Machesney Park veteran with PTSD heals through candle-making

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MACHESNEY PARK, Ill. (WTVO) — A local veteran has turned her darkness into light by honing in on her candle-making craft. She’s molded over 100,000 candles.

We caught up with the founders who told us about their journey there. The founders say the company may have started by accident — but it’s no mistake why Craft and Foster has grown to see great success.

“I needed something else to put my hands to,” said Melissa Burgess, the co-founder of Craft and Foster. “Never dreamed it would be what it is today.”

Melissa and Chad Burgess, co-founders of the candle company, started off by accident five years ago.

“When we first started I think it probably saved my life,” Melissa explained.

The story doesn’t start in 2016, rather when Melissa was heading home from her deployment in Iraq.

“The experience was incredible in a lot of ways and traumatizing in a lot of ways,” she said. “There were moments where you may think about I might not live through today something like that but, it’s kind of like your body gets used to being in that state.”

“Having been a medic there and seeing the things that I saw, and did the things that I did…the last 20 years I’ve been dealing off and on with the effects of my time in service,” Melissa described.

Her transition back from war wasn’t easy.

“You don’t come home the same and you’ll never be the same,” said Melissa. “When I was in Iraq you just do what you have to do.”

“Coming home, the first couple of weeks you’re like ‘Oh my gosh I can eat tacos and wear jeans, wear my hair down.’ But then the reality of all the things you just went through sort of starts to settle in.
You realize things that all of the sudden the door slams and you’ve fallen on the ground thinking a bomb went off next to you.”

Melissa suffers from PTSD.

“There became a point where I couldn’t bottle it up anymore and I had to find outlets.”

That’s when she turned to candle-making.

“For me, it’s like a release of energy,” she explained. “It was very therapeutic for me, being able to be creative and put my hands to work.”

“I think it really grounded me and helped me get through some of my super dark seasons,” Melissa added. “Being able to take the energy and mold it into something else and create is an incredible piece for me.”

Turns out her escape molded into quick success.

“Within that first year and a half, two years, we saw a lot of exponential growth opportunities we never could have dreamed up of. Opportunities to be in the golden globes, Hugh Jackman and Rachel Zoe and names of people we’d see on TV,” Chad said. “It was all happening so organically, and that’s how we knew it wasn’t something by accident.”

Currently, Melissa is working on a new line inspired by women veterans to glow in homes and comfort those who may have had similar hard times. Melissa hand-pours the candles herself with an American flag hanging to the side of her as she works.

“We were just talking about this recently, how important it is to instill into our kids what it means to be an American,” she added.

“America is the greatest country in the world,” Melissa said.”There’s nowhere else in the world that you are free the way that you’re free here. The heart of this country is made up of good, honest, hardworking people who would give you the shirt off your back and who would fight shoulder to shoulder with you to keep this a free country and a place that we want our children to grow up in.”

Chad also provided the discount code for viewers and staff: CFSUMMER21

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