Olive Garden restaurants in Covington, Hammond, Lafayette and Baton Rouge, and the LongHorn Steakhouse restaurants in Covington, Lafayette and Denham Springs. The greatest damage occurred at flooded Denham Springs, which reopened Aug. 24 after a massive effort:

  • Facilities Manager Lane Johnson led the construction teams and worked around the clock.
  • About 40 team members volunteered to help with cleaning.
  • Olive Garden General Manager Denis Beck and other team members from Hammond, LA, delivered a feast of Braised Beef Tortelloni, Chicken Parmigiana, Five Cheese Ziti, Salad, Breadsticks and Chocolate Lasagna to the tired team members and construction workers.

“I really appreciate how hard our construction team and team members worked to get the restaurant open again, especially Lane,” said LongHorn Steakhouse Director of Operations Mike Samuel. “I am thankful for everyone’s support of our team members and our community.”