A chalkboard with a colorful drawing of a blooming cactus plant with the words 'You Are Resilient."

Success Stories

Click on each Chrysalis participant’s name to read their story.

David, Qdoba Employee

David Hendrick is the perfect person to walk you through the process of making a mouthwatering Qdoba burrito. He doesn’t skip a detail as he describes each step: from steaming the tortilla (white or wheat), to piling on the toppings (this part – in itself – takes a few minutes to explain), and wrapping it up precisely “so that everything fits in and the tortilla doesn’t break.”

Bon appétit.

David got a job in November working three nights a week at a Madison-area Qdoba, after being out of the workforce for nearly 10 years (with the exception of occasional contract work) while he focused on stabilizing his mental health. He was growing frustrated with the minimal job leads and lackluster results of his independent job search after some time, and so he started working with Chrysalis, a Dane County non-profit organization whose mission is to provide individualized vocational and work-related services to persons in the community who have mental illnesses.
He met weekly with an employment specialist to learn about job leads, fill out applications, practice how to talk with potential employers, and identify areas for improvement after interviews.

“From working with Chrysalis, I got good advice about filling out applications and learned things about the job search I didn’t know before,” David said. “The regular, weekly meetings kept the momentum going and helped me to persist. I also felt encouragement. It’s easier to persist with someone working alongside you.”
Ashley Glass, his employment specialist at Chrysalis, echoed the valuable nature of the partnership.
“Neither of us gave up,” she said. “We both kept at it, together.”
Due to David’s busier schedule and growing independence, the two don’t meet as regularly, but they still connect every other week to talk about his work experiences and cope with any issues he faces.
Although much of David is the same as before he secured employment (he still likes reading science fiction, listening to classical music, collecting comic books, and watching and talking about football extensively), much has changed within him as well.
“Having this job has really improved my mood. It gives me something to do,” David said. “It’s an outlet for my energy so I’m not stressed out about other things. I was stressed before finding work, but I didn’t really know why. I got depressed in early afternoon. Now it’s gotten a lot better.”
He also notices a positive difference in his self-esteem. “I feel a lot better about my life and I feel like I’m doing something productive. I have more self-esteem because my life has more purpose.”
For David, each burrito, each order to be rung up at the cash register, each shift is a “mini challenge.” He observes how his coworkers complete tasks so he can incorporate helpful techniques into his own work style, and after each shift he finds that he reflects upon how he can do better next time.
When asked what advice he would give to others who experience mental health challenges and who are looking for work, a smile appears on his face: “Persist. It seems hard at first, but you’ll know when you have a good opportunity. It’ll be a pleasant surprise. It’s unpredictable.”
While he’s more than happy to encourage others along on their journeys to find meaningful work, David can’t sit still and dole out advice for long. He gets to go to work tonight.
And before that? Well, he has a reading list “a mile long.”

Karen, Stoughton School District Cafeteria Employee

I think with mental illness there is a stereotype that it’s really nothing, but it really is something. I had been looking for a job for almost a year before I got my job.  It felt great when they said, “You’re hired.” I was like “WHAT!?”

Chrysalis provided support when I felt frustrated with the job search. My employment specialist, Hannah, and I met weekly to complete job applications, talk about my anxiety. I am proud of myself because I am pushing myself out of my comfort zone; I am making money and making friends.My favorite thing about the job is meeting new people. It has been nice to work in a school district because people are really friendly. I also get peer support services from Eric. Eric and I talk about my family situation and everyday life. It’s helpful to talk to him because he has also been through some things, he’s someone I can talk to and relate with.

My advice to someone who has been looking for work for a long time is to stay positive and keep applying, because you never know.

Photo of Sharon at The Dollar Tree - Work with Chrysalis

Sharon, Dollar Tree Employee

The Community Intervention Team (CIT) and Chrysalis worked together with a purpose to help me overcome the boundaries and stigma of being mentally ill and unemployed. I was first diagnosed with bipolar and schizophrenia by my doctors at CIT and learned that it could be treated by taking medications and carefully being guided by my psychiatrist on a monthly basis. As I underwent screening and testing, I learned that I needed to understand that my illness caused me difficulty in finding employment and that it could take years before I would get a chance to prove that I could overcome the boundaries and stigma of being mentally ill and unable to perform regular work tasks.After years of searching for work and being turned down by employers, my social worker suggested that I volunteer at Chrysalis to gain some experience in working with others who also had trouble with finding work because of their illness. Working at Chrysalis gave me a purpose to believe that I could handle all sorts of tasks and that if I kept volunteering I would get the right experience to hold a paying position. Over a period of time I was appointed to my job specialist Hannah, who worked with me and helped me with interviewing skills, job applications, and cover letters and searched constantly on the computer for jobs. We would meet once a week and go out into the community to search for job openings. We searched and kept searching and found out the job market was slow. I was glad that Hannah got me in the habit of taking my applications straight to the employer and getting a chance to feel the atmosphere of the right working environment.Soon my job specialist saw an opening for a part-time position at the Dollar Tree and used her special skills to get me an interview with the manager. As Hannah spoke to me about the job opening, she prepared me by carefully practicing interview techniques and question for me to answer. She made me feel comfortable and challenged my ability to speak precise and clearly.In about a week, we went in to talk with the manager. She introduced me to the manager and the manager began to give a brief job description on the type of work I would be performing. I was hired the same day! I was pleased to have found an employer who was willing to allow me a chance to prove that I could perform the tasks. She allowed a job coach, Jon, also a job specialist, to help me with quicker ways and give good advice and support on how to perform effectively and efficiently.My job included facing items in the aisles which meant that you had to move the items all to the front of the shelves and stack then neatly from top to bottom. At first the task was kind of difficult and slow and kind of uneasy, but as Jon pointed out ways to stack wisely it became easier and worked along with me. He worked with me every Monday for three hours until I learned the task and was able to perform independently. After and month of facing, the manager carefully switched me to other projects and introduced me to such tasks as recovery items and go back in the store so that I could familiarize myself with the whole store.

It has been six months now at the Dollar Tree, and I have been asked to do more responsibilities such as the cashier. I am pleased that CIT and Chrysalis paired together with a purpose to help me overcome the barriers of being mentally ill and in touch with the reality that finding paid employment is successful because of place like Chrysalis and CIT.

Angela, AMC Theatre

Angela started her employment journey at AMC Theatre in October of 2018. At the time, she had no idea she would become their Employee of the Month just two months later!

“I like to get to work early.”

Angela was awarded Employee of the Month due to her impeccable cleanliness, that helped earn Madison’s AMC Theatre the Chicago Cleanliness Award. Three days a week, Angela comes into work, grabs a broom, and cleans the common areas and theatres. During the slow times, Angela “uses [her] imagination to keep going” and reports enjoying the relationships she has built with her co-workers. Angela mentioned that, “the atmosphere at work is fun, I was able to dress up for Halloween in my Harry Potter Slytherin robe.”

The job at AMC Theatres did not just fall into Angela’s lap. Angela worked hard with her Employment Specialist, Sarah, to find the right job. Sarah and Angela visited multiple places around Angela’s apartment because it was important for Angela to be able to walk to work. Sarah describes Angela as “patient” and having the ability to “persevere.” Angela completed the job application for AMC online, and was invited into to have an interview with the manager. It wasn’t long until Angela heard back that she was hired!

Angela shared, “[I like my job because] I get to learn about different movies. Then if I like them, I get to see them for free. As employee of the month I get to invite two people to attend a movie with me for free. I am happy to be at AMC and plan to stick around for awhile!”

2018 Chrysalis Achievement Award Winner

Employment Specialist, Brook Landeo: Pam has made great strides with her employment goals after transitioning out of the Chrysalis Pops 2017 season and entering into the Culinary Creations catering training program where she received her ServSafe certification.  After successful completion of this training program with perfect attendance, Pam was offered a permanent part- time position serving school lunch at Our Lady Queen of Peace School.

Pam was selected to receive the 2018 Chrysalis Achievement Award due to her astounding success in her position at Culinary Creations Catering over the last year.  Pam recognizes the positive impact that her work has had on her mental health and feels like her work journey has given her life great meaning and purpose. It is for all these reasons that Pam was selected as our first recipient of our 2018 Achievement Award.

2019 Chrysalis Achievement Award Winner

Employment Specialist, Furman Avery: “I’ve known David for about a year now, during that time I’ve learned how resilient David is. David has faced tremendous challenges in his life and he has risen above these to be the outstanding person he is today. When I first starting working with David he was employed with a fast-food restaurant. He had been there for a little less than six months when we started working together. There certain things about the job that David didn’t like but he wanted to stick it for at least a year then maybe look for something else. Along the way, David’s supervisor began to become very critical and verbally abuse David by yelling in his ear. I supported and assisted David in finding his inner strength to stand up for himself and advocate for himself to the district manager. David was able to make the district manager understand and agree that David was being mistreated by the supervisor. David also advocated for himself to get a much-needed raise that was long overdue. David is always willing to take on extra work and help out where he is needed.

David has since moved on to a better position with a different organization, and he continues to move forward with his life. David has a good outlook on life and has a good support system with family and friends.”

Quote from David: “In the past I would get really paranoid on the job and just quit, now I learned the value of work and not to run away from problems.  I have a desire to be a productive citizen, not just stay in the house because I am scared to go out and try new things but check in with my supportive team and listen to their advice.”