Nearly a hundred Thermal-Vac Technology staff members come together almost weekly to share updates and celebrate wins across the company. For La Donna, moments of togetherness and building team morale like this were things she had always heard about but had never before experienced. She describes the supportive and encouraging culture at her job fondly, “Thermal-Vac is an awesome company to work for. I can be myself there.” As someone who enjoys switching up her hair color often, La Donna was pleasantly surprised to learn that the company’s CEO also dons a less-traditional hue of locks. But that isn’t the only thing that makes La Donna feel empowered to be her full self.

With very limited employment history, La Donna shares that her position as a Plating Operator is what she considers to be her first job. After navigating substance use and unstable housing for many years, she didn’t know if steady employment was attainable for her. But upon being referred to a temporary position at Thermal-Vac – where many of her fellow coworkers are also in recovery – La Donna had hope for something better. “They know my history, and they don’t judge or look down on you. The people I work with are all about building you up.”

La Donna was referred to that temporary position through Chrysalis Staffing, our social enterprise that connects clients to temporary and temporary-to-permanent work with over 200 hiring partners across Los Angeles and Orange counties. After a 90-day trial period, she was hired! The heavy lifting required was no match for La Donna’s determination, and she prides herself for being the company’s first female staff member in her role.

She explains that one of her main drivers to land a job was to regain custody of her two children. For years, La Donna struggled to make ends meet, but she was able to focus on being the primary caregiver for her children with added support from her father and other family members. With his passing a few years ago, much of her safety net disappeared, and for nearly five years she and her daughters navigated living in hotels or on the street. After stealing as a means to cover bills, La Donna was arrested, and her children were put into foster care.

La Donna was referred to Chrysalis while living at Colette’s Children’s Home. She approached our job-readiness program with an open mind, knowing that obtaining employment was a key step toward getting her children back. She explains that the core classes and individualized coaching during practice interviews and one-on-one meetings with her Employment Specialist prepared her to speak confidently about what she brings to the table as an employee. She also received transportation assistance, a scholarship to reinstate her Driver License, and obtained new work attire.

What sticks with her most, however, is the connection she had with her Employment Specialist and the judgement-free environment at Chrysalis. She reflects, “It’s a struggle out there, especially with addiction and living that lifestyle. There comes a point when you don’t have hope. Going through Chrysalis really gave me hope. I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now if I hadn’t gone through Chrysalis and put my all into it. I’m really grateful for everything that [my Employment Specialist] did. I could be open and honest about where I came from, who I was, and what I was going through, and I wasn’t looked down on. Being able to walk into [Chrysalis]…and not be judged is a big thing.”

Today, La Donna celebrates nearly a year of steady employment at Thermal-Vac where she continues to learn and grow, over two years of sobriety, and recently regaining custody of her children. Currently residing with a family member, she looks forward to continuing to stabilize and eventually getting a place for herself and her daughters. She shares, “This is all new to me. It’s a whole new way of living that I had only heard about before. Being able to have a job is being able to have my kids and my family back.”

Meet La Donna and some of her coworkers when you watch her bell ringing celebration at Chrysalis Orange County, where we were joined by the Mayor!