At Ozinga, it’s the people who work here that make us a family. Each person has their own unique set of talents and abilities at work, but it’s also what they do outside of work that provides an ability to make a positive impact on our coworkers, customers and communities.
Erin Raatjes, Help Desk Supervisor, has been a familiar face in our Mokena Office IT department since 2015. At work, she is used to utilizing her skills to help others with computer issues. During her spare time, Erin can be found staying busy managing her punch needle Etsy shop or entering her work in state and county fairs. Punch needling is a type of embroidery that uses a needle and thread to create a variety of shapes and textures on fabric. The sales from her shop allow her family to travel to different places without taking money out of their savings.
“I love being creative,” said Erin. “It really helps me ‘get away’ from my day job of technical work where I can be creative and work with my hands.”
Erin has also found a way to use her creative skills to live out her purpose and make a positive impact on others. She has designed punch needling patterns to raise money for organizations such as Train a Dog Save a Warrior (TADSAW), an organization that helps provide a service dog to a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She has also partnered with Carol For Heart, an organization dedicated to women like Carol Pawelski who died from undiagnosed heart disease. Carol For Heart provides free educational programs to inform women about the risks associated with heart disease.
Erin has also been involved in a church group for young girls called GEMS Girl Club (Girls Everywhere Meeting the Savior). GEMS Club helps young girls participate in service projects and make meaningful crafts to encourage others. In the past, Erin and her GEMS troop have helped out at an animal shelter and at Joliet Hope Center, a faith-based center that provides help to those struggling to make ends meet.
“It’s fun to use my hidden abilities to help the girls create fun things and have fun events,” said Erin.
Last year, Erin decided to take her talents to new heights by submitting her work to the Illinois State Fair. She already had previous recognitions from county fairs near her home. “I have loads of ribbons on the wall,” said Erin. But for her, it’s not about how many “Best in Shows” or “First Premiums” she has received; she does this because she enjoys that the recognition is based on the quality of her handywork.
“It’s just about me and the gifts God has given me,” said Erin.