Valerie felt stripped of worth and very alone. GCB brought her back to her life with something as simple as a coffee cart.
“We have a job for you.” Those simple words from GCB changed everything for Valerie—or Val, as she calls herself. “With GCB, I felt needed,” she says. For this mother of three and grandmother of five, that was so important. Life needed to have meaning, and in the years before she found GCB, it felt as if meaning was slipping away.
Throughout her life, Val has struggled with depression. “It comes in and out,” she says. There have been times when it’s gotten the better of her. Once, she even tried to take her own life. “Since then, I’ve learned about the signs and what to watch for. I was starting to see some of those signs again,” Val says, remembering her emotional landscape of a few years ago. She was unable to work, and couldn’t lift herself out of the fog. She felt isolated. Irrelevant. Hopeless. “I felt that I was at my end.”
“They told me, ‘be yourself: people like you when you're really yourself.’”
She took action and visited a clinic. They referred her to GCB for services. She first saw a GCB psychiatrist, who helped her get stable. Then, GCB began to help her address some of her other issues. Val wanted to work and feel needed, but she didn’t know where to begin. GCB has a supervised employment program, where clients run the Wellness Center Kitchen (a commissary style café where GCB employees can eat, and clients enjoy various programming and activities). Supervised employment at GCB is an excellent “on ramp” to work in the community.
A position managing the coffee and snack cart for the Wellness Center at GCB Madison happened to be available, so Val happily took the job. Val is so soft-spoken that when she first started working the cart, she struggled with the idea that she might be “bothering” people as she walked down the halls. “They told me, ‘Be yourself: people like you when you’re really yourself,’” Val says. The advice proved true. Val got to know her customers (GCB staff) and began to look forward to her rounds and the many conversations each day brought. “You feel connected when you come here,” she says. “It’s like a family.”
After six months working the coffee cart, Val was eager for a new challenge. Using GCB’s vocational services, she found a job working in a school cafeteria not too far from GCB. She likes the work (she loves being around kids and working in a school environment). “I’m going to keep building on my success, and I’ll work to get an even better position next year.”
Val also enjoys writing. She always has—even as a young girl. Writing helps her express herself, and work through her feelings. She likes to journal, and sometimes writes stories. She reconnected with her love of writing when she came to GCB, and enjoys sharing little pieces she’s written—especially if she senses that it might brighten someone’s day. As for employment goals for the future, Val is hoping to keep working in a school setting, or perhaps a hospital or nursing home. The work itself isn’t as important as the meaning behind it. “As long as I’m helping someone, I’m happy,” she says.