Handbag Maker Celebrates 3 Years Of Helping Employees Stay Sober

By Kelly Burch 06/05/19

All of the proceeds from the bags that the nonprofit company sells are used to pay employees' salary and benefits.

Handbag Maker

For three years, every employee at Unshattered, a non-profit bag maker in Poughkeepsie, New York, has stayed clean and sober. 

Although that may not be remarkable at some workplaces, it’s amazing considering that all of the women who work at Unshattered are in the early stages of recovery. 

"You picture devastation and addiction. That was their lives," Kelly Lyndgaard, who founded the organization, told Chronogram in January. "They've chosen to get well, chosen to do the hard work to get back on their feet.”

Unshattered provides women in recovery with job training and a career path that leads to a full-time job, with benefits. Using up-cycled materials like old army uniforms or car upholstery, the women make handbags and other totes. The idea is simple, but life-changing. This week, the organization is celebrating three years of 100% sobriety for all employees, according to the Daily Freeman

Dea Tobias has been with the organization since November 2017. She connected with Unshattered after completing rehab at Hoving Home, a treatment center that partners with the organization. Since then, she’s been sober and finds purpose in making beautiful bags and connecting with other women who have overcome addiction. 

"It's about women like myself, my beautiful handbags and learning to live," she said. 

Having a steady job allowed her to stay clean after her stay in rehab ended. “I didn't know what my next step was but I knew that going back to doing the things that I used to do wouldn't work," she said. 

Instead of returning to the streets, Tobias was able to secure a full-time job at Unshattered. "It's truly amazing here," she said. "I'm around the ladies that know my struggle. They know what I've been through and they relate.”

When a woman has completed a recovery program, she can apply for a 10-week internship at Unshattered, learning skills like design and sewing. When the internship is up, the woman can decide if she is ready for full-time employment, Lyndgaard said. 

"It's not about me deciding whether or not I want to hire you. It's: are you willing to do the work that it takes to create employment for yourself and drive enough value in revenue to the team?” she said. 

All of the proceeds from the bags that Unshattered sells are used to pay employees' salary and benefits. Administrative costs are covered through fundraising, Lyndgaard said. 

The president of Hoving Home, Beth Greco, said that Unshattered has provided a continuum of care for women in early recovery. 

“[Recovering women] can finish our program, but there has to be a next step,” she said. “What Unshattered has done is given us a very viable next step for some of the women."

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.