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Archives for September 17, 2015

Bluffton president illustrates ‘Power of Purple’ at annual forum

Staff Reports

BLUFFTON—“The Power of Purple” is a new phrase at Bluffton University, but the concept is as old as the institution, Bluffton’s president said Tuesday.

It’s about bringing people and ideas together for a greater purpose, like red and blue together make purple—Bluffton’s main school color. And “Bluffton has always been about The Power of Purple,” said Dr. James M. Harder, who went on to illustrate it with five stories that comprised his annual President’s Forum address.

A greater purpose in 1899

At the dawn of the 20th century, the village of Bluffton had about 2,000 residents, new hookups for home telephones and electricity and “a sense of commercial optimism,” owing in part to the pumping of oil from recently discovered fields around the village and the region, Harder noted.

At the same time, many Mennonite farmers and small businessmen were part of the extended community—also including the Pandora area—where their Swiss forebears had settled beginning in the 1830s.

“By the late 1800s, some of the more progressive Mennonites were interested in developing a college so their children would have opportunities for further studies leading to ministry, teaching, commerce and other activities,” the president explained. “The interests of these Mennonite leaders intersected with those of other Bluffton town leaders and businessmen, who shared the desire for their growing community to reap the many advantages of becoming a ‘college town.’

“In short, in what might be called Bluffton’s first Power of Purple moment, these two groups of unusual allies—farmers and town residents—worked together to found what was originally known as Central Mennonite College.”

Fast forward 116 years, and the university has over 14,800 living alumni in 49 states and 48 countries. In “yet another Power of Purple act,” he said, many of them contribute financially to their alma mater, most often to support student financial aid and campus improvements. Last year, those contributions exceeded $3.6 million, making it one of Bluffton’s best giving years ever.

Creating Bluffton’s beauty

Much of the campus started as open fields, Harder pointed out, but the wooded campus of today was an outgrowth of an ongoing, “widely shared ethic of stewardship of nature” that started with early presidents and faculty members.

“But perhaps two individuals should receive special Power of Purple credit for their efforts and foresight in this regard,” he continued, citing longtime Bluffton trustees Oliver Diller (1943-73) and James Bassett (1987-2011).

Diller, a 1930 Bluffton graduate who went on to earn a Ph.D. in forestry and a job as a state forester in Wooster, Ohio, planted many trees himself on trips back to Bluffton for trustees’ meetings.

Bassett, an award-winning landscape architect from Lima, Ohio, contributed to several rounds of campus master planning during his years on the board, and continues to help situate and refine landscaping and design elements for a new science building now in the planning stages.

Also contributing to the campus aesthetic is “a rich heritage” of outdoor sculptures and other art, the president said, recalling “Power of Purple moments” that helped make some of that art possible.

In the case of the Centennial Hall Sculpture Garden, his predecessor, Dr. Lee Snyder, was part of a group that was imagining ways in which artwork could complement Centennial Hall when the academic center opened in 2000, Harder related. Gregg Luginbuhl, now a professor of art emeritus, had “an inspiration” that Snyder embraced—to eschew purchase of one or two pieces and instead split the available funds into grants that covered the cost of raw materials for multiple sculptures, which were created by alumni artists and others with donated labor.

Today’s campus improvements

The Power of Purple has also been manifested in several new campus improvements, including the Alumni Field project, which has brought artificial turf and resurfaced running track and field event venues to Salzman Stadium.

A long-range facilities master plan completed by the board of trustees about 15 months ago identified a list of institutional needs and priorities. Among them was dealing with chronic drainage challenges and upkeep expenses associated with the former grass football field and deteriorated track surface.

Several trustees “took the initiative to help Bluffton achieve the new turf field by leading a fund-raising effort among what ended up being 196 Bluffton alumni and friends—many of them former football players—to collectively raise the $750,000 required for this project,” the president said.

In addition, the trustee leaders suggested that “to capture the true Power of Purple nature of their joint efforts, the new turf field should receive the new name of Alumni Field,” he continued. “That is a most appropriate name for a new field at Bluffton—a field made possible by the generosity of so many former students, and one that will be used intensively by current and future Bluffton students,” not only for football games and practice, but also, as needed, for soccer, early spring practice for baseball and softball teams, intramurals and other events.

“Alumni Field is the Power of Purple.”

He also cited two student-initiated projects—two new outdoor basketball courts and a fire circle with benches near Adams Bridge—as “Power of Purple improvements,” along with the renovated Hirschy Hall lobby, which was funded largely with a gift from the class of 1965.

Thinking and learning together

At Bluffton, “we value the importance of being together in our learning processes for the strongest outcomes—Power of Purple learning,” Harder said. “Even in our growing number of online courses, we do them in a way that all the students are online at the same time with full voice and video Internet connections from wherever they are, so that students and faculty can interact with each other much as if they were sitting together in the same classroom.”

The annual civic engagement theme represents “one of Bluffton’s signature ways of thinking and learning together about a topic of significance to society,” he said. This year’s theme is “Gender Roles, Relationships, Realities,” which will be explored throughout the academic year, culminating with presentations by students, faculty and staff on Civic Engagement Day next spring.

A special academic event this year is the Mennonite education conference that will bring leaders, teachers and scholars to campus Oct. 16-18. Coinciding with the conference is the launch of a book on 20th-century Mennonite historian and Bluffton faculty member C. Henry Smith by Dr. Perry Bush, a Bluffton professor of history.

Smith, also an entrepreneur who founded Citizens National Bank in Bluffton, was widely known as a public intellectual who spoke to audiences throughout the region about topics of significance. “He didn’t know it then, but Dr. Smith was demonstrating Bluffton’s Power of Purple in that process as he sought to build greater public awareness and understanding,” Harder maintained.

‘It’s all about relationships!’

The president closed with a tribute to Dr. Donald Schweingruber, vice president and dean of student life emeritus, who died Sept. 12 following a long struggle with cancer.

“It’s all about relationships!” was Schweingruber’s favorite phrase, and it has been engraved into the back of a metal bench installed in his honor this summer in front of Sauder Visual Arts Center.

“Indeed, the good life is all about good relationships,” Harder agreed. “And Don understood that better than most as he modeled and taught the importance of relationships to generations of Bluffton students” from 1972 until his retirement in 2005.

He had remained a close friend since then, the president added, recalling a “special Power of Purple moment” on Aug. 21 when Schweingruber was able to come to campus to see the new bench.

“Bluffton University will miss him dearly.”

The next stories

“As we know, Bluffton is a very special place that excels in bringing things together, in ways that create a vibrant, diverse, faith-based teaching and learning community,” Harder said. “That’s the real Power of Purple as we experience it.”

“What will be the next Power of Purple stories in this unfolding narrative of Bluffton University?” he asked his largely student audience. “They will be yours. Now it is your story to write, to join, to be part of Bluffton’s Power of Purple legacy.”

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The Man In the Zebra Print Suit: At Home With "Fashion and NBA Superfan …

(Photo by David X Prutting/

It’s 9:30am on a recent Sunday and James Goldstein — or Jim, as he prefers to be called — is about to give us a tour of his glass mansion, known as the Sheats Goldstein Residence, nestled in the Hollywood Hills. Goldstein is a man about town and hard to miss with his unique fashion sense (think: snakeskin or zebra print suits accessorized with cowboy hats and boots). While the source of his income is murky, he’s often described as a ‘billionaire NBA superfan’ — he attends over one hundred NBA games per season, mostly sitting court side and even traveling to catch a game. It’s a commitment only matched by his love of fashion; he’s frequently spotted front row at fashion weeks in New York, London, Milan and Paris.

As we make our way down the extended palm tree-lined drive and eventually to the front door, we catch a glimpse of Jim in his natural habitat, lounging on the couch in tennis gear reading the morning paper. He greets us with a handshake and takes us on a tour that starts off at the pool area, which we recognize immediately from a photo shoot starring Kendall Jenner (the home is a sought-after location for fashion shoots and has also been featured in movies like Charlie’s Angels).

Jim then leads us along a marble walled pathway toward his bedroom where we see pictures of him with Kate Moss, John Galliano, and many others, stacked on a chest of drawers next to a ‘JG’ initialed Goyard hat box. We walk together to his prized closet, which is organized by season, and he shows us some of his favorite pieces, including an extravagant Saint Laurent snakeskin jacket and a beautiful Lanvin leather number. When we ask him if he’s found anything special for this coming season, a look of worry appears on his face and he responds with “No, I haven’t seen anything I like. I’m concerned about this season.” As we walk out onto the balcony, which offers the best view of Los Angeles, we discover that the wooden terrace lifts up to unveil a bubbling hot tub. Paradise. We finish the tour at Club James, a new addition to the Sheats Goldstein Residence. Jim tells us that Rihanna celebrated her birthday here earlier this year and he has plans to turn this entertainment complex into one of the hottest spots in LA. After the tour, we sit down to chat where we learn more about Jim’s upbringing, his inspiration and his own fashion line, James Goldstein Couture.

Club James. (Photo by Kristin Fliehler)

Tell me about your upbringing. What brought you to Los Angeles?

I went to college at Stanford, which was my first exposure to California having grown up in Milwaukee. While I was at Stanford one of my former roommates invited me to Los Angeles and I liked it a lot so I decided to do my post grad work at UCLA to give the city a test and then I decided to stay.

What persuaded you to stay after your post-grad?

I decided to stay despite my father having a business in Wisconsin that he would have liked me to take over but I didn’t want to stay there.

What’s a typical day like in the life of Jim Goldstein?

Well I travel about 7 months of the year but a typical day when I’m here at home is to go through my emails and Instagram while I’m still in bed. Then I get up and check on my construction work, which goes on daily and has been for many, many years. I then read the newspapers and play some tennis on my new court.

Tell me about the construction, what’s going on?

Club James has been added. You could call it an entertainment complex that I have been working on for many years now. It consists of a tennis court on the top level then Club James and my offices on the second level and on the third level, which is still a long way from being finished, a huge entertainment terrace including a lap pool, dining facilities, kitchen and bar.

Who inspires you most?

At this point architecturally, I would give Zaha Hadid my number one spot along with Santiago Calatrava. That’s architecture. My other strong interests include watching a lot of basketball and going to many games here in Los Angeles. Basketball is a big part of my life. I can’t point to one person in basketball who inspires me but there are many.

Where fashion is concerned, who continues to inspire you?

Well, my favorite designers have always been John Galliano and Jean Paul Gaultier. Right now my two main sources for my own clothing choices are Balmain and Saint Laurent.

Tell me about your signature look.

I would say that my clothing tastes for myself have evolved. I try to stay as current as possible and I change my wardrobe completely every fashion season. I look around at what all the designers have to offer even though I have my favorites. As far as my signature image, that’s something that I like because it’s the opposite of the average suit and tie dresser and it shows a little bit of rebellion toward the typical way of dressing. It’s also very comfortable and I think I look great in it. Having said that, I still try to keep an open mind to everything new that comes along, I try to wear something that’s unique and has never been done before. I’m always looking for new ideas.

What advice would you give to the young people of today?

My advice is to find something in life that you can be really passionate about and then taking it all the way and I think I have done that with my architectural projects, basketball and with fashion.

With so many accomplishments and successes under your belt, what are you most proud of?

I think I’m most proud of the creation of this property. The total rebuilding of this house, the tremendous landscaping project that I’ve been working on for years. The creation of the James Turrell Skyspace and the creation of the entertainment complex. All in all this has been like a life’s work project for me and I’m very proud of the way it has turned out.

As someone who travels a lot, what’s your favorite city and why?

Paris is my favorite city. Even though I’ve been there hundreds of times I still get goosebumps when I’m walking around.

Goldstein’s living room.(Photo by Kristin Fliehler)
Where in Paris?

I’ve been staying in Saint Germain all my life and I feel like that’s my second home, I feel very comfortable there.

Favorite spot in Los Angeles aside from your home?

Aside from here, my second favorite spot is the beach on a beautiful day.

What are some of your pleasures in life?

Well certainly tennis and basketball are a big part of my life.

You recently launched your own fashion brand, James Goldstein Couture, tell me more about it.

Two of my closest friends from Milan called me one day and much to my surprise they told me that they had decided to start a line and wanted me to be the Head Designer and to have it named after me. That started a little less than two years ago and started primarily with womenswear and it is aimed at the young, hip dresser and inspired by the kind of clothing that I like to wear myself.

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50 TUSCARAWAS VALLEY TREASURES: Sugarcreek Brick Wall Sculpture tells story of …

Posted Sep. 16, 2015 at 11:43 PM


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Preservation Foundation Preps for Tour

The Park family will open up their Lake Forest manor, and all its stories, during an upcoming home and garden tour. Photography by Caitlin Collins Saville

LAKE FOREST – The walls of 565 East Deerpath might not be able to talk, but there is one incredible story living inside the home, which will be the topic of conversation as the final stop and reception site of the Lake Forest Preservation Foundation House Garden Tour on September 20.

The tour’s theme is “The Heart Of Old Lake Forest” and features some of the earliest developments in the town with homes in walking distance of the business district, Lake Forest College, and the First Presbyterian Church. “Some of the homes were constructed before the Chicago Fire. Most were among the first homes built in Lake Forest, and several have been updated and expanded with sensitivity to preservation,” says Allison Derr, vice president of programs for the Lake Forest Preservation Foundation.

At the centerpiece is 565 East Deerpath, an English Arts Crafts style house that dates back to 1909 and has since become a statuesque fixture in the downtown area of town. At the culmination of the event, guests will be able to mingle inside the first floor and lush outdoor property.

The Tudor manor was designed by famed Chicago architects Pond Pond, who were also behind the plans of Chicago’s Hull House, the Highland Park Club House, and various university student unions. It was previously owned by Arthur D. and Anna Holt Wheeler, some of the earliest graduates of Lake Forest College in the late 19th century, with Arthur going on to become instrumental in Chicago’s burgeoning telephone industry.

The Wheeler couple called their estate “Thalfried,” which is German for “peaceful valley,” according to Arthur H. Miller, Emeritus Archivist and Librarian for Special Collections at Lake Forest College, who has been among the historians to study the home. It has remained mostly intact until renovations by future owner and local architect and developer Eugune Martin in the ‘80s, which significantly added a bridge that traverses the abutting ravine to access a modified main entrance on Deerpath (previously the entrance was on Washington Road).

Today, the 2.5-acre estate is owned by the Park family, Lake Forest residents for the past 15 years who have lived in this residence since 2009. The location of the property, just a quarter mile from the downtown district and a half-mile to Lake Michigan, was instrumental in the family’s decision to purchase the home, says matriarch Jeanna Park. “We’re right in the center of town practically but it’s also very quiet and secluded since we have the ravine in front, and we often see a lot of deer coming through our property.”

The Parks were drawn to the manor’s style after living in London for five years prior to moving to Lake Forest. “The gardens [in England] are really pretty, the countryside especially is very green,” says Park who also enjoyed the traditional English gardens and cottages in the family’s old neighborhood on the west side of Lake Forest, near Inverness. Armed with that inspiration and trips to the Botanic Gardens, the Parks called on landscaping team Rocco Fiore to help achieve a similar look in the back of their home, but one that also fits in with the natural setting of the ravine that runs across the front of the property.

“We are doing some different perennial plantings in the backyard and have changed some of the front flowerbeds to be more colorful,” says Park, noting that they have not done any significant modifications past what Martin did in the ‘80s, which also offered the chance for pool renovations and resurfacing. For the Parks, keeping the open, family-friendly space was important since they have two teenage boys who like to be active outside: “We usually have a bunch of kids playing football or some kind of sport in the backyard. Our dogs enjoy the space for running and playing, too, and there are some quieter areas for relaxing and reading, or sitting outside and eating dinner.”

Though the Parks have opened their home before for various other functions for Ragdale and their Novel Affair event, as well as the Spirit of 67 Home Tour, this will be the first time their home is involved in the Lake Forest Preservation Foundation’s House Garden Tour, which celebrates its 6th annual edition and attracts upwards of 150 people. All proceeds benefit the Lake Forest Preservation Foundation projects and providing programs for members and the community.

Tickets are $85 in advance and $100 day-of-event. Patron tickets are also available for $150 as well as sponsorship opportunities. More information can be found at Lake Forest Preservation Foundation.

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Keep Mule Deer Out of Your Garden!

“I am NOT going to put the raspberries out until we get a fence up to keep the deer out of the garden!” So says my wife Sue as we discussed this summer’s garden and greenhouse.

Mule deer—thanks in part to those residents who continue feeding them in their yards—are a bane to anyone trying to start or maintain a vegetable garden. Ask anyone in Sisters (in spite of the city ordinance against feeding deer) how much it costs to battle deer bent upon eating their garden and landscaping into oblivion, and you’ll get a big frown.

Mule deer are the property of the state. Therefore, in my way of looking at this situation, the state is responsible for the behavior of their animals. One mule deer can eat from 6-to-8 pounds of hay a day, I’ve been told the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife provides fencing for hay farmers to keep foraging deer from eating the hay farmer’s income, but what about those of us with deer plundering our kitchen gardens?

Looking at the amount of forage a deer requires daily amounts to a lot of carrots, lettuce, spinach, raspberry plants, landscaping—or for some brave soul who thinks he can get way with growing it here—corn. So, one could ask, why doesn’t ODFW provide fencing for all Deschutes County residents who want to grow veggies in their kitchen garden?

Perhaps it’s time to notify ODFW that offending mule deer destroying one’s kitchen garden will be treated as personal livestock, and therefore said deer is then found guilty of trespassing on private property and is legally harvested.

No matter how you look at mule deer in our backyards, it is long past time for Deschutes County to pass a no-feeding deer ordinance like that of Sisters. In time the moochers will be chased off by pet dogs, or eliminated by hunting seasons, motor vehicles, or unfortunately, poachers.

But, in the meantime, how do we keep deer from devouring our landscaping and kitchen gardens? Well, if you Google “Keeping deer out of your garden,” you’ll bring up a zillion products that the manufacturers swear will work.

A sight I will never forget is that of Amanda Egertson, Deschutes Land Trust’s Stewardship Director, battling deer bent upon eating all the native grasses she was trying to restore in the Metolius Preserve.

Time and time again, week after week, Amanda planted more grasses and used this or that repellent, and each failed. She finally found one that worked, however, and the deer left her grasses alone—but the smell from the stuff was enough to gag a maggot.

Deer have an excellent sense of smell, so those repellants that contain predator urine and/or rotten eggs probably will work—until it rains, and it has to be applied again. There are a lot of websites for that stuff, and depending on how and when they’re applied, it may be worth checking out. But then, I’ve also heard that the methods for collecting such animal repellants are not something to discuss at the dinner table.

There are only a few ways to actually keep deer from eating you out of house and home that really work, and fencing is the best. But that said, stay away from that black plastic netting that’s almost impossible to see. We put that up and the birds around our place started running into it, so we took it down immediately. Hog-wire fencing with white string attached to poles at about 6-inch spacing, up to about 6 feet, works very well.

Sure, a guard dog will also work, but you’ll have to put up with the incessant barking. Getting up in the middle of the night to scare mule deer out of your yard every time you wife whispers, “The deer are back” works, but you’ll lose a lot of sleep, and you may bump into a cougar doing so. I’d forget that one.

Pat Callender up in BC says, “We have a ‘deer proof’ recipe in Nanaimo, British Columbia, where they [deer] come wandering through our yards and eat everything in sight! It is as follows: 1 egg yolk [only], l liter of water, and 1 tablespoon if baking powder. Mix well and spray on shrubs, trees, and roses every two weeks. Keep in tightly sealed container in your fridge until all used up.” Another person added, “I find the eggs with Tabasco sauce works also. I’ll add garlic to my next batch. 1 gallon water, 6 eggs, and Tabasco to taste!!”

But then another person warned about unintended results from the egg and garlic goop, “The egg mixture truly works on deer, and it drives the buzzards crazy looking for road kill. They [the buzzards] landed on my fence and looked for hours for their dinner.”

Another frustrated gardener came up with a repellant that’s free. “I get human hair from the woman who cuts my hair and put it around my plants. It keeps the deer away and it doesn’t smell bad. It also seems to keep rabbits and raccoons away when I put it in my veggie garden.”

Scare devices, such as sound-activated sprinklers are expensive and require a lot of effort to install, but some people swear by them as the best repellant for keeping one’s garden safe from mule deer. They’d also work to prevent your neighbor’s dog and cat from using your backyard as a waste depository.

There’s a website I found that provides a whole bunch of different methods for keeping deer out of your garden: You may like one or two of those ideas.

Whatever you find that works, please, by all means, send the Source a letter-to-the-editor and share your good news. May The Force be with you.

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Where to begin landscaping with style

When you want a landscape design that’s as functional as it is beautiful, you need St. Jacobs Country Gardens Landscape Nursery in Elmira.

Every outdoor space is unique, and the experts at St. Jacobs Country Gardens can help you transform your yard by taking into account every detail, from stonework to plant selection.

They offer free one-hour on-site consultations for landscape design and installation, including ponds. You can benefit from their knowledge and experience for great ideas to create an outdoor oasis that will meet your needs and budget.

Computer-aided design software allows you to see a scaled representation of how the completed installation will look. After design approval, you may wish to implement your dream landscape yourself, or have St. Jacobs Country Gardens’ installation team do it for you.

They can take care of every detail, which is especially important if you’ve just moved into a new home that needs complete landscaping services. Through a strong network of professional companies and suppliers, their services include creating garden sheds, custom decks and fences, interlocking patios, walkways and driveways.

If you already have a landscaped backyard and are considering adding a pond or waterfall, talk to the staff at St. Jacobs Country Gardens about bringing your dream to life. Visit their website to find inspiration for water features.

St. Jacobs Country Gardens received an Award of Excellence from Landscape Ontario — the Horticultural Trades Association — for its implementation of a stunning reflective pool with a weir and fish pond.

At their garden centre, you’ll find a large selection of pond plants for your backyard sanctuary.

For more information, call 519-664-0404. St. Jacobs Country Gardens Landscape Nursery welcomes your visit at 1661 New Jerusalem Road in Elmira, Ontario.

They create beautiful landscapes throughout the region, including Kitchener, Waterloo, Hespeler and Breslau.

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U of I Extension offers tips for end-of-season gardening

Posted Sep. 16, 2015 at 12:01 AM
Updated Sep 16, 2015 at 10:30 AM

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$2.83 an Hour Plus Tips at Olive Garden Is a Poverty Wage and Must Change

Photo Credit: MNStudio/

I live off tips and a sub-minimum wage of $2.83 an hour. As a mother to two young sons, I am barely scraping by. There have been plenty of nights where after a long day of serving unlimited breadsticks and Italian dishes to a stream of customers, I struggled to put food on my own table.

I’ve been a server at Olive Garden for two years — 730 days of living off tips and Pennsylvania’s subminimum wage of $2.83. I’ve been “paid” a near $0 paycheck once a week 104 times. My co-workers and I work long hours for a multi-billion dollar restaurant corporation, never knowing if we’ll make enough to cover rent or afford visiting the doctor that month. You can see why it’s a little difficult to stomach Olive Garden’s slogan “We’re All Family Here.”

A couple days ago, I got on a plane for the first time in my life to travel from Pittsburgh, PA where I live with my children, my 3 ½ year old and 7 week old sons, to Orlando, Florida. Tomorrow, I will be at the shareholders meeting of the largest full-service restaurant corporation in the world, Olive Garden parent company, Darden Restaurants Inc. I could quit, but Darden’s size and influence sets wage and employment standards for the entire restaurant industry. To make it better out there for servers like me, Darden needs to change.

Kelly Ditson is a server at Olive Garden and a member of the Dignity at Darden campaign.

Many of my fellow Darden employees agree. I’m part of the largest organized community of Darden employees who want to see genuine change in the company’s wages and employment practices — we call ourselves ‘Dignity At Darden.’

When Starboard Value, a hedge fund, hand-picked a brand new board for Darden a year ago, then Olive Garden employee and Dignity At Darden campaign leader, Steve Gazzo, launched a petition, “Darden: We Want A Seat At The Table,” urging the company to include fellow Darden employees — servers, cooks, bussers, bartenders, and hosts — in helping to shape  the future of the company. The petition quickly received nearly 7,000 signatures from fellow Darden employees. And at last year’s shareholders meeting, which Dignity At Darden leaders attended, the new board chair, Jeff Smith, promised to “improve value for guests and employees.”

Dignity At Darden campaign leaders returned to work willing to give the new board an opportunity to demonstrate that it was in fact different and would listen to our concerns. But in those 12 months, Dignity At Darden’s actions and my personal concerns for fair pay and treatment have been ignored by Jeff Smith and the new Darden CEO Gene Lee.

When Darden employees spoke up about their frustration with the company’s elimination of auto-gratuity (it was eliminated in January 2014), CEO Gene Lee defended the decision by saying he asked 100 or so servers who approved of the change. It might not seem like much, but when a large party takes up a lot of your shift, those tips make a big difference — we depend on those tips to pay for rent, food, childcare, and other bills. To make our point, we launched another petition to show Gene Lee and Jeff Smith that thousands of Darden workers want to #BringBackAutoGrat. It has been signed by more than 4,500 Darden employees — nearly 50 times more than the handful Gene Lee used to justify eliminating autogratuity — and has there been any response from Jeff Smith or Darden? No.

It feels a lot like Jeff Smith and Gene Lee are sacrificing the well-being of their employees to increase short-term shareholder value for the 1% through real-estate lease back schemes and breadstick promotions.

That’s why I’m among the Darden employees that will be at this year’s shareholders meeting on September 17th. Darden’s CEO Gene Lee, board chair Jeff Smith, and Darden’s shareholders will see that we are real. Our physical presence states our objection to poverty wages and our demand to be active participants in this company. By being at the shareholders meeting, Dignity At Darden campaign leaders will see that those who are in control of our financial fate are just people too, they’re mortal humans capable of compassion.

I have always been a very firm believer that actions speak louder than words, however when it comes to important issues I have kind of lingered in the background, present but not necessarily active. I want to fight as hard as I can for what I believe in, so that my family will know that I was not another hypocrite who just shook her head at the injustice around us. I need my sons to know that I actually tried to do my part in advocating for those of us struggling and too afraid to fight.

To all my Darden coworkers: if we want things to change, we will make it happen. A fair wage, fair employment practices and reinstating auto-gratuity are all things that can be accomplished. It may sound silly to say but you have to actually show up to a fight to win. And guess what? There are more of us than them.


Kelly Ditson is a server at Olive Garden, a chain owned by Darden Restaurants, and a member of the Dignity at Darden campaign. 

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4 Fall Gardening Tips That Will Save You Money All Year Long

Garden tips: How to rake leaves without ruining your love of autumn

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