Karesa Pettis-Berry, National Customer Service Lead

“You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”  That’s a principle Karesa Pettis-Berry, National Customer Service Lead, lives by. Karesa has all the characteristics of someone you’d want to take over the world.  She’s sharp, sweet, and (if there could be no other word to describe her) empowering.

Karesa’s journey with PCs for People began when she started college in 2008.  That’s when her parents told her about PCs for People in St. Paul, MN. But when she followed that advice, she ended up leaving empty-handed. Despite PCs for People’s assistance-based eligibility requirements, Pell Grants and her status as a college student weren’t enough for her to qualify.  It was her parents who then used their own assistance to purchase a computer for her from PCs for People.

That computer first helped her in college, and then again when she became pregnant with her now 7-year-old son. Using the same machine, she was able to find and access resources she wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Ten years later, Karesa applied to PCs for People after seeing an ad for a customer service representative. By the beginning of 2020 she had been promoted to a lead, and now she’s taking on an additional role in online repairs.

Part of what made Karesa a great candidate for the job was her background in security. She worked as a guard while studying to become a police officer, but ironically she never enjoyed the “policing aspect” of it. What she really wanted to do was help and serve her community, making nonprofit work and customer service a natural fit.

Once on the job, it didn’t take long for Karesa to recognize that PCs for People is a special place.  Whether it’s having the flexibility to take care of her son, or being part of her new work family, she feels a camaraderie that hasn’t been present in other jobs. “Someone’s having a bad day?” she says with a confident grin I can hear over the phone, “Give it about five minutes and they’ll have coffee on their desk, or candy, or a balloon.”

Part of what enables PCs for People’s culture of support is that it’s a place where diversity and individual differences are praised, not discouraged. Karesa says that’s the key to relating to others, and it’s what enables her to be so darn good at her job. “When someone comes in with an issue, I can solve it.  I have the freedom to solve it,” Karesa says, adding that experiencing her coworkers’ cultural differences every day gives her a sense of purpose.

As she nears her two-year work anniversary, Karesa’s found her stride. Empathy and patience have become a few of her defining traits. “You really have to feel people out to know how to work toward a solution,” she tells me. “People might be having a bad day, and their internet buffering isn’t making it any better. I love being able to help in that way.” Karesa hasn’t just stepped into her role, she’s excelled at it and used her position to create meaningful change across an entire organization.

Remember how Karesa couldn’t get a computer in 2008 due to her status as a college student?  Thanks to her teaming up with Mary Lucic in community outreach, PCs for People now distributes computers to Pell Grant recipients, allowing students to look for jobs and work on assignments outside the confines of a library lobby.

With PCs for People, disadvantaged students are getting the exact same work done on an affordable computer. Their computers also offer additional opportunities for leisure and allows them to stay connected online from wherever they are — a feature COVID-19 has made essential.

That’s the kind of empowerment Karesa brings to her community, and I’m sure she’d tell you that she’s just getting started. She says the best thing everyone reading this can do to support the cause is to spread the word about PCs for People. The more people who know what we do, the more people we can help.

But no matter what you do, the one thing Karesa wants each person to remember is this:

“There’s nothing wrong with YOU being YOU.”