Above Photo : Courtesy of Art From The Inside Minnesota
Behind everything we do here at Repowered, there are amazing team members who make it all happen. In this blog, we’d like to introduce you to one of them: Jennifer Marx, HR and Payroll Specialist.
We recently sat down to talk with Jennifer about the work she does here, what brought her to Repowered, and what she loves about her job. She also shared a little about how she got involved with Art from the Inside and how this important program has impacted her life and the lives of many others.
Read on to get to know this valued member of the Repowered team.
What brought you to Repowered?
When I came to Repowered, I was one week out of Shakopee prison, on work release, and living in a halfway house. I had just started my one year work release adventure, after being incarcerated for the last two and a half years.
I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect…who exactly was going to hire someone with my criminal background? I was convicted of first degree felony possession of methamphetamines and second degree arson. I honestly didn’t think I stood a chance at getting a job anywhere, much less an office job.
A fellow tenant at the halfway house I was living at had recently begun her employment here at Repowered. She mentioned that they hired anyone and offered to bring me home a job application. Everything took off from there.
I came in for an interview, and started working in triage a couple days later. (Might I add that I was the first female that snagged a triage job in the warehouse? Blazing trails!!!!)
After working in triage for a couple of months I ended up injuring my arm pretty badly, so they had me work in several different departments just to keep me busy. The temp department that got me here today though was the HR department. They placed me temporarily next to Tracy as kind of her PA. I was doing her odds and ends jobs on her laptop, filing paperwork for her, etc.
After a while I was hired temporarily for the office admin front desk position that opened up. Two months after that, HR and Payroll became my next job duties…and here I am today. Busting my tail everyday, learning more and more, in the hope that I keep growing with this brilliant organization.
What is your role at Repowered? What do you love most about your job?
I am in HR and Payroll. On a daily basis I keep attendance and time, and make sure people are submitting their time off requests. I also start pay run on Mondays and have it submitted by Wednesday afternoons. I also help the organization put out fires when needed and I definitely know my way around a write-up. I am here for support and advice and to help find happy mediums.
My favorite part of my job is “Outcomes.” Watching and helping our people succeed and grow into beautiful individuals.
Tell us about Art from the Inside. What do they do and how did they get started?
Antonio Espinoza was a correctional officer at the Minnesota Correctional Facility–Stillwater, and started Art from the Inside (AFTI) as a way to foster healing and forgiveness after a friend and fellow correctional officer was killed by an inmate. After this tragedy, they needed something to bring the community together and rebuild.
Antonio started by bringing in educational and cultural events, which were successful with both officers and inmates. Then he went looking for other ways to help bring the community together, and that’s when Art from the Inside (AFTI) was born.
Art from the Inside gives incarcerated artists the opportunity to express themselves through art, giving them a visual voice. AFTI exhibits their art in the community with the hope of inspiring community dialogue about the complexities of our criminal justice system.
How did you get involved with Art from the Inside?
I originally heard about AFTI when I was incarcerated. I was working in the kitchen, about to be released to RS Eden on work release, when Ms. Sims—one of the COs at Shakopee at the time—approached me and asked if I had submitted a piece of my art to the AFTI contest.
I told her no, because I was leaving and I was out of time anyway since it was past the due date for art submissions. She responded with “I am in charge of the art submissions and I know how good you are. I’ll give you a day to turn something in…just get me something.” So I did.
I quickly drew Sirens—my first submission to AFTI and most definitely not my last. After being on work release for a while, I received a message when I returned home from work one day. It was from Antonio from AFTI letting me know that he was interested in working further with me and his son wanted to buy my piece of art, so he needed to know how to get me some cash.
I didn’t respond. I was too tired from my job at Repowered and too focused on my new life and setting goals on making actual money (because in my mind art can’t/won’t pay my bills). A month or two later, I ended up with a care package from AFTI with my published artwork.
I thought it was the coolest thing, so I called my mom and told her about it. She decided to reach out to Jessica, Antonio’s wife, to ask for her very own copy. When she did, Jessica explained that they were having the hardest time trying to reach me (LOL). So they basically had my mom yell at me, ha! My mom told me to contact these nice people “or else.” So I did.
I was also showing off my artwork in this book that was published to my CEO Amanda LaGrange and she was like, “OMG I was just talking to Antonio, you have to reach out to him.” Once again…GOD moment. So I did. Now I’m doing art more frequently for AFTI and am on the board. Funny how things work out.
How has working with Repowered and Art from the Inside affected your life?
Both Repowered and AFTI have changed the outcome of my life tremendously.
If it weren’t for these organizations stepping in and holding my hands along my journey and telling me that I am so much more than I ever thought I could be or am….I honestly have no clue where I would be right now.
My whole universe changed its course when I planted myself here and Repowered put its faith in me. Same with AFTI. My artwork was just published in a magazine!!!! All because AFTI had faith in me.
How can someone support or get involved with Art from the Inside?
If you want to support the work that AFTI does financially, you can make a donation on their website (there is also an address to mail checks to on their site if you’d prefer to donate that way).
To attend art showings or other events put on by AFTI, take a look at the list of upcoming events on their website. Currently, there is a showing of selected works at the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis through December 15th.
And if you want to get involved further, get in touch with Antonio or Jessica Espinoza at [email protected] or 651-321-4903.