Pops have purpose of spreading mental health awareness
MADISON, Wis. — Popsicles aren’t the easiest product to market on a 50-degree morning, but Cornell Gibbs has learned to make the best of any situation. It helps that his smile and laugh spreads as quickly as he can dish out the treats.
“Makes you smile. Keeps you happy,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs used to bus tables at restaurants, but he hasn’t been able to find employment for years.
“I was out looking for a job, but I just couldn’t find one because it’s hard,” Gibbs said. “It’s real hard to find a job now.”
Gibbs came across Chrysalis earlier this year. The nonprofit organization helps adults with disabilities and mental health struggles train for and find jobs. For a couple of years now, that has included Chrysalis Pops. Clients train for six months in the kitchen and out with the Icicle Tricycle, a three-wheeled freezer the popsicles are sold out of.
Scott Hansen is another participant who has struggled to find and keep work. The online applications have been a particular challenge for him.
“It’s really helpful, you know,” Hansen said. “It’s given me a chance to get more jobs and the experience that I need.”
Like Gibbs, Hansen is one of many who work a few hours every week in the kitchen peeling, juicing, stirring, blending and doing whatever else needs to be done to package the popsicles.
Max Licker heads up the Chrysalis Pops program, and said it’s a perfect extension of the nonprofit’s goals.
“The idea is just to get people more used to the workforce,” Licker said. “These are individuals who have been out of work for a very long time who maybe never had a full-time job and this kind of gives them experience to get them more skills to get them back and more comfortable in the workplace.”
Along with making a quality sustainable product, Licker said having the clients and the Chrysalis organization in the public expands awareness and resources for mental illness.
“We hope that we can reduce stigma against mental illness, that’s basically, that they can see that someone with mental illness can be a working, constructive part of their community,” Licker said.
All of the profits from popsicle sales go back toward Chrysalis. In addition, the organization has applied for a city grant to be able to double its program and hopefully have some younger participants join the team of chefs and salesmen.
“Take the skills that you learn here, feel a little more comfortable just being in the workplace, and be more comfortable going out and doing the job search,” Licker said.
Gibbs is looking for a more seasonally-appropriate position for the winter months, but hopes to be back making and selling popsicles next spring.
“I learned a lot though. It really helped,” Gibbs said. “It really lifts up my spirit to talk to people and tell people, you know, you can start from the bottom and go way up if you let yourself do it.”
If you’d like to learn more about Chrysalis or the Chrysalis Pops program, visit https://workwithchrysalis.org/ .
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