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Inclusion Inspired: Leslie's Journey
Published Aug. 22, 2022

At Aveanna, we celebrate our differences and the unique contributions that each team member makes. Business Integrations Manager Leslie believes that to really embrace our differences, we need to get to know each other. In that spirit, she shared her journey with us, reflecting on difficulties her family has overcome and the support she receives from her Aveanna team.

What are some aspects of your identity that you celebrate?

First and foremost, I celebrate my family. My wife and I have been together for 18 years, and we have a 22-year-old daughter. In the early years together, we didn’t know other LGBTQIA parents in our area. It was important to me that our daughter see families like ours but also that other families got to know one like ours. Pride always gives us a chance to get to know other LGBTQIA parents and children, but I’ve also made an effort in our neighborhood and school communities to let them see that our family is just like theirs: we do laundry, make dinner, and do homework and we struggle, celebrate, and love like traditional families do.

What does inclusion mean to you, and why is it important?

Because I believe fear of the unknown is at the root of most intolerance and bigotry, I think representation and knowledge are key steps in battling it. Often in our relationship, my wife, Heather, and I have been the first lesbian family that a new friend or acquaintance has spent time with. We’ve heard responses that we weren’t what they expected and how wonderful the experience was. You want to shake your head and ask what they expected; but ultimately, it’s just blowing up negative mythology that never was the truth. Aveanna’s ERGs give employees a safe place to experience other orientations, cultures, families, and abilities and therefore the opportunity to learn from another perspective.

How have you experienced inclusion at Aveanna?

I’ve been privileged to be in a safe place at Aveanna to be out and open in my relationship. Even back in 2004 when I first started working for Tony Strange and Rod Windley, my family was welcomed, and I did not have to fear for my job if anyone knew. Aveanna has been the same. This June, during Pride month, Alex from the DEI team created an Aveanna Pride background for an ERG call. Next thing I know, my entire team joins another call, and they are all displaying the Pride background. Most of the employees on that team do not identify as LGBTQIA but still wanted to show their support. It meant more than they could possibly know.

What was the moment you knew your sexual orientation would have a profound impact on your life?

I can’t point to one specific moment, but there are moments in places where we don’t feel safe. While I am out and live my life that way, there are still times and places where we have to be careful and hide who we are because it could be dangerous for us. Sometimes that just means name calling and slurs, but other times it could be violence. We don’t get to let our guard down in new places until we know.

Is there anyone at Aveanna who has inspired your journey? If so, how?

I would have to say everyone. It’s the person on a call who asks me if my wife enjoyed our weekend trip. It’s my boss who asked to take my wife and I to dinner next time she’s in town. And it’s all the employees that wished me a Happy Pride in June. They are small, normal, not out of the ordinary things, but the acceptance you feel when your family is just part of the “normal” daily conversation is precious and priceless.

How have you grown personally or professionally while at Aveanna?

I’ve been fortunate to be part of a great team at Aveanna. I’ve been encouraged to step outside of the experience I brought with me to take on new projects and develop my skills. That can only happen in an environment where your leaders support that kind of growth and initiative. The team I work with is filled with talented people who I learn from daily.