- Associated Press - Saturday, May 6, 2017

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (AP) - Jennifer Shamburger didn’t hesitate when the director of the Bliss House, a Jeffersonville addiction recovery home, asked her if she could hire their residents.

The Dairy Queen franchisee owner knew what it was like for those struggling with substance abuse. Some of her family members have gone through the same thing.

“I think everybody deserves a second chance. We make mistakes,” Shamburger said.

For the past nine years or so, she has been hiring individuals recovering from or currently dealing with addiction. Many of them come from the Bliss House or Serenity House, an alcoholism treatment program for men located in Jeffersonville.

They work on the front lines of Shamburger’s East 10th Street restaurant: manning her cash registers and attending to her drive through.

“They are great workers,” she said. “Great personalities, and the customers, they love them and they ask for them when they’re not there.”

She said she knows that some local employers are hesitant to hire former substance abusers.

“.They’re afraid that they’re going to not show up, they’re going to steal from them,” she said. “That’s not true.”

But Shamburger does more than just hire people in recovery. She helps them in every way she can.

Desaree Brown has been working at the Dairy Queen for 10 months. She graduated from the Bliss House in March.

Bliss House residents are required to get jobs while living at the recovery place, but those jobs have to work around their schedules, which include recovery classes and curfews.

Shamburger worked closely with Brown to ensure she could always make it to Bliss House events. Shamburger also took an interest in Brown’s recovery journey, Brown said.

“(Shamburger) genuinely asks and cares and wants to know how I’m doing, where I’m at and if I’m still going to meetings, if I’m still contacting my sponsor,” she said. “She genuinely wants you to do good as a human being.”

At times, Shamburger has even talked employees down from relapsing. She had one woman come to her, saying that she wanted to quit her job.

“I wouldn’t let her leave,” Shamburger said. “I made her sit down. I made her a cup of coffee and everything.”

Shamburger called her dad, who took off work to also sit down and talk with the employee.

The intervention worked, but it wasn’t the last time Shamburger dealt with an emotional worker.

Employees in recovery are often scared when they first get a job at the Dairy Queen, the restaurant owner said.

“They’re nervous. They don’t think they’re going to be able to do it,” she said. “But I try to encourage them.”

Shamburger tells them that she’ll stand by their side.

“You might make a few mistakes, but it’s going to be all right,” she says. “Everybody makes mistakes.”

Brown remembers being nervous on her first day on the job.

“I wasn’t very employable before, you know,” she said. “.I was afraid I was going to let (Shamburger) down.”

Brown wasn’t giving herself enough credit.

She’s the type of worker who Shamburger doesn’t have to worry about. She talks to employees when they’re at their grumpiest - in the morning before breakfast.

“She cheers them up,” Shamburger said. “Before they leave, they’ve got a big smile on their face.”

Brown’s success at work came as a surprise to her.

“I didn’t realize that I had the work ethic that I have,” she said. “And Jen’s been really supportive. I feel I need to show her that I appreciate and I’m grateful today.”

Shamburger said her employees often change as they progress through the recovery process. She loves being able to see them graduate from their recovery programs.

There are times, however, when she has been let down by an employee. Sometimes when she hires a worker in the midst of their addiction, they stop showing up for work.

But the business owner isn’t opposed to giving anyone another chance. She welcomed one employee back at least three times before he stayed.

“He ended up being very successful,” she said.

Eventually, he moved on and got a new job. He still returns to the Dairy Queen every now and then - just to let his former boss know how he’s doing.

Shamburger’s actions have been an important part of many of her employees’ recovery, including Brown’s, whose job boosted her self-esteem.

“Like, I can pay my bills today,” Brown said. “I can provide for my son.”

That, she said, is a big deal.

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Source: News and Tribune, https://bit.ly/2qsWxvm

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Information from: News and Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind., https://www.newsandtribune.com


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