Jean Genies


Why We Volunteer: Employees Hit the Road With AIDS LifeCycle

Levi Strauss & Co.
June 26, 2019

Levi Strauss & Co. encourages employees to take five hours a month of paid time to volunteer in their communities. Here’s how one group of employees used that time.

This month, a group of 42 Levi Strauss & Co. employees jumped on their bicycles and hit the road with more than 2,200 other riders as part of AIDS LifeCycle, which raises critical funds for HIV/AIDS-related services. Our team, aptly named the Jean Genies, traversed 545 miles over the course of seven days, driven by a common cause to make San Francisco the world’s first major city with zero new instances of HIV. Their efforts also tapped into the company’s legacy of addressing HIV/AIDS head on, each LS&Co. rider leveraging their five monthly paid volunteer hours to raise money and awareness for the issue.

Jean GeniesJake Little, senior manager of retail change management / learning & development, founded the team last year when he served as its captain. “I’m proud to say that our amazing captain and co-captains, Saim Tokatli, Stephanie Ritten, Elvert Arnold and Wick Judkins, doubled the size of our team this time around,” he said. “We also raised over $253,000 for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, up from $155,000 last year.”

True to its fashionable roots, the cross-functional team (which included a ride volunteer — aka, ‘roadie’) also had a singularly standout look throughout the weeklong journey down the California coast: “Our David Bowie-themed outfits were a hit,” notes Jake. “Thanks to the creative genius of our sponsor, Lance Relicke and his team, we were told we had the best uniforms in the ride’s history!”

The HIV/AIDS LifeCycle event is sponsored by the SF AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center, whose goals are to reduce transmission of the HIV virus, provide education, reduce stigma, perform research, and find a cure.  Each rider is expected raise a minimum of $3,000 for the cause, and collectively, the ride brought in a record $16.8 million this year.

James Laureys, director of global real estate and partner retail, says that ‘a bit of arm-twisting’ by Jake—and the physical challenge—prompted him to join the team this year. He says that he received far more from the experience than anticipated. “I started the journey very focused on myself: I needed to raise $3,000, buy a bike, and train every weekend,” he says. “But over the course of seven days, I realized that the ride is really about coming together to put an end to HIV/AIDS. I came away humbled by the selflessness and courage of others—and inspired to give even more next year!”

Jake says it’s things like the LS&Co. volunteer policy that make him and his fellow Jean Genies proud to be employees. “We couldn’t be more grateful for the company’s support of the team for an important event like AIDS/LifeCycle.”