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Introducing LIFT: Our New LGBTQ+ ERG

In honor of Pride Month, we are thrilled to introduce Bozzuto’s newest employee resource group, LIFT—LGBTQ+ Individuals and Friends Together. Led by nine passionate and energetic Bozzuto employees who are allies and members of the LGBTQ+ community, LIFT serves to foster an inclusive environment within Bozzuto that embraces employees as their whole selves—regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. Members cultivate acceptance through education, engagement and empowerment in support of the LGBTQ+ community and allies.

As we continue to celebrate each other’s individual authenticity, especially during Pride Month, we invite you to read perspectives from several of LIFT’s founding members. In sharing these first-hand experiences of fearless expression, rash prejudice and fierce perseverance in their stories below, the leaders of LIFT hope to inspire the entire Bozzuto community to appreciate each other’s individuality and honor inclusivity.

The celebration has just begun—if you are interested in learning more about LIFT or how to become a member, please email LIFT@bozzuto.com.


Jacob Bennett, Assistant General Manager, Bozzuto Management Company
Jacob Bennett

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Growing up in a tiny town, on a farm, deep in the North Carolina mountains is not a background most people that I meet can identify with. I somehow knew from early on that I was a little gay boy and that I stood out, often feeling like the only color in a monochrome world. Our town had one stop-light and our entire county went to the same school—I was the only openly queer person. My parents had separate marriages and families when I was conceived so they were never together. I spent most of my childhood living with my paternal grandparents and bouncing between aunts and uncles. My grandfather was a Baptist preacher and we spent the majority of our time in the church.

I loved my family and the mountains of North Carolina are a beautiful place to live, but I knew from a young age that I wanted to break free. To me, life in the mountains had constrained generations of my family and I didn’t want that type of life for myself. I became a first-generation high school graduate, and later the first to obtain a college degree. Our entire family were small business owners and lived day-to-day, so had it not been for scholarships, I never would have gotten higher education. While most of my peers stayed home, worked and had babies, I was looking for a place—and a life—with more people I could relate to. And here we are…

What is it like living as a queer individual today?

In many respects, as a queer person, I feel quite lucky to be living through such an exciting breakthrough generation so-to-speak. I’ve seen queer culture become mainstream, gay marriage become legalized, and been able to live openly while dating other men and eventually getting married to my husband just as a heterosexual person would. That said, I don’t take any of it for granted. And I am aware of the lives lost, conflict fraught and the pain and hurt throughout the history of our culture that got us here. I look up to the generation before me, and those before them, and feel incredibly blessed to live my life the way they likely wanted, but couldn’t.

What does Pride Month mean to you?

Pride to me is more than an opportunity to find the skimpiest, loudest and most colorful shorts to wear to a parade with my gaggle of friends, wave our flag, collect free sunglasses and protest for our civil rights. Pride for me represents the past, the present and the future of LGBTQ+ rights. It amazes me how many young queer persons aren’t familiar with the history of queer culture. We have an amazing and tough history, a present that shows progress—but, as we have recently seen, is still being threatened—and a future with amazing potential.

Pride to me means the chance to reinvigorate life into the fight for equal rights, to celebrate accomplishments of the LGBTQ+ culture and to remind all citizens of the successes and tragedies that have gotten us here. I feel lucky to live in Washington, D.C., a diverse and inclusive city where I can walk down the street and hold my husband’s hand with very few reactions. My husband, a veteran, proudly served our country for 13 years. I’m proud of him and all the LGBTQ+ persons who have proudly served despite preconceived notions that they shouldn’t. We celebrate all of the accomplishments that have gotten us to where we are, and we continue to fight for all that is still so unfortunate. To work for a company that not only values diversity but also recognizes its importance enough to celebrate Black history, Latino heritage, Women and even Pride is a blessing. I’ll be wearing my Bozzuto Pride t-shirt this month as a proud gay man, but also as a proud brand ambassador for this company.

What’s your favorite quote related to belonging and inclusivity?

“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.”

—Verna Myers

To my Bozzuto family, let’s dance!


Mariah Gardner, Resident Concierge, Bozzuto Management Company
Mariah Gardner

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up in Fort Washington, Maryland, and never moved around. I developed interests in everything artistic from music to dance, then traditional painting. I began with Bozzuto a little over a year ago as a concierge.

What is it like living as a queer individual today?

Living as a queer individual today feels like I have fully and authentically come into myself. My experience falls more on the positive, welcoming side of the LGBTQ+ community, as I was fully supported when coming out to my friends and family.

Describe an experience where you faced prejudice.

The experiences when I have faced prejudice has been in the world around me in minor ways. People feel the need to ask me if I am completely happy with my choices and also if I have an idea of what my morals and values are, based on their spiritual standpoints.

What do you hope LIFT will bring to the Bozzuto community?

LIFT will provide a space for those who seek community in the workplace. It will help people feel that they have a sense of belonging in the company and give them resources to pull from.

What’s your favorite quote related to belonging and inclusivity?

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Tyler Garling, Sales & Marketing Associate, Bozzuto Management Company
Tyler Garling

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up in Leesburg, Virginia, and have lived in Northern Virginia for most of my life. I studied English at the University of Virginia and graduated in 2018. I’ve always had a passion for creating art, whether it be writing or making music, and I use it as my main outlet for expressing myself. I play guitar and dabble a bit with synths as part of my music ventures. I typically spend my time making music, finding new tunes or reading. I enjoy getting outside of my comfort zone and learning new things because we really are always learning. I began working at Bozzuto in 2019 as a Sales & Marketing Associate at Signature in Reston, Virginia, and have been there ever since!

What is it like living as a queer individual today?

I think there’s a tendency to view coming out stories through a Hollywood lens in that they’re these moments of pure catharsis where you pour out your heart and soul. I’m sorry to disappoint, but I first came out to my mom in a Jersey Mike’s. I told her I was bisexual as a lukewarm buffalo chicken wrap sat in front of me. She was accepting, but I could tell there was some hesitance that was down to a lack of understanding, understanding that has certainly come over time. I told my dad and sister shortly after as I sat in the parking lot. I’ll always remember my dad, whose brother has been openly gay for a while, saying “well, uh, is there anything I can do for you?” as if it was just another call, which I do appreciate.

I had been inspired to come out by seeing a Facebook friend whom I’m not really even that great of friends with come out the night before. To this day, I’m not sure why this person in particular motivated me to take that plunge, but some things can’t easily be explained. I didn’t always know I was pansexual, which I now identify as, but I always knew I wasn’t straight.

To me, sexuality is very fluid and I don’t think any of us are completely straight. I still think my sexuality is hard to define, but I look up to those who express themselves freely. Whether it is the androgyny of musicians like David Bowie or Elton John or my friends who explore their femininity, I am continuously inspired and motivated by those around me to break loose from inhibitions and be comfortable in my own skin.

What does Pride Month mean to you?

Pride Month means persistence, survival and celebration. It’s as much about partying with your other queer friends while remembering those we’ve lost along the way to help us get where we are today. It’s about the brave, inspiring actions of people like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Harvey Milk. The sheer act of existing as queer is an act of defiance, of revolution and of power when we still have so much work to do until all LGTBQ+ people are accepted equally. Pride is not about rainbow-colored Oreos or rainbow filters on Snapchat, but about learning the history, coming together and celebrating our lives as the people we truly are. The only rule I have for Pride is to celebrate it with those who encourage you to live freely.

Describe an experience where you faced prejudice.

Living as queer feels like walking on thin ice. Every new group of people you meet could potentially be too much weight for the ice to handle and you sink down into the water that feels so similar to the closet you had lived in all those years. You don’t just come out once, but every time you meet someone new.

I remember not hearing back from certain friends as often as I used to once I came out. I remember quickly becoming the butt of every gay joke, being told I’d pick one side or the other, and even being told I wasn’t queer enough. I remember the first time I was called an—expletive—for holding the hand of my partner at the time in public. Those are moments that stick with you. Even the little things like how a random person in Target looks at your trans friend. They feel like threats to remember your place, that you aren’t as equal as others and that your identity is not valid.

I overcome these moments through the strength and reliance of those around me and by listening to the experiences of others. I met so many more queer people in college that became dear friends and whom I learn from every day. It is important to remember that, no matter what you hear or what you see, that you are extremely valid and loved.

What’s your favorite quote related to belonging and inclusivity?

“I exist as I am, that is enough”

—Walt Whitman

Erica Krauss, General Manager, Bozzuto Management Company
Erica Krauss (left)

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up in New York, about an hour north of New York City, in a small hamlet of Dutchess County called Stormville. I was raised as a Christian and my family was very involved in our Lutheran church. Growing up, I never even conceived I could be anything other than straight. My small town had only a few out individuals and being gay was always discussed as a choice that was looked down upon. After graduating from high school, I went to college at one of our state schools, SUNY Oneonta. I was extremely involved in campus life as a Resident Advisor and joined many other clubs throughout my four-year career. Because of my involvement on campus and the size of my school, I felt as though I lived in a fishbowl and feared the thought of being ridiculed for exploring my sexuality. My college always expressed support for the LGBTQ+ community; however, I had consciously made the decision to not explore coming out until after college to save face. It was not until after I graduated college that I had decided to explore my sexuality and eventually come out.

What is it like living as a queer individual today?

I can’t say I always knew I was gay however, when I finally did come out I realized there were so many moments in my life that finally made sense. I also can’t say anyone had ever told me I couldn’t be gay however, there were so many small moments throughout my life that would prevent me from even considering coming out. On their own, the small, unsolicited comments were harmless. However, the compounding of 21 years of being asked if there were any boys I was interested in dating or what qualities I would look for in a husband had created a culture around me that told me there was only one way I could grow up to be: straight.

Fortunately, I was always someone who liked to go against the grain and challenge the status quo so I eventually found the courage to live my truth and come out. Even better, I have found a wonderful and beautiful woman I love and now have the honor of calling my wife.

Describe an experience where you faced prejudice.

While my wife and I were engaged, we referred to each other as “fiancée” in conversations. Most times, if I was conversing with someone who didn’t know me well, I’d automatically receive unsolicited heterosexual advice like how to treat my husband when he comes home from work to avoid divorce. On our honeymoon, almost every day we were asked if we were traveling as sisters, close friends, and were even asked if we were a mother-daughter duo. These small moments of discomfort do not necessarily offend us however, they have always required us to decide if we would correct these individuals and risk an awkward or even potentially dangerous situation.

Using inclusive language is such a small change that can help make someone you know feel more comfortable being themselves around you.

What do you hope LIFT will bring to the Bozzuto community?

I’m so excited to be a member of LIFT because I want to help make everyone feel like they are part of the Bozzuto family regardless of how they identify themselves. Coming out to your family is a hard enough challenge to every member of the LGBTQ+ community. I never want one of my colleagues to feel like their Bozzuto family will not welcome and support them when they find the courage to authentically express themselves at work.

What’s your favorite quote related to belonging and inclusivity?

“If you weren’t you, then we’d all be a bit less we.”

—Piglet, Winnie the Pooh

Jesse Moore, Assistant Property Manager, Bozzuto Management Company
Jesse Moore

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m originally from the mountains in Central Pennsylvania but have also spent quality time in Florida and New York City. I’ve been in D.C. for about four years now and am approaching three years with Bozzuto. I started at Bozzuto as a Sales & Marketing Associate at The Apartments at City Center and I’m now the Assistant Property Manager at The Hepburn. My hobbies include anything music-related, as I’m a saxophonist, spending quality time with family and friends and volunteering with an animal rescue in D.C. I love spending time with my rescue pup, Rico.

What is it like living as a queer individual today?

I’ve been lucky enough to live in communities where I have always somewhat felt accepted, had a great support system and always had access to queer resources and role models. I know that some queer people are not as fortunate as I have been, but still know what it’s like to struggle to become successful being gay.

Describe an experience where you faced prejudice.

I’ve always experienced prejudice growing up. As a child who was very uncomfortable in my own skin, I was always bullied for being overweight, misidentified as being a woman over the phone and was always told that I was not masculine enough.

What do you hope LIFT will bring to the Bozzuto community?

I hope it brings a platform for all queer individuals to know that Bozzuto is a safe workplace, acts as a networking opportunity and provides our family taking care of family with resources to be successful within their careers at Bozzuto.

What’s your favorite quote related to belonging and inclusivity?

“We should indeed keep calm in the face of difference, and live our lives in a state of inclusion and wonder at the diversity of humanity.”

—George Takei

Allison Goodman, General Manager, Bozzuto Management Company
Allison Goodman (center)

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up in Rockville, Maryland. I’ve been with Bozzuto since 2014, and I’ve worked all over Washington, D.C. Some communities at which I have worked include City Market at O, The Hepburn and Insignia on M.

What does it mean to be an ally?

I remember my first exposure to the LGBTQ+ community was when my aunt’s neighbor, John, asked to be called Jocelyn. I think I was probably 10 years old, and we were sitting on the screened-in porch when my aunt and my mom started talking about it. What resonated with me is how they spoke about Jocelyn and her wife as living examples of actual soulmates. In a situation that would rock so many, their love grew stronger. Many, many people of influence in my life have been divorced—all of my aunts and uncles (except one) and most of my friends’ parents. Jocelyn’s and her wife’s love seemed like such a wonderfully wild concept to me that needed to not only be cherished but also showcased as the example.

My high school had a Gay-Straight Alliance club, I had many openly gay teachers, and it wasn’t a big deal if two girls went to homecoming together—the couple just bought two corsages instead of a corsage and a boutonniere. Needless to say, going to college was a very eye-opening experience for me. I realized then, what I stood for and what I didn’t, and as a straight woman, I have a duty to be an ally. As I’ve gotten older, my “ally-duties” have transitioned as well. In college, I made a point to invite members of the LGBTQ+ community to house parties, offer them a cold beverage and show others through my actions it was “cool to be kind.” When I joined Greek life, I made a point to vote to extend a bid to pledge candidates who identified with the LGBTQ+ community. After college, when my friends and I would go out and someone would suggest Nellie’s rather than Brixton, I didn’t think twice. And more recently, when I was asked to join LIFT as a straight ally, I was honored and accepted right away!

What does Pride Month mean to you?

For me, as a straight ally, Pride Month means an extra opportunity to show my LGBTQ+ friends and coworkers I love them exactly as they are!

What do you hope LIFT will bring to the Bozzuto community?

As a straight ally to the LGBTQ+ community, my goal is to demonstrate acceptance and compassion for all individuals.


Founding members of LIFT include:
Steven Fretwell – Executive Sponsor
Joe Ulmer
Jacob Bennett
Richard Lawrence
Jesse Moore
Erica Krauss
Allison Goodman
Tyler Garling
Mariah Gardner

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