On the road to recovery

Posted on Feb 27, 2020 :: Personalities
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Apricity isn’t a word you hear every day, but when STEP Industries and Mooring Programs were planning to merge, they wanted a new name. Once Michelle Devine Giese heard the word “apricity” and learned it meant “warmth of the sun,”she knew it was the right choice.

“Because that’s what recovery is like for most of us. When we come into recovery, we’re in a really dark, dark space in our life, so apricity is that little bit of sunshine that you can be attracted to and help guide you out,” she says. “That’s what we hope we are.”

Headquartered in Neenah, Apricity provides treatment to people with substance abuse problems and sets them on the road to recovery. Part of the recovery process is to provide work opportunities. Apricity CEO Giese talked to Insight about the role work can have in the recovery process and how the organization is looking to spread that message to other businesses.

Insight: How did you get started with Apricity — formerly known as STEP Industries?

Giese: I had a bachelor’s degree, and starting a career in Minnesota, I ended up losing everything due to my drinking. I couldn’t keep it together. I moved back home to live with my parents and sought treatment at Theda Clark when they had inpatient and then outpatient treatment options. I was working part-time at J.C. Penney and others would ask about going out for drinks after work, and I always declined. After a while, I just didn’t feel comfortable. This was in the mid-’90s. I then heard about STEP Industries and how all of the employees were in recovery. I came to check it out, and it really felt like I had come home. My dad suggested I work there a year and focus on my sobriety. But when the year came to an end, I had an opportunity to be team leader and then later plant manager and some other roles. Eventually in 2009, I was named president. My degree is in business administration and human resource management, and I’m grateful to be able to use those skills here.

STEP Industries and Mooring Programs merged at the start of 2018. How did that come about?

I had been on the board of Mooring Programs since 2009, and when the executive leader left in 2017, other board members brought up the idea of merging Mooring Programs with STEP Industries. The process went quickly.

We complement each other well. Mooring Programs provides traditional 28-day residential treatment followed by transitional housing. That allows people to take the next step where they are still monitored and living onsite but can go to work and then come back and still meet with their counselors. At STEP, we provided the workplace. The merger really helps with the continuum of care and reduces a duplication of services. We are all under one umbrella and have more consistency in communication about what people are doing.

What is it like to work at Apricity?

We start everyone out with soft skills and how to be accountable. If you’re not able to make it work, you need to call us a certain number of hours ahead of time. Because people in early recovery have a lot of appointments, we teach them to use their time well. Another basic skill that people working here need is the ability to work as a team. We also discuss what’s appropriate clothing and language in a workplace setting. We start our days differently than other workplaces. We have a huddle where we talk about goals for that day, so everyone has real expectations. The next day, we discuss if the goals were met.

The huddles aren’t just about work — if you want to announce you are 60 days sober or 90 days sober, go ahead, and we will all celebrate with you. And it goes the other way too. If someone is struggling — let’s say he has to go to court the next day — there is a lot of positive encouragement and offers to help. After the sharing, they read from a recovery-related book, say the serenity prayer and then get to work.

They all work in teams during the day, and they’ll talk about going to coffee after work. There’s a lot of community forming going on since when you’re in recovery, you need to get away from bad influences, and many need to create new places and groups of friends so they can continue their recovery.

What services does Apricity provide to businesses?

We’ll do collating, inspection, building displays, small parts assembly. We have a facility in Milwaukee, and they do a lot of metals, plastics, valves — stuff for the automotive industry. And then up here, it’s a lot of paper, so like facial tissue displays or corrugated paper, different things like maybe making specialty containers for specialty shipping.

It’s a struggle for us to get work at times for a few reasons. Some companies don’t want to outsource anything, or maybe they would rather ship a product out of the country for some of that finishing work to save a few cents. Others may be worried about the quality of what we do, which is why we became ISO certified, which shows we maintain a high standard of quality in everything we do. Some companies have machines that they want to keep running and would need to pull workers off those machines for the finishing work, and that’s a place where we can come in and be a big help.

You have a newly created program called Recovery Works. How does that work?

We took one of our counselors and have her now working with businesses to help them become recovery friendly. We help businesses recognize what is going on in their culture and take that opportunity to change it. We start off by doing anonymous assessment where employees tell us what’s really going on in the culture. We then help them create a workplace that’s more welcoming to people in recovery? By investing in a program like this, employers will have healthier, more productive workers.