The Iowa Job Honor Awards, an initiative aimed at recognizing Iowans who have overcome barriers to employment, today announced its top honorees for 2016. 

Honorees in the employee category are Jeremiah Machuca of Clinton, who successfully found employment following his release from federal prison, and Michael Bean of Spirit Lake, who overcame a chronic drug addiction and is now successfully employed.

The awards were presented today in Sioux City during the Iowa Association of Business and Industry's annual Taking Care of Business Conference. Nominations were judged by a statewide panel.

In the employer category, Owner Revolution in Atlantic and the ReWall Co. of Des Moines were honored for their commitment to hire disadvantaged candidates, including people with developmental disabilities, past criminal convictions and histories of addiction.

"Iowa employers are seeking creative solutions to our labor shortage, and ABI is proud to sponsor the Iowa Job Honor Awards," ABI President Mike Ralston said. "By shining a spotlight on success stories, the awards will help us engage our state's untapped workforce."

Raised in what he describes as an abusive home, Machuca's early life was filled with drug abuse, criminal activity and imprisonment. "I quit caring about myself and found comfort and relief in drug use," he said.

Following his release from federal prison he sought shelter at the Victory Center in Clinton. Almost immediately he searched for employment and was hired by Jacobs Field Services in Clinton, where managers describe him as an outstanding employee.

Bean was diagnosed at an early age with mental illness and chronic drug addiction. His barriers to employment made it unlikely he'd ever succeed in an integrated employment setting.

Defying the odds, he's now successfully employed at Rosenboom Machine & Tool in Spirit Lake.

"It definitely builds character to recover from an addiction," Bean said. "It makes you grateful for what you have, because most of us lost everything."

Along with the obvious benefit of gaining a dedicated employee, human resources generalist Craig Van Drunen said: "It's very rewarding to know we're not just giving somebody a paycheck, but we're giving them an opportunity to get their feet back on the ground and make another life for themselves."