One-woman crusade to make Orlando more inclusive

By : Melanie Ararat and Christen Kelley
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ORLANDO | Raquel Giorgio was strolling through downtown Asheville, N.C. with her family three weeks ago when she noticed a trend. Several shops and restaurants had signs in their windows welcoming people of all races, genders and religions. Giorgio thought the signs had a great message and se wanted Orlando to have the same spirit.

“I called the people at Asheville and asked about the signs and they said that those signs appeared because of a good Samaritan,” Giorgio says.

She decided she wanted to bring that message home with her to Orlando. She talked to city officials and enlisted help to create her own signs, using the hashtag Orlando For All (#OrlandoForAll) to gain followers on social media. A friend’s mother designed the posters and donations paid to print them, and she soon began distributing them to local businesses.

“This is a one-woman crusade at the moment, so any help is appreciated,” Giorgio says.

Giorgio made a Facebook page for the cause where she included a video that explains her goals, which she encourages everyone to like and share.

“I just wanted to show everybody that we are inclusive and a community of love and diversity and friendly and safe,” Giorgio says in the video. “That’s the kind of community Orlando is and I’ve always felt that way, and certainly after what happened a couple years ago, I really feel that way.”

Giorgio tries to post the signs herself to ensure it  goes up if the store wants it. So far, she has placed signs in more than 100 local businesses.

“The shops I’ve been to have been so welcoming and some broke down crying when I showed them the sign,” Giorgio says.

So far she says the response has been overwhelmingly positive. She received backlash from only one man who felt she was forcing business owners to agree with the posters.

“He was very homophobic and would leave comment on my posts on NextDoor.com,” Giorgio says. “One day I doubted myself, but I realized it was just one person compared to the people that were supporting me.”

Giorgio says she stresses that businesses can simply say no if they don’t want to hang her sign in their window and she will not post businesses on her social media if they do say no.

“This has nothing to do with religion or politics,” Giorgio says. “It is just about showing love in Orlando.”

As for the future, Giorgio plans to expand this crusade.

“A Pulse victim’s mom reached out because she wanted to distribute the signs in Tampa,” she says.

Giorgio has friends in Palm Springs, Calif., Chicago, Ill. and Boston, Mass. and a sister who is in Santa Monica, Calif. who want to their own initiatives and she may order them the same signs so everyone is uniform.

“The plan is to go national, but we have to start small,” she says.

Overall, Giorgio just wants to unite the community through her signs.

“Wouldn’t this be an amazing place to come either visit or live if a sign like this appeared in every single window that people walked around and saw?” Giorgio says in her Facebook video. “It just means that everyone is welcome, everyone is included, everyone is loved. What is wrong with that? Who doesn’t love love?”

For more information and to get involved with #OrlandoForAll go to Facebook.com/groups/220486311971558/.

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