Reporter Tanya McRae with Spectrum News visited our Chrysalis San Fernando Valley center to film a story about Antonio – check it out here!

One Client’s Journey, Continued…

May 7, 2020

Video chats and phone call updates became a very abrupt normal for Antonio and his three daughters shortly after the “safer-at-home” ordinance was put into place. “It’s hard, because I miss my kids,” Antonio shared, but he explained that sending them to stay with their mother and little brother was the best alternative.

For Antonio – as is the case for many of our clients – isolation is tough. It can trigger negative feelings and remind them of bad times.

A little over a year-and-a-half ago, we introduced you to Antonio and his family. When faced with losing custody of his children, he entered a substance use treatment program and later came to Chrysalis to begin his job search. At our San Fernando Valley center, he found so much more than job-readiness support – he found an extended family.

For the last three years, Antonio has maintained employment as a direct-to-garment printer at Printful, while also scaling his business, D.U.E. (Don’t Under Estimate).

Prior to the pandemic, his company was taking off. Online orders for his products were being placed worldwide, followers from over 20 countries were engaging on social media, conversations with a couple of large retailers were starting, and graphic designers and clothing line owners in Europe had just begun collaborating with Antonio on new ideas.

“And then boom! Everything just shut down. It just knocked me down big time.” Antonio explained that because his clothing line is made-to-order and produced within his employer’s company, everything stopped when Printful shut its doors. “I say this in all humbleness. I know I have something good there, and the people that help me are all creative geniuses. I’m just anxious. It’s like having a lot of tickets you can’t cash in.”

With only enough savings set aside for a rainy day, Antonio pressed pause on investing in his other business endeavors. However, not one to be idle, he continued to brainstorm ideas for the future and engaged in online learning resources. He also set up an assessment call with a newly assigned Employment Specialist at Chrysalis.

The morning of the check-in, he received another call – his employer shared that they were reopening their doors and wanted to bring him back on six days a week at $2 more per hour!

Like Antonio, many of our clients express to us each day that they want to work. Still, others might benefit most from assistance with groceries or bills, help finding mental health resources, or just a short call to see how they’re doing. Whatever our clients’ needs, we are prepared to meet them where they are at.

This is a difficult time for everyone, but we are inspired by the continued resilience of those we serve. In Antonio’s words to his daughters, “This is hopefully something you’ll never see again, but it’s something you’ll remember for the rest of your life.”

August 1, 2018

At 3:30 a.m., the flow of L.A. traffic is light, the sun won’t be up for another two-and-a-half hours, and Antonio is already up preparing for the busy week ahead. His shift doesn’t start until 7 a.m., but being employed full-time, building a new business, and raising three daughters as a single father keeps him on his toes. His eyes light up when he talks about work, but his tone is serious when he says, “If I lose my job, I lose my daughters.”

Antonio admits that he wasn’t always present as a parent. But he stood at a crossroads with Child Protective Services some time ago when he was presented with a choice: get sober or his daughters would be put up for adoption. For the first time in what felt like a lifetime, Antonio woke up to the reality that he could lose what he cared about most.

With his father out of the picture for much of his life growing up, Antonio found a sense of belonging running the streets with a group of friends. “My homeboys were my only family,” he reflected. But this crowd led to his involvement in illegal activities and drug use that would consume most of his waking days for more than 20 years.

Then, over the course of a year, Antonio lost his mother, job, and home, and his marriage came to an end. The threat of losing his children was the last straw. He checked into rehab with just a box of clothes to his name, uncertain of what the future held. After a few months, he was granted visitation with his daughters. “I saw them for the first time in 3 months, and I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I had to do it. They had never seen me sober before.” His resolve to change his life had never been stronger.

After completing the two-year treatment program, Antonio started to think about next steps. He knew he needed to get back to work, but he wasn’t sure where to begin. “I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I was so alone.” He recalls his first visit to Chrysalis’ Pacoima center, “It was nothing like I expected. There was no excuse for me not to get a job.”

Disconnected from most of his family, Antonio found that the staff and environment at Chrysalis offered the welcoming support he needed. “My Employment Specialist was like a sister to me – and I don’t say that lightly.” Together, Antonio and his case manager mapped out a plan to combat the biggest barriers he faced to getting a job. He familiarized himself with using a computer to job search online, built confidence during practice interviews, and looked for employment opportunities that would allow him to balance his busy evening schedule as a single dad. When feelings of doubt started to surface, Antonio’s Employment Specialist was there with words of encouragement, “She was right there with me, reminding me, you got this.”

With a background in custodial work, Antonio applied for a janitor position at the custom print shop Printful and landed an interview. When Antonio arrived, the online retailer wanted to talk to him about a completely different opportunity – the janitorial position had been filled, but the company needed another person on the printing team. Antonio knew he could do the job. “I used what I learned at Chrysalis, and I sold myself.” Shortly after, the company hired Antonio and trained him to be a direct-to-garment printer.

More than a year later, Antonio continues to grow at Printful. Invigorated by the creative atmosphere the company cultivates, he has since hired a team of designers that helps him bring his own creative visions to life. His new family business, D•U•E, which stands for do not underestimate, embodies his resilient character and determination to be a better individual, employee, and – most importantly – father.

“If you’re going to do something, be the best you can be.” Being the best version of himself and building a better future for his family is what Antonio is committed to every day – and a job makes all the difference.

>> Check out D•U•E on Instagram!