Gratitude

By Linda Hansen

The dictionary defines gratitude as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” The saga of the mentally ill is a sad one for many.  Lives that are going well are suddenly disrupted by the mind in shambles which affects life in negative ways.

This is one of my journeys since becoming mentally ill. One day I started hearing voices that I thought were coming from my apartment.  In 2003, I decided to go live somewhere else get away from them. I would describe the voices as constant talking.  I left my apartment and was going to live elsewhere for relief. I chose to take the train, since I had taken some trips years ago.  San Francisco is where I ended up at and thought that I could get a job and stay there. But what I did not realize is that they had a serious homeless problem.

Market Street seemed to be a major area with business and shelters present. I quickly found out that being homeless does not have any advantages, especially when bathrooms are closed to you and food is hard to find.  The shelters were fine, except that I was kicked out for some unfair reasons.

I was out in the cold, literally with a broken nose to deal with in addition to all else because a woman at one of the shelters punched me out of nowhere. So then I concentrated on getting my Social Security check from Wisconsin to California.  This consisted of several trips to the local office before the money came to the post office.

In January 2004, I decided to go back to Wisconsin.  I was also homeless in Madison when I returned. Five months went by before a friend gave me a place to live.  I was out on the streets for one and a half years. The whole time that I was homeless, I was still hearing the voices and was miserable.  Help came for this also.  

The gratitude part came as I was settling into my new place.  I was grateful the whole ordeal was finally over and sent several letters of thanks to individuals and organizations that had helped me in that time.  This journey has taught me to be appreciative when things are good and to accept the smallest kindnesses.

Seed to Sales: Marketing

By Ron Roberts

Picture of Chrysalis Pops Flavors Summer 2019

This year, Chrysalis Pops added a new dimension to the process. They invited myself and one other person to join them in finding new ways to promote Pops. 

We explored a wide variety of marketing tools. We attended marketing meetings in some very upscale meeting rooms, and we learned and contributed some very useful knowledge. We went on “field trips” to several places. we took photos in front of graffiti walls and other interesting places that would look good with the Pops.

We visited Willy Street Co-Op to see the placement of the product. We thought of better ways to use that real estate and make the product and message better known. We studied products by other makers and asked ourselves what worked or didn’t work. Comparing our Pops to other brands was very helpful.

We met many times at Chrysalis to brainstorm ideas. We used the overhead projector to look at our web pages and other sites showing our product. Twice, outside professionals in the field voluntarily came to teach us useful marketing tools. 

All-in-all, it’s been a fascinating experience for me! I am amazed at how much variety we experienced, and how we’ve further grown the success of Chrysalis Pops!

Seed to Sales: Marketplace

By Ron Roberts

Ron selling Chrysalis Pops at the Willy St. Fair.

This year’s Willy Street Fair had four stages with bands performing and numerous vendors, including Chrysalis Pops. I actually worked a shift selling those delicious pops. So, I’m writing this from a more hands-on perspective than I did with the garden and kitchen posts. 

Despite the occasional rain and slightly chilly temperature, the Pops sold rather well. The four flavors sold well. I tried a Sweet Corn Pop for the first time and thought it was very similar to eating vanilla ice cream! The corn is subtle, though definitely adds a flavor all its own, and adds an intrinsic sweetness you may forget comes with corn. After all, high-fructose corn sweetener is made from, well…corn! But this sweetness is nothing like that laboratory-built Frankenstein ingredient. It comes along with the whole food itself as nature intended. I explain in my post about the kitchen trip just how well the whole ear of corn is used in the recipe. 

I was most impressed with how many people buying the Pops already knew about Chrysalis and Pops and had enjoyed a pops in the past. Someone even stopped me while I was walking to the bathroom and told me how grateful he was for what we were doing. I was confused until I remembered I was wearing the Chrysalis Pops T-shirt. Repeat business and recognizability–I’d say these are very positive signs that Pops is highly successful in its fourth year!

Seed to Sales: Kitchen

By Ron Roberts

After visiting the local gardens where most of Chrysalis Pops ingredients are grown, the next logical visit was to the local commercial-grade kitchen where the pops are actually made. I talked to a couple more of Pops’ employees and learned of yet another great local business relationship with Chrysalis.

The FEED Kitchens on Madison’s north side are about as young as Pops (5 years). That’s just in time to provide the professional, yet temporary work-space needed to produce the Chrysalis Pops. FEED is helping numerous beginning entrepreneurs get off the ground! 

There’s stainless steel everywhere, and the stove looks like it probably cost $20-30 grand. Employees brought out the needed supplies: virtually all organic ingredients and an array of stainless steel equipment. I was amazed at how much pure, organic cream was used to make the Sweet Corn pops. Only the best ingredients are used, and every ingredient is used to its fullest potential. Nothing is wasted! After the kernels are removed, the cobs (the part the rest of us throw away) are simmered in the pot with the simple syrup as it is made. What a great way to instill more flavor! 

Every step in making the Pops is done by hand. No factory robots anywhere! I took several pics to quickly document this.

Both employees/consumers of Chrysalis’ services shared similar experiences and thoughts with me. The opportunity has given them a foot-in-the-door to work, boosted self-confidence, and created some lasting memories of making pops, not to mention putting some extra money into their lives. They would both recommend Pops to other peeps with similar needs. Cassidy plans on finding more permanent work after the Pops season ends, while Ramsey sets his goal on college. Everything seems to be win-win+ for everyone involved here! 

Purpose and Passion

By Furman Avery

Furman and Karen on their wedding day.

If someone were to ask you what your purpose and passion were what would you say?  If you had asked me that question about 25 years ago I would have told you straight up I had no passion and not much of a purpose.  Then three dates happened to me, the first was September 21, 1997, the second was October 27, 2013, and the final date was Jan 15, 2019, there was a fourth date but I don’t remember the exact date I know it was in early March of 1996.

I will explain the meaning of each date as I go along.  The March date is when I met the woman that would have a profound and lasting influence on me.  I had put a personal ad on AOL(America Online) for all you youngsters. I was living in Chicago and Karen Ott replied to my ad. She was living in Milwaukee at the time and we started a long-distance relationship through email and cards.  Soon enough we decide to meet in person, so she volunteered to drive down to Chicago to meet me.  I must say here that at the time I was a bit narcissistic as I was an only child with no siblings, so I was a bit full of myself.  Our first meeting went well enough, I tried to be charming and not bore her and must have succeeded since we kissed on that first date and made plans for me to come up to Milwaukee the next weekend.

Karen had two children from previous relationships at the time a son who was about 8 years old and a daughter of 17.  Little did I know these two would steal my heart and never give it back.  Karen and I swapped weekend in Chicago and Milwaukee until December of 1996 When I made the conscious choice to take a leap of faith and move to Milwaukee.  At the time I was a Network Administrator for Ameritech, the local phone company in Chicago. Friends and family were very surprised that I was doing this because all my life I was not a chance taker and leaving friends and family was not something I was supposed to do.  Karen had her kids so there wasn’t much chance of her moving to Chicago, besides she really didn’t like big cities, she said on several occasions that sometimes Milwaukee was too big for her, besides she was a manager at the Milwaukee Fair Housing Authority.

So, during December of 96 and Jan of 97, I went on job interviews.  I was lucky enough to find a job with Firstar Bank which is now US Bank as a Network Administrator. So, in March of 1997 I said goodbye to family and friends and move to Milwaukee.

Now the first date on September 21, 1997, Karen and I were married.  This was my second marriage, but her first.  I must give you a bit more information about Karen, she came from a broken family and lived in foster care for a large part of her life and suffered from both mental and physical abuse.  She lived with PTSD and OCD.  At the time I knew little to nothing about mental health or abuse, that’s when being an only child raised its head with me. Not thinking outside of myself only really caring about me. As I said Karen worked for the fair housing authority in Milwaukee and I got my first taste of being an advocate.  Later she went to work as the Assistant Executive Director at an organization called IndependenceFirst that was a resource for those with all disabilities.  This is where my activism and advocacy began to take shape under my nose.  Karen got me to volunteer for different things IndependenceFirst was doing.  It was also around this time that my diagnosis of major depression and anxiety came about. This is where I learned that there shouldn’t be any stigma or shame associated with mental illness.  I became more active in other organizations in Milwaukee and Madison that dealt with trying to remove the stigma that has long been associated with any disability.  I think Karen was surprised that I was getting so involved.  I first became a board member of an organization here in Madison called GEP or Grassroots Empowerment Project. I served on the board for over eight years, six as the board president.  In 2011 I think I was beginning to find my purpose when I became a Certified Peer Specialist.  Unfortunately, it appeared that I was a peer in name only as I couldn’t find a job.  My time at US Bank had also come to an end so I was doing security work at the Caterpillar plant in South Milwaukee.

This is where the second date comes into play, October 27, 2013 was a Sunday and I will never forget the events of that day for as long as I live. I was working the second shift at the plant guard a gate to make sure no one stole any big Caterpillar equipment when I got a call from my daughter, Karen’s daughter.  It wasn’t unusual for Christy to call me since Karen and I looked after her two boys Xavier 12 and Caleb 8 from time to time. When I picked up Christy was crying and sobbing I could almost not understand her. I asked what’s wrong are the boys okay?  Her reply was “Mom is gone!”  Confused I asked what do you mean gone where did she go at this time of night!” Over her cries, I heard “She’s dead!”  Those words struck a knife in my heart that I feel to this day.  All I could say was “No” over and over again.  I told my supervisor that the was a problem at home with my wife and left. The drive from South Milwaukee to our place in Milwaukee was the longest drive ever in my life.  I get home and the neighborhood is lit up with police cars, fire department trucks and an ambulance.  I walk in the house and there is Karen laying on the sofa like she was sleep.  Our son Deion was crying, Christy was crying, Caleb was nowhere to be seen and Xavier looked like his whole world had collapsed.  Later I would learn that Xavier is the one that found her when he tried to say goodnight to her and she wasn’t responsive, he had waited ten to fifteen minutes before telling his mom about her. The next week and a half was a blur to me. I remember the funeral, but not much else. Needless to say, that Thanksgiving and Christmas had little meaning to us.  To add to the misery Christy was to graduate from Averno College on Dec 21st which was also Karen’s birthday.  From the loss of Karen, my passion was beginning to become clearer.  In Feb of 2014, I found a job as a Peer Specialist with the Guesthouse of Milwaukee, during the interview I could feel Karen’s presence with me. So now the purpose was clear to me and written in stone in front of me to make Karen proud of what she had started in me to think outside of me and care for others that may not be as fortunate as me.  To give back to the community to make it better.  I will boldly admit that the man I am today is a direct result of knowing and loving Karen.  Without her, I wouldn’t be writing this I wouldn’t even be in Wisconsin.

So now we come to the last date where it all comes together. January 15, 2019, I’m working at Chrysalis as an Employment Specialist It’s about 8:30 and I had just poured my first cup of coffee and was going to start doing some paperwork when I needed to go to the bathroom.  So, I’m sitting there and I notice my heart is beating fast and loud I can almost hear it. I try to stand and get very lightheaded and almost passed out.  I managed to make it out of the bathroom and was headed to my desk when the lights in me went out and I collapsed and fell into the door my supervisor scaring the living daylights out her. Quick thinking by my coworkers calling 911 and the fire house being only a few blocks away I was taken to the hospital. It was here that I learned that I had a PE or a Pulmonary Embolism. There was a huge blood clot between my heart and lungs and my heart rate was over 160 beats as my heart tried to pump the blood it wasn’t getting because of the clot.  I was put on clot busting medication to get rid of the clot.  Later doctors told me that the quick thing of coworkers saved my life, if I had been home alone I wouldn’t have though much to it and gotten up and continued doing what I was doing. Worse still if I had been driving I may have killed someone else along with my dying.  I have to take blood thinning medication for the rest of my life, but that a small price to pay to be alive. During my stay in the hospital both my daughter Christy and my grandson Xavier talked to me about my mortality and how I needed to take better care of myself and that is when my passion came fully ablaze.

In short, my purpose is to be the best human I can and to always try to go out of my way to do things to help others, such as volunteering at my church’s food pantry and things to make Karen proud of me and my passion is to take better care of myself so that I can be around see any more grandkids and maybe even some great grandchildren.

Seed to Sales: Garden

By Ron Roberts

Ashley, Jessica, Amy, Ron (author), Tim

If you’ve ever been to one of Madison’s community gardens, you’ve probably noticed how much love and joy goes into and comes out of these organic plots of earth and produce. The Madison Christian Community gardens on the west side produce much of the ingredients used to make Chrysalis Pops. Chrysalis’ partnership with the Madison Christian Community is a good example of how these partnerships make Pops possible. Lots of produce is simply donated by the church and Chrysalis employs some of its consumers to work in their own garden plot. I got to visit these gardens and talk to two of the employees. 

Harvesting raspberries for our Raspberry Basil Pop.

Amy, who also happens to live in my building, was helping pick some of the last raspberries of the season. She told me what she loves best about this opportunity is telling people, “I’m going to work tomorrow!” She has been working the garden plot for this whole season, even those super hot days she says may be the only downside to this job. 

I walked over to watch Tim producing some of the high quality compost the garden uses. He told me he likes every aspect of his job and couldn’t really think of anything he didn’t like. His favorite part of working in the gardens is making the compost. It was the best looking compost I’ve seen. 

Our homemade compost nurtures our homegrown ingredients.

I enjoyed seeing firsthand the beginning stage that goes into the Pops process. The great attitudes of everyone there, both Chrysalis peeps and Church peeps, the beautiful nature, and the exceptional 74 degree weather made a nice first impression on me. I wish everyone who enjoys a Chrysalis Pop could experience what I did. They would realize that these popsicles are nothing like the commercially produced ones we all grew up with!

Chrysalis Pops Leads the Way

By Ron Roberts

Hi. I am Ron Roberts and I had a wonderful opportunity to participate in a podcast, Lead the Way with Anna Gouker, on behalf of Chrysalis Pops.

Anna Gouker’s podcast aims to find effective ways of creating change and inclusion in our communities. Pops was a good fit for one of her podcasts because Chrysalis works to break down employment barriers, building confidence, and emphasizes work as a big part of recovery for its consumers. 

Chrysalis Pops began 3 ½ years ago, founded on the belief that it was a great addition to the community because it helped place even more peeps in jobs. Employment opportunities are a core of the POPS social enterprise, empowering peeps and giving them a different way to engage with their community. Connections in the community are a big help with POPS.

I am most impressed with the relationships and partnerships Chrysalis forms with other people and places. So much more can be accomplished this way, and it’s nice to make new friends in general. Doing the podcast is a great example of this. It is one new connection for Chrysalis and Pops! Relationships are connections, and it’s like building something strong out of many individual pieces. The total sum is much stronger than the pieces.

Integrity

by Linda Hansen and Alysha Clark

Peer Specialist, Matthew, and peer, Franklin, high five while playing soccer.

Integrity means being honest, being true to yourself, and comes with compassion. Chrysalis Vocational Peer Specialist, Matthew Strickland, shares what integrity means to him.

“Integrity means listening to your inner voice and aligning your actions and intentions. People can show integrity by sharing what they feel is valuable to them. I try to relate to people where they are in their recovery, and integrate my own recovery with sharing their journey. This promotes wellness, and supports them moving forward with their goals.  While working in the community I ask myself if I am aligning with both focus, and intention when I relate to the clients I am meeting with.”

Franklin, a person receiving services for Peer Support, describes Integrity as, “appreciating people for who they are, and by being polite and saying please and thank you.” Franklin feels that his Peer Specialist Matthew shows integrity by being on time and honoring what Franklin would like to do that day.  

Franklin’s only feedback is that he would like to see Matthew more often!

Chrysalis chosen to Participate in National Study Looking at the Effects of Employment on Disability and Wellness

by Jenny King

Chrysalis is among 30 agencies across the country selected to be part of the federal Supported Employment Demonstration.  The Supported Employment Demonstration is a 6-year study funded by the U.S. Social Security Administration. The study, conducted by Westat, looks at how employment services, provided along with integrated behavioral health and social services, can help people experiencing mental illness get a good job.  The Supported Employment Demonstration will test whether offering evidence-based package of integrated employment and mental health services to individuals experiencing disability earlier in the illness process will lead to employment, improved mental health and quality of life, and less need for disability benefits.

The Mental Health Treatment Study and many other studies show that IPS Supported Employment for individuals experiencing mental illness results in the following benefits:

  • Increased income
  • Improved self esteem
  • Improved social networks
  • Increased quality of life
  • Better control of symptoms
  • Reduced substance use
  • Reduced use of mental health services

In contrast, unemployment among persons with mental illness is associated with increased physical and mental health problems, reduced self-esteem, alienation and apathy, loss of social contacts and increased substance abuse.  Given the interest in supporting employment efforts of persons with disabilities, studies such as the Supported Employment Demonstration, are needed. It is helpful for policymakers to have an evidentiary base from which to consider potential program improvements and innovations that can strengthen the ability of individuals with disabilities to work. 

Kaylee, a client with the SED study, states “ working with the study gave me the confidence to go out and apply for jobs. I felt comfortable going to work because I know I would have support on the job.”

Moving for Mental Health 2019

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What a beautiful day! This year we had gorgeous weather for Moving for Mental Health. With the great weather came a great crowd. Nearly 300 people joined us for what was our biggest crowd yet! Together we raised over $15,000 to support the Chrysalis mission to promote mental health recovery in our community by supporting work opportunities that encourage hope healing, and wellness.  Here are what some event attendees had to say.

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“The Chrysalis Moving for Mental Health was an extremely well organized event. The beautiful course, friendly volunteers, and post-race entertainment exceeded expectations. I will certainly attend this exciting 5K next year to support awareness for mental health.” – Race Participant

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“As a new Chrysalis employee, this was my first Moving for Mental Health. It was a pleasure being a part of this vital connection to the community.  The turnout was spectacular and the participation by my coworkers was fantastic.  I have been part of other organizations in the Milwaukee and Madison areas that put on events to foster the movement of mental health, but Chrysalis has them beat by miles. The professionalism and attention to detail were far greater than anything I’ve been a part of and shows how much Chrysalis is involved in the community.  In short Chrysalis not only “talks the talk but we walk the walk.” – Furman Avery, Chrysalis Employment Specialist

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“Moving for Mental Health is a worthwhile event that raises a lot of money for Chrysalis to be able to offer its services. I liked mingling with others and seeing people that I wouldn’t necessarily see otherwise. I think the event is well run, and a successful fundraiser each year!” – Chrysalis Client

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We’re already looking forward to Moving for Mental Health 2020! Hope to see you there!