Michelle’s Story: Women’s Bean Project

Posted on

Women's_Bean_Project_logo[1]

As seen in earlier posts, the true stories of the people involved with our partner organizations reminds us why we make the effort to do business with these social enterprises. The following story is from Michelle, a woman who was able to make a positive turnaround in her life with help from Women’s Bean Project, one of our partner groups.

Michelle’s Story

I lost my mom when I was 17. I managed to at least graduate from high school living on my own. But my older brother introduced me to drugs. I was in and out of jail starting at 18 because of criminal acts and abusive relationships. For 16 years I felt alone. I was distant from my family because of my drug use.

I was married in 2004. My husband had melanoma cancer and it was his dying wish to be married. We were only married 3 months when he died. Other than losing my mother that was the most painful thing I had ever been through. After he passed away, I was working as a personal care provider but that wasn’t enough money to pay the bills. So I started selling crack cocaine. In 2005 I was arrested and went back to jail.

A year ago, I completed probation. I never really had figured out what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t have any Michellegoals. I became pregnant with my first child. I was 37. I decided I needed to be a mother and to find a career that would support me and my son. I didn’t want to be a mother on welfare.

My son was 3 weeks old when I applied for the Bean Project in February of 2008. They called me in July to come in for an interview. I finally figured out that there was a chance for me to have work skills and a goal for long term employment.

After the interview I was on pins and needles. I didn’t wait to be called, I called the Bean Project the next day! I was so excited when they said, yes you are hired. I hadn’t worked for 3 years.

I came and was willing to learn all the skills and the production line because I was so eager to have a job. I’ve learned you have to be organized in your life. You have to have a schedule and you have to be compatible. The Women’s Bean Project is a wonderful opportunity for women to learn skills, stability and flexibility. I feel extremely lucky to be a part of the program.

When I leave the Bean Project, I would like to pursue a career in the grocery business. I worked at King Soopers years ago and had a great experience. I would also like to get my CNA license because I have a passion for helping people. And may some day get a CDL and drive a truck.

My family is back in my life. My sister is more accepting of me now that I am clean and sober. And of course they love my son. I want to thank my coworkers here, the staff and the organization. I wish we could open a bigger facility for more women to have an opportunity to be a part of Women’s Bean Project and gain all of the knowledge and skills that I have been able to receive.

I thank the Women’s Bean Project for giving me an opportunity!

(This story, along with others, can also be found at our home website. Check it out here!)

Bright Endeavors: Jamie’s Story

Posted on

front_page_photos 

[tweetmeme]

Helping Hand Rewards partner Bright Endeavors is a Chicago-based social enterprise that is committed to helping homeless and at-risk young women, between the ages of 16-25, gain the necessary skills to become self-sufficient, successful adults. They offer transitional employment through its natural candle line Dreambean Candles and provide each participant with the guidance and training needed to build a foundation that leads to the achievement of personal and professional goals. Profits generated from the sales of Dreambean Candles go towards funding for training, support, education and permanent job placement for their participants.

The following is a personal success story of one of their participants. It’s stories like these that make doing business with social enterprises make even more sense!

Jamie’s Story

Jamie was a nineteen-year-old single mother when she joined Bright Endeavors in May 2008. Initially, Jamie expected simply to learn how to make candles but she quickly realized there was much more to be gained.

Every day presented new challenges for her both at home and at Bright Endeavors. Outside of Bright Endeavors Jamie had experienced homelessness, inadequate health care for her son, the loss of family support and the everyday struggles of raising a newborn baby by herself. Frequently Jamie would come to work appearing to be overwhelmed by the various day-to-day demands on her, but she was able to find warmth and support with the staff and participants at Bright Endeavors.

One of Jamie’s first struggles was managing a work schedule while meeting the ever-changing needs of her infant son. On one given morning Jamie appeared to be less connected to work than usual. She didn’t participate in the daily pre-shift meeting and returned to her work station with little enthusiasm. In most work places this would be misinterpreted as an employee with a poor attitude and could lead to future workplace issues. Because of the staffing design of Bright Endeavors, a manager was able to pull her aside and talk through the negative performance. What became clear was that her behavior had nothing to do with the work at hand. Her son was ill and Jamie was out of solutions. The lack of support and erratic suggestions by her doctor to alter her son’s diet, coupled with the clinic’s inability to vaccinate her son, sent Jamie into a tailspin. Reeling from the stress and worry of her son’s well being, Jamie was paralyzed and unable to think of anything else. With Bright Endeavors’ support and input Jamie developed a firm plan; she was able to proactively manage the health care of her child, find a new pediatrician and elevate her work performance. Now she is a valued leader on the production floor. She trains new associates in candle production and often leads pre-shift and post-shift discussions.

In the future Jamie hopes to have a home for her and her son and be on her way to earning a medical degree, specifically in pediatrics. In her own words, “There aren’t a lot of jobs or programs that you can go into that are actually going to be concerned with what happens outside of work, and here there is always someone to talk to and help you with your problems.” She embodies our motto, “renewable resources…renewed spirits”.

(This story, along with others, can also be found at our home website. Check it out here!)