Olive Garden Helps Lift Team Members from Homelessness

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Olive Garden Helps Lift Team Members from Homelessness

Rodney Harris (left) and Patrick Dickinson, once homeless, are now valuable team members with Olive Garden.
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Thanks to @OliveGarden & hard work, these two men fought the long road out of homelessness. http://bit.ly/1rCJUi3 @Darden


Two formerly homeless Orlando men now have good jobs at Olive Garden and roofs over their heads, and they could not be more grateful.

Thursday, June 9, 2016 - 9:40am

Two employees at an Olive Garden in Orlando aren’t being overdramatic when they say the restaurant may have saved their lives. Good, old-fashioned hard work and a caring atmosphere helped put Rodney Harris and Patrick Dickinson on the long road out of homelessness.

Both men, strangers to each other but not to hardship, walked into the Sand Lake Road location off the street and asked for jobs two weeks apart a little more than a year ago, said General Manager Jenny Ball. 

Patrick began as a busser but has been promoted to bartender. He also works as a server and is training to be a to-go specialist. Rodney was a dishwasher who was recently promoted to line cook. “They have really big hearts and want to achieve more in their lives,” she said. "They have made much progress. Both men have been able to stop living in shelters, and Jenny has coached them about budgeting and saving." 

She said she offered Patrick a job because he promised he would never let her down if she gave him a chance. “I could see that it truly came from deep inside him.” 

Patrick said his future is much brighter now. “My whole world collapsed around me when I lost my 15-year career through a real estate deal,” he said. “The first words I heard when I walked into the Olive Garden were welcome and family. I have learned since then that adversity is only temporary. My ultimate goal is management, and I would like to pay forward what my managers have done for me.”

Jenny said she hired Rodney because of his excitement and his passion for people. “He really feels that working at Olive Garden makes him special, and that’s how we want all our team members to feel.” 

“I am excited about being a line cook because I’m learning every day,” Rodney said. “And my Olive Garden family is always there for me.”

“Rodney and Patrick are working hard to turn their lives around. I give guidance, but they are putting in the effort,” Jenny said. “Olive Garden is more than just a restaurant. It’s a way to give people opportunities. Rodney and Patrick would do anything for me, and they would do anything for Olive Garden.”

Keywords: Diversity & Human Resources | Business & Trade | Corporate Social Responsibility | Jobs | Olive Garden | darden | family | homeless