Tragedy Spurs LongHorn Steakhouse Team to Open Hearts and Wallets

Sep 20, 2016 8:15 PM ET

Behind the success story at the LongHorn Steakhouse in Cartersville, GA, where every single team member donates to the emergency assistance program Darden Dimes, lies a tragedy.

Managing Partner Patricia France doesn’t mind talking about the accident. In fact, she tells every team member who joins her at LongHorn Steakhouse about it. That reminder that they, too, might need help someday propelled her team to 100 percent participation in Darden Dimes, an employee-funded program designed to provide financial assistance to team members facing emergency and catastrophic situations.  

Three years ago, when she was a culinary manager in Cornelia, GA, her fiancé, Joshua Cousins, was badly burned after he tripped and fell into a campfire. He spent six weeks in the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta with third-degree burns on his back, and she needed to be by his side for the first two weeks. 

A $450 Darden Dimes grant allowed her to take that time off work. “I was living in a hotel near the burn center because for the first couple of weeks, doctors didn’t know if he’d make it,” she said. “He had multiple skins grafts. It was pretty intense.” 

He fully recovered, and the couple are now back to enjoying their favorite pastime, hiking and backpacking. “We love to camp and hike and were concerned that he’d never be able to wear a backpack again, but he can, and there’s no discomfort.” They recently backpacked in the Cohutta Mountains in north Georgia, a favorite spot of theirs.

“I  like to share my story so team members know that if something terrible happens to them, help is available.” — Patricia France

“It’s not just something in a brochure, it’s real," she said. "I also share stories of other team members whom I helped obtain Darden Dimes grants. Some people are skeptical, but once they hear the stories, they sign up.”

So far this year, Darden Dimes has helped employees and their families with 1,355 grants totaling about $800,000. 

“Darden Dimes is a warm fuzzy that Darden provides, a program for team members funded by team members. It gives you peace of mind that if something terrible happens, Darden is going to be there for you,” Patricia said. “Not many companies can say that.”