Building Up Downtown: A Q&A With Symetra’s Trinity Parker
Downtown isn’t just a place for business. It’s a place for people, for community – and that’s something the team at Symetra truly embrace. From creating a unique partnership between non-profits and small restaurants to helping bring cheer back Downtown for the holiday season, Symetra has looked for ways to creatively support the community they call home.
We caught up with Symetra’s Trinity Parker, the lead behind the company’s community engagement programs, to learn what her team has been up to and why the company loves Downtown Bellevue. Get to know Trinity and the ethos behind Symetra’s philosophies in our Q&A:
BDA: Trinity! Thanks for joining us. To kick things off, tell us about yourself, your Downtown connection and how you ended up at Symetra…
TP: I actually grew up in the area – I’m a Northwest native, born and raised. My grandma had property out in the Bridle Trails area and I have fond memories of Bellevue. We’d visit one of the first major department stores, Frederick & Nelson, for lunch on Sunday afternoons. It’s funny, in the past, everything seemed smaller – I remember when Puget Power was the tallest building in the area, so I’ve been around for a while!
I spent the greater part of my childhood and career in the Bellevue area, namely at the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce and at Sound Transit. In a number of ways, it was through my tenure at Sound Transit that I learned more about Symetra and really became drawn to CEO Margaret Meister and appreciated her vision for the company and leadership style. Somewhere along the line, she offered me an opportunity to join her team and I did not hesitate. Within that role, I lead our corporate marketing, communications and public affairs teams for the company, which aims to expand our brand and its reach not only in the Pacific Northwest, but also on a national scale. That’s what I do now!
BDA: Symetra is a notable downtown employer with a strong commitment to the communities you serve. How has that transpired in your experience with the company?
TP: I would say that Symetra has a very rich history of giving back to its neighbors, harkening back to the days when we were Safeco. This past year, we launched a brand new program called Symetra Empowers Communities that’s really built around the reflection of our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion – it’s the focal point of our ethos and community engagement practices. As a financial company, we recognize that some of the biggest obstacles for people in this country to achieve financial freedom are largely due to systemic issues like gender inequality, racial injustice and crises like homelessness – these perpetuate prejudice and discrimination on a broad scale. With these issues in mind, our new program really focuses on the due diligence necessary in reducing barriers for women and at-risk youth who lack stable, affordable housing in the community.
Another key facet of our community programs are the strategic efforts to build partnerships, conduct advocacy and allocate grants and scholarships. We work hand in hand with partner organizations that have really been the drivers behind these initiatives, groups like Imagine Housing, LifeWire, The Sophia Way and Bellevue LifeSpring. You’ll see us at Bellevue City Council meetings, King County Council meetings and down at the state legislature to handle the heavy lifting in order to drive transformational policy change that we know will really make a difference.
BDA: You have a lot going on! Looking at the state of things, obviously, everything has shifted and we’ve had to continuously rewrite the rulebook. How has the pandemic impacted your community involvement and daily operations?
TP: We really had to pause and say, “Wait a minute, we have to react, reach out and respond to COVID-19,” especially given everything that has happened over the past year. Our attention has been focused on helping healthcare and frontline workers, along with smaller businesses and those in homeless shelters who are struggling quite a bit. We created a brand new plan called the Care and Feeding Program – through this, we have been able to fund small restaurants to prepare meals that are delivered to hospitals and homeless shelters. Our team worked hard to really step up to the plate and do the leg work, match-making and sponsorship. First, we started with 777 Cafe in our corporate building. With our offices closed, we really wanted to ensure they would stay afloat. Initially, we had a goal of delivering 10,000 meals – the majority in Washington state. We quickly realized this would not be close to enough, and later expanded our scope to 20,000 meals… it kept growing. We currently deliver meals in roughly nine states! We’ve already provided some 17,000 meals to those who could really benefit from the extra support. The response has been tremendous… we’ve received letters of gratitude and videos from nurses and restaurant owners, and have just been blown away by the response. It’s taken the edge off for a lot of people.
We teamed up with our partners at the Seattle Storm and Boys & Girls Clubs of Bellevue to host a virtual basketball clinic for 50 kids of local first responders and essential workers. We also partnered with the Storm to jointly raise money for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund as a testament to our commitment to furthering racial equity and social justice in response to the protests and global reckoning with a difficult reality. Our team has been working hard!
BDA: Those sound like fantastic programs! Speaking of the community, what about Downtown Bellevue made it Symetra's chosen home?
TP: Bellevue is centrally located and that accessibility caters to employees who commute from all over the region. In fact, one of the number one incentives for our staff has been the close proximity to public transportation and excited anticipation for the new light rail station opening in 2023 nearby. We also like to remain close to the hub of innovation, in terms of customer service and how we differentiate ourselves in the financial industry, by recruiting the best and brightest talent the Pacific Northwest has to offer. You know, we’re in a race for talent and being in Bellevue is definitely helpful. Not to mention, the shopping and dining scene that lends itself to an urban lifestyle - Downtown really appeals to our workplace environment. It’s a boon for Bellevue, and definitely for us, too.
BDA: We like to think so too! We are lucky to be home to an array of fantastic local businesses. And when we launched our Season of Cheer campaign this year, Symetra stepped up to support it. Why did this campaign align so well with Symetra’s hope for the community?
TP: You know, now isn’t the time to pull back, but rather lean in and double down on our dedication to empowering the local community. That’s our philosophy! And perhaps we can even spread a little bit of holiday cheer (safely) in the process. I think the biggest gift that we could provide this year was one of flexibility in that we aim to do what we can to make this moment a little more manageable in a year that has been so trying for everyone.
BDA: That leads us to the fun stuff… where can we spot you Downtown on a day out?
TP: I have three kids, so I hardly ever have a chance to relax! Usually, when I spend time with my wife and 4-year-old son we like to hang out by the waterfront at Meydenbauer Bay Park or at KidsQuest Children’s Museum. If I have time alone, you’ll likely find me outdoors, kayaking on the Mercer Slough. With my two teenage daughters, a senior in high school and a college student, we end up shopping at the Bellevue Collection. And for dining, I love Japonessa or Civility and Unrest.
BDA: On a cheery note, what do you hope to see transpire in 2021 for the downtown community and how might Symetra be a part of that growth and change?
TP: Especially within recent years, Downtown has just been burgeoning into this vibrant, metropolitan community. And, for the year ahead, I hope we continue to embrace the rich tapestry of culture and ensure that more voices feel welcome and can participate in how we build our future together, in order to achieve our fullest potential. I am committed to that inclusive dialogue and leadership. With 2021 on the horizon, hopefully we can gather again and return to some semblance of normalcy.
The Season of Cheer presented by Symetra is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.
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