Photo Credit Johnny Castillo

Legislators including L.A. County Board of Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky attended the new offices for Chrysalis in Pacoima.

In 2011, after 20 years of helping the owner develop and grow a natural supplement company, Rafael Martinez found himself without a job. The Arleta resident was 57-years-old and didn’t even know how to write a resume.

After knocking on doors, and seeking help at different employment centers, Martinez said he “reached bottom.” He’d been unemployed for eight months and applied to more jobs that he could remember. His unemployment benefits were running out and he was on the verge of not being to cover his mortgage.

“I was desperate, disillusioned,” he remembered. “I didn’t know what to do. I knew that what came next was either alcohol or drugs.”

While at a Worksource Center, he heard about a representative from Chrysalis, an organization dedicated to helping those that life has handed its fair share of problems to, or who simply can’t find someone to give them a second chance.

They help people prepare for interviews, craft resumes, even provide them with clothes, but also raise their self-esteem along the way and make sure they stay on the path to recovery and self-sufficiency. All the services are free.

Martinez decided to give Chrysalis a try.

“I found a friendly welcome. When you go to employment centers, it’s usually cold and they just tell you the positions available. But here, it was different.”

An unemployment specialist helped Martinez reduce his resume from three long pages to just one and a half to make it easier for prospective employers to get a sense of his experience. The workshops on job interview skills also helped him realize that part of the problem he faced was his own state of mind.

“I applied and applied for jobs. Sometimes they called, I would go in for an interview, but nothing would come of it. I realized it was my morale. It was really low. But here it started to change,” Martinez recalled.

Five months after arriving at Chrysalis, he applied for a sales job at Ortho Mattress through Craigslist. He went to an interview, and a second one followed over the telephone. He got the job, and has been in charge of the North Hollywood store for the past year.

“I thank Chrysalis for helping me get back on my feet,” said Martinez, who has two children and three grandchildren.

New Offices In Pacoima

Martinez’s story illustrates the kind of work Chrysalis has been doing for the past 30 years.

Its service had a huge growth the past several years when the recession hit the country and millions of people found  themselves without a job, competing for positions with those that already had problems finding employment to.

Chrysalis has had an office in Pacoima since 2001. That office was located in a small space in a nondescript strip mall at the corner of Arleta Avenue and Van Nuys Boulevard, found itself inundated with new cases. In the last four years, the Pacoima office experienced a 199 percent increase in the number of cases seeking help. The small office simply was no longer adequate for all the new clients.

On Saturday, Oct. 18, Chrysalis (the word means the growth stage and transforming of a butterfly) held a grand opening for its new offices. The new space is more than twice the size of the previous one. The organization is now in the building formerly housing the Pacoima Skills Center along Van Nuys Boulevard.

It features more computers to allow the clients to look for jobs, a spacious lobby, several private offices for one-on-one assistance, two meeting rooms, a walk-in closet for the clothes, and shoes the organization gives out to people who don’t have proper attire for a job interview. There are a couple of classrooms and even a small kitchen.

A Proven Strategy For Help

Last year, Chrysalis helped 3,500 clients in their three centers in Pacoima (since 2001), downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica. More than 2,000 got jobs through their program.

The program includes pairing an unemployment specialist with each client to find his or her strengths, needs and qualities. Clients attend 10 classes that teach them job preparation skills, how to manage a budget and stress, interview practice, resume preparation and basic computer. Clients can also get bus tokens or TAP cards so they can travel to their job interviews.

“We’re about removing all the excuses one might have about getting  a job,” said Amy Rosenfeld, director of Marketing and Communications.

She added their clients are often people with a lot of barriers that may include being homeless, having been incarcerated, or are addicts in recovery.

Mark Loranger, Chrysalis CEO, noted that “we’re all about jobs and our job is to get people back on the path to self-sufficiency through jobs.” But, he emphasized, “a job is about dignity, self-respect and reconnecting with your family and community.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who attended the grand opening, praised the work Chrysalis has been doing the past 30 years.

“When somebody gets a job, it makes a tremendous difference in that person,” Yaroslavsky said. “We depend on nonprofit, community organizations like Chrysalis to carry out our mission. We can’t do it all by ourselves and what we do is not as good as what Chrysalis does.”

Martinez knows firsthand the difference having a job can make in a person.

He said today he feels renewed. And while the salary he earns is not nearly that of what he was making before being laid off, he’s able to provide for his family and is not dependent on the government for unemployment.

A proud man, Martinez says he was never comfortable receiving a handout. He prefers a “hand up” and that’s what Chrysalis provided for him.

For more information on Chrysalis, visit www.changelives.org. The Pacoima office is located at 13357 Van Nuys Blvd. Its office phone number is call (818) 794-4200.