Byron #SuccessBells

September 4, 2017

Music swelled over the hum of the dishwasher and the spray of water jets. Byron’s dress shoes squeaked as he moved quickly around the dish pit. The sleeves of his button down shirt were rolled up, and his khakis were speckled with the spray of water, but he didn’t notice. He was working a trial shift at Chef Curtis Stone’s upscale restaurant, Gwen, and a little bit of water wasn’t going to stand between him and doing his absolute best.

A native Texan, Byron left a history of drug use and a life in and out of the criminal justice system behind and moved to L.A. to be closer to his youngest son. He was ready for a change, but despite his desire to build a future that wasn’t predicated on his past, he was struggling to land a job. “When I came to L.A., I was just lost,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in a recent interview. Doors kept closing, perhaps because of his tattoos or his criminal background. Byron was able to find odd jobs to pay rent, but he was barely keeping his head above water. That’s when he met a street sweeper on the Fashion District clean team – one of Chrysalis’ clients working a transitional job – who told him about our program.

Soon after, on a sunny Monday morning, Byron gazed at the success bell in the lobby of our downtown center as he waited for new client orientation to start. In its elevated position illuminated under a spotlight, it was clear to Byron that the bell was something special. He observed the bustling lobby around him, and his eyes were drawn to a wall covered with photographs. Photo after photo depicted the smiling faces of clients who had landed jobs. As Byron wondered if his photograph would ever hang alongside the others, an announcement was made over the intercom. Staff, volunteers, and clients spilled out of offices and classrooms to come together in the lobby to celebrate: A man rang the bell – he had landed a job. “It gave me hope. I wondered if Chrysalis was going to be a turning point in my life,” Byron recalled.

Byron dove into our program with a strong sense of motivation. He met with his Employment Specialist regularly to go over job leads, built a resume based on his goals and experience, and practiced conducting himself professionally in an interview. It was a system that made sense to him: As long as he was willing to learn, Chrysalis was going to help him gain access to the tools he needed to succeed. “What I’ve mostly found here is that you need to know somebody in order to get a job. So for guys like us who may not have so many friends and family members, Chrysalis acts as that family member,” Byron told The Hollywood Reporter.

Byron was on the metro headed toward Santa Monica when he got the call. It was Luke, Chef Stone’s brother and managing owner at Gwen, and he wanted Byron to come in for a trial run as a porter. Byron rerouted himself on the next metro and sprinted to catch the bus to Hollywood. He arrived on time – albeit a little over dressed – and more determined than ever to do his best. He found his groove quickly, moving around the back-of-house with ease, keeping pace with the rhythm of the music floating throughout the kitchen. “I was on top of the world,” Byron recalls. “I had been struggling for so long. This opportunity meant so much.” By end of night, he was offered the position!

Byron has continued to shine at Gwen. He has since been promoted to a supervisor position, and he is often asked to oversee the restaurant when outside production companies are on site. Being trusted with more responsibility gives him pride, and he never tires of sharing how grateful he is for the opportunity to get back on his feet.

The dignity and financial stability that came with a job has permeated his personal life too. On his days off, he looks forward to taking his three year-old son to the beach, to the movies, or to grab some tacos. He is dedicated to preserving their bond as he also works to rekindle his connection with his eldest son back in Texas. Thanks to a steady paycheck, Byron was able to buy a flight home for his son’s 13th birthday – the first birthday they have gotten to celebrate together.

Byron recently paid a visit to our Downtown center. Instead of sitting down with his Employment Specialist to go over job leads, he stood at the center of our lobby surrounded by staff, volunteers, and clients as he rang the bell. It was a momentous occasion, and one that hopefully inspired someone just like Byron who was wondering if Chrysalis is their first step to a second chance.

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