GREEN BAY (NBC26) — When Christopher Zahn describes the work he does, he talks about himself.
“‘Would you hire a former addict, a former alcoholic, somebody that is very open about their mental health disorder?," he recalls asking members of Leadership Green Bay. "'And would you hire somebody that has an extensive criminal background?’ And they said, ‘Oh no.’ And so I said, ‘Well in all reality, you wouldn’t hire me, because that’s my story.’”
Saint Vincent de Paul Green Bay hasn’t held a session for their Back2Work program in over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But now facing a demand in the community for workers, they’re bringing the program back. It's open to anybody, and Zahn, program coordinator, says he helps many people who come from poverty or homelessness learn how to build a resume and apply to a job.
“I like to say, when we talk about Back2Work, it’s for any adverse life situation that you may have faced," he said.
Shelley Tilly was in one of the first cohorts of the program when she lost her job at Shopko.
“Just to do a little soul-searching," she said. "To see what I want to do next to my life.“
Now, she works at the front desk at St. Vincent as an intake specialist.
“I was a friend in need," said Tilly. "I came here for help, and they did help me out so much.”
Zahn makes the interactive class setting fun to help people learn from each other, he said.
"Watching a person like Shelly who thought she was going to retire from Shopko and feel dejected, watching her blossom into the person she is now, where she is utilizing those skills to help people," said Zahn. "That’s what she does.”
The business partners St. Vincent works with are desperate for employees, he said. Zahn is working to remove the stigma and shame around coming from tough backgrounds.
“People come to me and say, ‘Christopher I’m a felon,'" he said. "'I say, ‘That’s a beautiful thing.’ ‘...What?’ And it’s to reframe that, to look at it differently. We only take that as a negative if we take it upon ourselves.”
The back 2 work session runs March 30th to April 9th. Anyone can apply, no matter your education or skills. You can apply here.