Darden is committed to community involvement throughout the year, but lending a hand takes on even greater importance during the winter holidays and leading up to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday Jan. 15.
For more than a dozen years, LongHorn Steakhouse Managing Partner Leeann Pulliam has taken that commitment to heart in partnerships with local high schools. In December, the restaurant in Cleveland, TN, threw a holiday party for about 75 teens with special needs from Cleveland High School who receive job training at the restaurant.
The students enjoyed lunch, awards and a visit from Santa Claus, portrayed with extra flair by Server Brandon Fleming. He bought a large toy sack, filled it with candy and handed some to each child. “It was a showstopper,” Leeann said. “The kids went wild.”
Each of the students, accompanied by a mentor from their school, works regular hour-long shifts at the restaurant. They learn skills such as prepping food and measuring ingredients so they can find jobs after graduation. “They want to work and look forward to coming to our restaurant,” she said. “My team and I love seeing the light in their eyes.
"Helping other people is nourishment for the soul. Once you do it, it’s infectious and you want to do more. Every year my team members line up to volunteer their time so these kids can have a great party.”
Here are a few other recent examples of Darden team members giving back to their communities:
In addition, Darden restaurants donated 8 million pounds of food through the Harvest Food Donation Program in fiscal 2017. The Darden Foundation has awarded more than $86 million in grants to organizations like the Boys & Girls Clubs and Feeding America. Darden also partners with the American Red Cross to help people affected by disasters.