Hilton’s Lillie Simmons-Dear on Leveraging the Hospitality Industry To Drive Change in Communities

Originally published on jobs.hilton.com. Lillie Simmons-Dear is Hilton’s Senior Property Technology Services Analyst. Hilton ranked No. 1 on The Fair360, formerly DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.


My experience at Hilton has truly taught me that small changes have the power to make a major impact. I’ve always considered myself a charitable and environmentally conscious person. But since joining Hilton in 2014, I’ve been able to participate in numerous community engagement opportunities that have not only enlightened me but also inspired me to make positive changes at work and at home.

Community involvement has been a priority throughout my career, but Hilton has granted me the awareness to so many more organizations and strengthened the impact I felt I could make. When our campus emailed a monthly list of involvement opportunities, I made a point to engage with everything my schedule allowed. This passion led me to join our Travel with Purpose Committee, an active group of community-minded Team Members who work together to support and execute initiatives in support of Hilton’s commitment to cut our environmental footprint in half and double our social impact by 2030. Our efforts have made me so much more aware of the need for action and the tremendous difference my efforts can make. “Be the change I want to see in the World” has been a personal mantra of mine for many years. It’s a joy to work at a company that shares that same philosophy!


Creative Solutions Creating Everyday Change 

During earth week one year, our campus launched the Mats for the Homeless project and has since diverted 30,000 plastic bags from local landfills. Hilton Team Members and local students volunteered together regularly to sort, deconstruct, loop, and crochet the plastic bags into sleeping mats. Each mat uses 600-700 plastic bags and provides an extra layer of protection and comfort for individuals who find themselves in the elements and seeking shelter. Over 35 mats were distributed to the local Memphis community, through a partnership with Urban Bicycle Food Ministry (UBFM), along with other supplies such as hygiene kits, food, and water. Being involved in this project has been a great reminder that small changes in my everyday routine (like recycling plastic bags) can make a difference in ways I didn’t necessarily think possible. Hilton provided an opportunity to bring a community together to not only help the environment but also provide a small act of kindness for those in need.


Team Member Resource Groups Driving Change in our Communities

I initially thought joining a Team Member Resource Group meant I needed to find the groups that were most like me and to “get in where I fit in.” Participating in TMRGs, as both a member and former Women’s TMRG co-chair, allowed me to connect with Team Members of diverse backgrounds, learn about important issues a particular community is facing, and the ways that I can help. Based on my experience, I’ve created my own personal slogan for the “why” behind joining TMRGs: “They encourage and inform. TMRGs are for everyone!”

Not only are TMRGs a great place for allyship and personal and professional opportunities, but they’re also a great way to bring together Team Members who are passionate about giving back to their community. Through our TMRGs, I’ve participated in numerous events that support the missions and goals of our community partners like organizing Outreach Corporate Meal Packing events to benefit families who suffer from food insecurity, baking homemade goods for our Holiday Craft Market to benefit UBFM, serving and celebrating our local veterans through Hilton sponsored cookouts for Alpha Omega Veterans Services, assisting on home remodeling projects for the families of Dorothy Day House, performing site visits for the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis’ Annual Grants Committee, and helping to create a “spooktacularly” fun and safe place for the children of Hope House to visit in the fall to name a few.


Spreading the Light and Warmth of Hospitality 

It’s hard not to be inspired to make small changes that positively affect the lives of those all around us. Especially when surrounded by passionate and driven Team Members who are dedicated to making a positive impact within our community. Those Team Members not only see the need for change but also invest their time and efforts in bringing it about in a wonderful way! Knowing that my efforts are supported, encouraged, and appreciated by these “community champions” makes me even more determined to find new ways of spreading the light and warmth of hospitality within the community where I work and live with every opportunity I’m provided.


Team Members Creating Change 

At Hilton, we recognize that our Team Members are the heart of our Travel with Purpose efforts and every one of our Team Members plays a role in delivering on our commitment. In 2020 alone, our Team Members recorded over 180,000 volunteer hours. I am proud to be part of a company that values Team Member contributions and provides opportunities to be part of an effort that drives change in the communities we operate in around the world.