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I Traded Homelessness for Warm Home at Olive Garden

April 02, 2019

by Kelly Breeden

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I Traded Homelessness for Warm Home at Olive Garden

Jason and Kelly Breeden, who work for Olive Garden in Grand Junction, CO, have come a long way since she suffered a brain injury and they had nowhere to live.

Photo Credit: Olive Garden

I Traded Homelessness for Warm Home at Olive Garden

April 02, 2019

by Kelly Breeden

General Topics:
Brand Categories:

I work for a magical place where memories are made, wishes come true and lives get better every day. I am a culinary and service professional and a certified trainer for new restaurant openings at Olive Garden.

I joined the restaurant in Grand Junction, CO, in 2017, when I was a homeless mother recovering from a brain injury after I fell on ice and hit my head. During a long recovery, I learned to walk again, and now I was trying to put my life back together. Olive Garden had every reason not to hire me, but the manager who interviewed me believed in me enough to send me on to meet with General Manager Oualid Marghin, who hired me as a server.

It was May in the high desert and very hot, so my husband, Jason Breeden, would walk with me to work 2.5 miles every day to make sure I didn’t become dehydrated. I washed my uniform at a laundromat and carried it in a bag so it would stay clean and wrinkle-free until I changed into it at a mall. A few months later, the restaurant hired Jason as a busser. 

While I trained at Olive Garden, I learned that my many years of restaurant experience meant little because Olive Garden is different. It offers a caring culture and provides meaningful experiences to every guest and team member.

After a short time at Olive Garden, my husband and I had saved enough money to move into a studio apartment. Our team members made sure we had a bed and couch. When Thanksgiving approached and they learned we lacked a stove and oven, they provided us with a holiday meal. We were incredibly moved by their compassion. 

As I grew into the job and learned everything I could, my managers encouraged me to learn other jobs. I was unsure because I didn’t want to give up interacting with guests, shaping their experiences and showing them the beauty I have found in Olive Garden. 

After being inspired by other team members, though, I realized I could provide that same service to my team and create even more experiences for my guests, so I spoke with Manager Elias Sampson about moving into new roles. My managers provided me with a clear path of development, and before long, I was promoted into my current job. I have just learned the exciting news that I will become a manager in the coming months.

Each of my managers has taught me something valuable and given me experiences to perfect winning behaviors. They taught me to always put the guest first and to be there for my team. They taught me to keep developing my skills and how to balance life and work. They taught me to express my passion and be adaptable. Most importantly, they taught me that leadership is about how many people you take with you as you climb and to never give up.

Olive Garden has saved my life and enhanced life for my whole family. Our strong culture sets us apart as our leaders encourage development so we can make our dreams come true. Every day I do my best to give back to my team, my guests and my community and provide the same opportunities to others that Olive Garden has given me. That's the magic — to be of service on many levels to many people — and Jason and I are endlessly grateful to be shining examples of what is possible at Olive Garden and Darden.