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Why these Pa. businesses are hiring people in recovery

A recovery center owner and entrepreneur in Lancaster County is building businesses that are rebuilding lives.

LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — They're underserved, underestimated and often under significant financial stress.

People battling a substance use disorder can wind up behind bars, making the road to recovery even more challenging.

Chris Dreisbach is a big man with a big heart, who wants to erase the stigma they face. Now the CEO of Blueprints for Addiction Recovery, his path to success was anything but direct. 

After struggling with substance use and spending time in jail, he came to Lancaster County with a vision, soon starting a recovery center.

In his eyes, it was just the beginning. 

"We started a painting and construction company to help give those guys an opportunity and give them purpose," Dreisbach said. "That led me to really love investing in businesses and helping investing in people."

One of those people is Joe McDonald.

"Coming out of state prison in mid-2012, I wasn't sure what I was going to do," McDonald said.

Now a trained chef, McDonald's first job after prison was at Burger King, an opportunity he was grateful for.

It lead him to a brewery and then to Chris, who partnered with Joe to take over Dough Heads Waffles.

He's also in charge at the Honeybee Cafe, serving up breakfast sandwiches and coffee.

McDonald said the stigma around addiction and incarceration still keeps hard-working people from good opportunities like the one he found.

"Even on my worst days here, it's better than my best days when I was in prison on when I was out using," he said.

Dough Heads is expanding, opening a stand inside Southern Market in Lancaster earlier this year. 

It's where we met Manager AJ Christensen, who said he's in recovery from fentanyl and heroin use. 

Christensen attended Dreisbach's recovery center after serving time for a drug conviction. 

He said the job keeps him going and his coworkers understand him.

"Having a safe and positive workplace to come to is really important, because I don't have to hide what I've done, what I've been through, where I've been, with anyone that I work with," Christensen said. "They're super supportive."

"My outlet was mainly alcohol," said Zach Walter, CFO of ESO Arts Center. "That was my best friend for a very long time and then I was like 'We're not very good together.'"

Walter has a steady hand and he has to. He's been tattooing for almost two decades. 

At ESO Arts Center, a new location in Lancaster, he finally has his own space. 

It's a place for collaboration, he said, a chance for local artists to showcase their talents and sell their artwork. 

"People every day come in here and tell us how much they enjoy being here," he said.

Walter enjoys it too, saying there's a level of understanding between him and his coworkers. 

Dreisbach admits art isn't his forte, but he's happy to help a new community of talented creators find a place to establish themselves.

He estimates 80% of the people he employs endured the same struggles he once did.

He's out to give them all a second chance.

"There are still so many people societally who are struggling with that stigma, that we need to get louder, be louder and be everywhere," Dreisbach said.

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