Meet Elizabeth Butler, Employment Counselor
My name is Elizabeth Butler and I joined the StepUp Durham team in December 2018 as an Employment Counselor. In 2011, I had the privilege of being employed at the Governor’s Mansion. I was the housekeeper for the private residence of the first family, and I made a dollar a day. While I was incarcerated in the NCDPS, I, along with numerous others, was contracted out to work at the mansion. It was a great honor and privilege to serve the first family. However, upon release when I attempted to find employment, the answer from most employers was, “we don’t hire those with a felony conviction.” I wondered, “how is it that while I was incarcerated I worked for the state government, yet upon my release I am no longer qualified for the job? How are so many individuals that are serving time deemed worthy to work for the state but once they’re released their criminal background is used as a barrier to their eligibility for the job?”
I did not let the experience of conducting a job search with a criminal background discourage me. In 2012, I attended the Employment Workshop run by StepUp Ministry in Raleigh. After completing the jobs week, I secured employment at the only Forbes Five Star, Five Diamond hotel in the state. Finding employment at a livable wage gave me a sense of pride and determination to continue pursuing opportunities for myself and for anyone being released from prison behind me. After securing gainful employment with benefits, I turned my focus toward the goals of securing reliable transportation, furthering my education, and obtaining stable housing. I decided to participate in Step2 to create realistic budgets and build my network through StepUp.
In 2014, I was invited to interview for an Employment Counselor position at StepUp Ministry in Raleigh. I applied to the position because I saw the opportunity as a way to assist those who felt beat down by circumstance and systemic injustices. I saw my own experience in navigating barriers to employment as valuable to StepUp, and I also realized that the supportive role was necessary to empower individuals and support them in pursuing a path to future stability. I have been with StepUp for over 4 years, and three months ago I made the transition to work with StepUp Durham. It is exciting to be part of a community focused mindset that seems present everywhere I go in Durham.
As an Employment Counselor I believe that everyone, everyone, deserves the opportunity to be gainfully employed. But, I also believe that not everyone is ready. Here at StepUp Durham, it is our commitment to refer those that are ready for employment, and to walk alongside those that may need more time and preparation. My greatest passion for this work is to fight for those who have forgotten how to fight for themselves, and to honor the doors that have opened before me by always doing my best to make the road easier for those coming behind me.