Meet Erika! She is our Lead Filler, meaning she puts together + takes apart our filling machine (which is a very impressive task!), manages quality control and leads the team in filling the nut butter jars that you enjoy. Some fun facts about Erika: she makes amazing miniatures! Check them out here. She also volunteers at a local nonprofit called NorthStar Clubhouse, which is the organization that connected her with Ground Up.
What has your experience with Ground Up been like? How has it helped your self-confidence?
My experience at Ground Up has been nothing short of magical. I told myself at the beginning that if I could even stay for a month that it would be a huge accomplishment and to just try and get through week by week. I was so scared the first few days because I hadn’t worked in over a year and the anticipation of finally trying to get back into the workforce was intense. I never thought in a million years I would have both psychiatric and physical disabilities that would prevent me from working. Since they had a later onset, I am still adjusting to what that means. It has been really scary at times! The worst part is that I felt like I couldn’t participate in society like I wanted to (and how I was used to for so long). Work was a huge part of that. It means a lot to work at a place that gives me accommodations and patience during this period of adjustment. Without it, going back to work would be too overwhelming.
What does it mean to you to have a job opportunity and be back in the workforce?
It means so much to me. Before starting work at Ground Up there were months and months of baby steps and preparation to get to a place where I could commute by myself and be able to function at work. I experienced such intense agoraphobia and dysautonomia symptoms for a while that I wasn’t able to leave my house. I think back to the very trying times of walking only a block away and having to run back home. It was always hard to imagine that my tiny victories would amount to a more functional life someday. Flash forward to a year and a half later and I drive to work by myself, work for 8 hours, and even feel calm doing it. I really needed a simple, safe transition back into the workforce to “test” it out before jumping in - and Ground Up is the perfect opportunity for this. NorthStar Clubhouse (the organization that paired me with Ground Up) has been an incredible and consistent support since I got out of the hospital. By volunteering at the clubhouse, I was able to explore what types of accommodations I could ask future employers, find new career paths, and build enough confidence to start the process of going back to work at my own pace. They have been there since day one and now being at Ground Up is like I have flown the coop!
What is the community at Ground Up like? What does having this community mean to you?
This community is so positive and fun-loving. There are some real comedians working in the kitchen, too! Everyone is really supportive and encouraging, even though we all have come from different organizations. I know we are all going through trying times together and it inspires me to work with them.
What do you like to do for fun?
I love hanging out with my dog, Chica who is my beautiful and feisty Emotional Support Animal! I also love decorating cakes, thrifting, hanging out with my friends, making miniatures, watching scary movies and basketball, and rewatching Desperate Housewives!
What is your favorite Ground Up nut butter flavor + favorite way to it?
My favorite nut butter is Nutty Banana Bread for sure. I like to eat it on s’mores, strawberries, or jicama. Also the production kitchen smelled SO good that day.
What do you hope to do after Ground Up?
I hope to get a job in non-profit communications or do something creative. My dream job is to work at Laika Studios and make minis 24/7! Although now that I can fill nut butter jars, I don’t know - the world is my oyster.