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Emerald Heights Celebrates LGTBQIA+ Pride Month

June 21, 2024

Emerald Heights residents and staff kicked off LGTBQIA+ Pride Month with the second annual raising of the Pride flag.

More than 50 residents and staff members gathered to celebrate Pride, diversity, equity, and inclusion. During the flag raising ceremony, Emerald Heights Executive Director, Grant Linacre; Wellness Program Coordinator, Alex Clark; Redmond Mayor Angela Birney; and two residents, David Nelson and Janny Lehmann all shared anecdotes and gave speeches.

The Emerald Heights Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee discussed the importance of the flag being flown year-round, “The colorful Pride flag serves as a beacon of hope for all who have been marginalized and reminds everyone of the importance of consciously creating a welcoming community”. Per Grant Linacre, “Emerald Heights strives to be a place where every person feels safe, respected, and valued for who they are. True progress is only achieved when we actively create an environment where diversity is celebrated and all voices are heard”.

After the ceremony, residents and staff kept the celebration going by socializing, drinking lemonade, and eating rainbow popcorn in rainbow striped popcorn containers.

Throughout Pride Month, the DEI Committee is hosting several more Pride events including the “Tie-DEI: A tie-dye event” to dye rainbow bandanas in anticipation of the Campus Circle Pride Walk on June 21st. Residents will be donning their new rainbow tie-dye gear in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Seattle Pride Parade.

While June is a great time to celebrate Pride, residents and staff represent inclusivity every day within the community. Kaitlynd Hewitt, Executive Assistant and leader of the DEI Committee, shared that after the first flag raising ceremony, she has seen more residents proudly line the hallways with rainbow flags and put rainbow stickers on their name badges. Residents have also started to wear more pride gear, like affirming t-shirts with rainbows and fun slogans. It’s now common to find a progress pride flag adorning a pencil cup or bulletin board in staff offices as well.

The DEI Committee has operated year-round since 2022. Its mission is to inform the community about diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, remove barriers to underrepresented populations, and to create opportunities which celebrate and honor the unique qualities, wisdom and lived experiences of all people who engage and interact with the Emerald Heights community.

“We are focused on ensuring Emerald Heights is a place where everyone feels welcomed and respected,” says Nicole McCarthy, director of resident services. “Celebrating Pride is not just about the events in June; it’s about embracing and honoring the diversity of our internal community and the broader world around us year-round.”

McCarthy adds, “Whether through our DEI initiatives, encouraging residents and staff to be themselves, or simply having open conversations, we’re committed to making Emerald Heights a place where everyone belongs. In line with our commitment, Emerald Heights recently signed the Commitment to Caring Pledge through the Long-Term Care Equality Index (LEI). This pledge signifies our dedication to providing an inclusive and affirming environment for all current and future residents and staff.”

Since the first Pride event, numerous residents have been open about their family members or friends that are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. They often share how difficult it was for their loved one to come out and the wide variety of reactions they have received from others.

By hosting monthly inclusion events and Table Talks, Emerald Heights creates more opportunities to have conversations about diversity and inclusion for both the residents and staff.  While we have always been an inclusive community, the past few years has been a more purposeful effort to create and celebrate our inclusive culture.

“It feels great to be part of an accepting community at Emerald Heights,” says Hewitt, “For me, Pride is all about the ability to live as your authentic self and feel comfortable living and working in a place that accepts you for you. Every person on this campus is unique in their own way and the diversity of all residents and staff members should be celebrated.”