*Writer Sara Lavenduski and Photographer Sean Bolton contributed to this report.
The summer afternoon air was thick and muggy, but Jessica Boccardo was breathing easy.
The ASI data coordinator was feeling good as she walked around company headquarters with many others in the Diversity & Inclusion Council’s Pride Month Fun Walk. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Boccardo felt the Pride Parade-inspired event demonstrated that ASI is a company where values like inclusivity are lived, not just spoken about.
“It lets me know it’s okay to be myself and express myself at work,” Boccardo said. “There’s support and acceptance here.”
The Fun Walk was one of several Pride Month initiatives that ASI’s Diversity & Inclusion Council spearheaded during June. There was also a virtual tour of the William Way LGBT Community Center in Philadelphia, a cause-supporting donation drive, and an everyone’s-invited happy hour after the Walk.
“ASI’s participation in Pride events, including support of Williams Way in Philadelphia, the Fun Walk and happy hour employee mixer, reflects our commitment to an inclusive and diverse workplace,” said Carol Albright, ASI’s senior vice president of human resources. “By celebrating Pride, we are building a culture of acceptance, respect and understanding, making it a place where everyone can thrive and feel valued.”
The Fun Walk occurred the afternoon of June 14. Employees, some colorfully dressed and carrying rainbow Pride flags to help enliven the event, did an easy lap around the building and then gathered for a happy hour where they were joined by others showing their support. The crowd included many LGBTQ+ allies.
Rick Angeloni was among them. The executive design director of ASI Creative Labs made the walk waving a flag. It was personal for him: He was walking not only to show support for LGBTQ+ colleagues and the community more broadly, but also for his son.
“Even before my son came out, I was supportive of equal rights and genuine inclusion for everyone, but my son being gay adds something extra to it,” Angeloni said. “It’s important that we work to create a world where everyone feels accepted. It makes me feel good that we have events like this at ASI that show support for that.”
Rachel Barlow expressed similar sentiments. The electronic editor here at ASI was participating in the Walk, carrying in mind her friends in the LGBTQ+ community. “I think it’s important that we show that who you love doesn’t matter; being a good person does,” said Barlow. “I like that we have events like this because it shows inclusivity and acceptance really matters at ASI.’
Naturally, promotional products were part of the event. Before the Walk and during the happy hour, attendees could pick up D&I Council-branded merch that included sunglasses, wristbands and can coolers.
“No one should suffer oppression because of who they love,” said Premier Accounts Lead Gillian Thomas, who took part in the Pride Fun Walk and happy hour. “Allyship and support are important. I hope events like this send the message, ‘You are fine the way you are.’”
ASI kicked off its Pride Month festivities with a virtual tour of William Way LGBT Community Center in Philadelphia.
Staff of the nearly 50-year-old organization gave ASI employees an overview of the services provided, including the city’s largest LGBTQ+ cultural archive that houses historical artifacts like paintings, personal scrapbooks, AV materials and campaign signage; live and virtual educational programming; support for those in recovery from substance abuse. In addition, there are apartments for LGBTQ+ seniors, who were often on the frontlines fighting for change in the early years of the gay liberation movement and have experienced discrimination and isolation.
“Philly grows when the LGBTQ+ community grows,” said Executive Director Chris Bartlett, who’s worked at the Center for 13 years. “We want to help people overcome COVID isolation, especially when they sometimes had to stay with family who weren’t always supportive. We want everyone to live longer, healthier lives. We want to offer support for youth, adults and the elderly, and we want to be a central hub of community organizing in the city.”
ASI staff heard powerful testimonies from John Anderies, director of the John J. Wilcox, Jr. Archives; Toree, a member of the Sober & Gay group that offers addiction recovery support; Mary Gross, a senior who lives with her partner in the John C. Anderson Apartments; and Kendall Stephens, a trans support group facilitator at the Center and a student at Temple University who experienced a number of personal challenges, including employment and food insecurity, before attending social programming and peer counseling at William Way.
“The Center changed my life,” Stephens said. “Lots of doors had been closed in my face and dreams deferred. Now I’m at Temple thanks to William Way. I found my voice here and now I’m able to empower others.”
Throughout June, ASI is running a payroll deduction fundraiser for the William Way Community Center. Here’s how it works:
The presentation had a profound impact on employees. “I was impressed by the range of services provided by the Center,” said Theodore Young, a credit specialist in ASI’s Finance department. “They’re truly committed to supporting the wellbeing of the LGBTQ+ community. The presenters had a lot of energy and enthusiasm for the work they do, which was refreshing to see.”
Dee Iavecchia, team lead for Advertising/Marketing Services and a coordinator for Production & Advertising Operations, was personally touched by the testimonies. As a teenager, she had a closeted friend who suffered for it.
“‘John’ endured terrible teasing because of the way he carried himself,” Iavecchia said. “Sadly, in his late 20s, he committed suicide, and he finally came out in the letter he left behind with his last words. If times had been different and there were places of acceptance like William Way, he and so many others could have been free to be who they were and love who they loved, rather than their lives ending in tragic loneliness. Places like William Way, and those who support it, give us hope for a better future.”
“We need to do more to come to the aid of the most vulnerable among us, and I am so inspired that places like William Way are leading the way.”
“The staff has a reverence for preserving queer history and prioritizing underserved individuals at the intersection of identity and sexuality who also face homelessness, inequitable access to education, or addiction,” Haberek said. “It reinforced my belief that striving for the minimum of broad cultural acceptance and defense of basic human rights isn’t acceptable. We need to do more to come to the aid of the most vulnerable among us, and I am so inspired that places like William Way are leading the way.”