In honor of MLK, Frito-Lay employees pledge to “Be the Voice” of change

by Ginni Beam, Special Contributor | January 18, 2019

For nearly three decades, Frito-Lay North America (a division of PepsiCo) has paid tribute to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a celebration of diversity and inclusion.

Frito-Lay’s 29th annual MLK series of events brought both excitement and inspiration to the company’s Plano headquarters. In addition to honoring Dr. King’s accomplishments, Frito-Lay has spent the past week renewing its commitment to growing the company’s diverse talent base.

Frito-Lay chose this year’s theme — “Be the Voice” — to encourage its team members to be more proactive in giving of their time and making a difference. All through 2019, Frito-Lay employees will be championing change within their organization, advocating for justice in their communities and otherwise working toward realizing Dr. King’s dream of civil and economic rights for all Americans.

New to this year’s week of events was a Community Service Fair in support of Frito-Lay’s recently introduced Southern Dallas Thrives initiative. Launched in October 2018, Southern Dallas Thrives aims to make meaningful improvements in the lives of citizens residing in one of the city’s most historically underserved neighborhoods. To achieve this initiative’s ambitious goals, Frito-Lay is partnering with the PepsiCo Foundation, PepsiCo’s Food for Good nutrition team and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.

The Community Service Fair, held on Frito-Lay’s campus, presented employees with opportunities to interact with a handful of United Way agencies recruiting volunteers for Southern Dallas Thrives. Those agencies included Bonton Farms, Carter’s House, ChildCareGroup, Feeding America, Harmony Community Center, South Oak Cliff Collegiate Academy and Vogel Alcove.  

The Community Service Fair is just the first of what will become a regular series of service-oriented activities offered to Frito-Lay associates. Going forward, Frito-Lay associates will take one Thursday out of each month to sign up for organized volunteer opportunities with community partners working to support the company’s goals for Southern Dallas Thrives.Southern Dallas Thrives

Additional Frito-Lay events this year honoring MLK included an evening networking reception. Here, team members from all levels of the Frito-Lay organization were encouraged to describe how they can “Be the Voice” within both their workplaces and their home communities. The week’s events culminated in a moving keynote address from award-winning journalist, speaker, author and philanthropist Soledad O’Brien.

Frito-Lay’s events honoring MLK’s legacy are planned by a core team of employees, with communications manager Courtney Cola spearheading 2019’s programming. “Our humanity exists outside of our office walls, and our celebration is truly meant to inspire associates with the bigger picture,” Cola explains. “In my role, I’m glad to have been able to add new components to this year’s events, including our involvement with Southern Dallas agencies.”

Cola also helped expand the annual PepsiCo Youth Essay & Speech contest so that more leaders of tomorrow could “Be the Voice.” This competition, which invites middle and high school students who are the children of PepsiCo associates to share their view of Dr. King’s legacy, kicked off in December 2018.  

Coordinating an event of this scope is no small undertaking, requiring planning that begins one year in advance. Happily, as Kent Montgomery, vice president, PepsiCo customer management, notes, the work of making the weeklong event one that galvanizes the diverse Frito-Lay workforce is as rewarding as it is demanding. “A senior leader within our organization once told me the importance of paying it forward,” he says. “It’s a privilege to see the involvement and support of our senior leaders. When I was tapped to be involved [in 2013], I too saw the importance of paving the path for others to become involved themselves. Dr. King’s message of unity is more important than ever, and that’s why we challenge ourselves every year to continue to grow this celebration.”

That growth was immediately noticeable at this year’s event. While the MLK events still take place at Frito-Lay’s Plano headquarters, they now also welcome participants from every PepsiCo department and division.

According to Cyril Wallace, senior director, PepsiCo customer management, “Dr. King’s legacy spans all PepsiCo associates and all Americans. Holistically, this celebration speaks to PepsiCo’s vision of ‘Performance with Purpose’ – values that include company support of our communities and diversity.”

To learn more, and to see how you too can be a voice of change in the communities where you live and work, visit SouthernDallasThrives.com.

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