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Second chance employment gave Jennifer an opportunity to rebuild her life

February 10, 2022

Jennifer joined Pallet in May 2020

Jennifer always liked working with her hands and using power tools — in part because her father worked as a roofer. With two younger brothers, she took pride in proving she could do anything they could. Her tactile skills, honed over the years, made her a great fit as a manufacturing specialist at Pallet. She joined the team in May 2020. Jennifer began with the drill press, then progressed to other machines such as the chop saw and band saw. Jennifer also excelled at training others. When she wasn't working at Pallet's headquarters, she traveled to other cities to set up shelter villages as part of the deployment team. 

"It's very humbling when you're watching people take down their tents, and they are just so grateful and so excited and so happy that you're here, and they're thanking you," she shared. "You know that they're going to be okay because they're going to get more help."

Jennifer understands the realities of homelessness. She and her dad lived in a car, then an RV for more than a year. Living in an RV presented challenges, from constantly moving because of parking restrictions to finding ways to pay for gas. It was a struggle to support herself. Plus, she and her father were both using substances.

"Growing up in a dysfunctional family of two parents who are addicts themselves, they hid the drugs from us pretty well," she shared. "We didn't have an idea until we were older when we started bringing drugs into the house ourselves. And then they started doing our drugs with us. So we are a family that used together." 

In addition to years consumed by substance use disorder, Jennifer says she also experienced physical and verbal abuse from a previous partner. She describes feeling lost during this time in her life. Over the years, she tried to remain in recovery, but it wasn't until an arrest in the fall of 2019 that she was successful. Jennifer enrolled in the Mental Health Alternatives (MAP) program. This 12-month therapeutic program uses continuous and intensive court-supervised treatment and services to reduce recidivism. Once she completed the program, all of her charges were dismissed.

"I continued my journey in a clean and sober house which I became the resident assistant of," Jennifer said. "And from there, I got baptized. And that's really when I think the miracle happened within me. The light came back after that whole process, just letting everything go into the water."

Jennifer using the band saw on the factory floor.

Since joining Pallet, she's been able to begin rebuilding her life. She now has her license back, bought a car, and started making payments on the thousands of dollars worth of "financial wreckage" she had incurred in previous years. Two of the four judgments are paid off. She's grateful for the opportunity to rebuild her life.

"This is a second chance company. I didn't have to worry about explaining my felonies or anything that would come up on a background check," Jennifer shared. "I felt like I really dodged a bullet when I only had to fill out just a general application."

(*We now describe our hiring practices as fair chance employment. Learn why we changed our language here.

Jennifer likes that she can be her authentic self at work and doesn't have to worry about how she's being perceived. She feels seen for who she is and appreciated for what she contributes to the workplace.

These days when Jennifer gets home from work, she's no longer shaking out a few metal shavings from her hair. She's been promoted to Human Resources and Safety Specialist. In her new role, she's making sure employees follow safety protocols and schedules training sessions. Jennifer can spend more time with her daughter thanks to the new hours. She regained custody of her last fall and is rebuilding their relationship. Everyone in Jennifer's immediate family is also in recovery. 

Jennifer likes to cook in her spare time and plays in a softball league. She's looked back at old photos of herself and is proud of her transformation. Joy radiates from her eyes and smile. Today she has a purpose. 

"I know where I left off, and I can't imagine there being a deeper bottom than what I've already crawled out of," she shared. "I found myself again. I've worked on myself enough. I actually have my independence back now, and I'm doing this on my own."

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