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How this woman went from addiction to a new career

Sylvia Lopez remembers a time when she thought she’d never buy her own car or have her own bank account.

The 32-year-old Las Vegas resident and single mother of two children recovered from years of addiction and is now more than a year into a full-time job.

At a treatment facility, she connected with the Clark County nonprofit Unshakeable, which helps women recovering from homelessness, addiction, human trafficking and domestic and sexual violence return to the workforce.

Destinations By Design, an event planning company located in the southwest valley, hired Lopez to work in its floral department.

“When you first come out of a treatment facility like where I was at, it’s really hard not really knowing how to pick up the pieces and start to be a member of society,” she said.

Unshakeable partners with local businesses to find their roughly 130 clients a job that could become a career.

Debbie Isaacs, the nonprofit’s founder and president, met with Lopez, who conveyed that she did not want a desk job but one that tapped into her creative side. Lopez told Isaacs she enjoyed gardening while at the treatment facility. Isaacs told her about a job opening in a local company’s floral department.

“No one had ever asked her or given her the opportunity to have a voice in what her future would look like,” Isaacs said.

Destinations By Design president and CEO Harvey Stern said partnering with Unshakeable was a “no-brainer” after he heard about the mission from Isaacs. Before Lopez agreed to be interviewed, Stern said, only a small number of people at the company knew about her past.

“It’s not important to me,” he said. “It’s the person that’s important.”

Destinations’ floral department is housed in the company’s multistory building near Buffalo Drive and Sunset Road.

It includes office and warehouse space for planning, storage, construction and testing of projects that are displayed on the Strip and worldwide.

Floral department projects include centerpieces, backdrops and ceiling treatments. Lopez said a favorite project she worked on had an “Alice in Wonderland” theme.

“You can see her confidence has grown. She’s part of the conversation. She’s not afraid to be in the groups,” Stern said. “She really has grown as a person and an employee.”

Lopez paved the way for a second Unshakeable client who started working for the company this year. Stern said continuing the partnership is not contingent on every hire succeeding.

“If that next employee, that next person doesn’t work out, it’s about the program, and the program is so important for the community,” Stern said.

Lopez said Unshakeable prepared her for aspects of the hiring process most people take for granted — like what to wear for a job interview and what questions to expect. Her nerves and amazement upon seeing the size of the company faded after meeting the staff.

Some 18 months later, Lopez has gained the independence she couldn’t imagine.

“Other people that have had the struggles that I have do deserve a chance, and I think that a lot of us feel like there’s no hope for us to get a job that you can grow in,” she said.

Contact David Wilson at dwilson@reviewjournal.com.

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