A friend sent me a text when I was visiting my grandbabies in in New Jersey, saying that we should get together, soon. I had not heard from Cris Henderson in a while, but we have a flexible friendship, one that does not require constant contact. When I returned to Indy, I contacted her, and Cris excitedly told me about her new position and invited me to spend time with her while she staffed a booth at the Indiana Black Expo.
Cris has been, for as long as I’ve known her, an advocate for those with challenges associated with disabilities. She was the New Freedom Program Coordinator for CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions, an organization dedicated to “connecting older adults, people with disabilities and family caregivers … with home and community based services.” One day, after separating from CICOA, she was sitting in a coffee house, listening to what she felt was a fascinating meeting of co-workers. She liked the way in which the employees interacted with each other, and the leader’s presentation and engagement. She did some research on the company, liked what she saw, and lobbied for a position with them. She is now the Outreach and Marketing Director for accessABILITY, a company that offers a full range of services for those with disabilities.
Expositions are always good places to pick up informational brochures, but a big draw at a lot of the booths that set up in the halls are the samples given away by the sponsoring companies. I have been to some interesting “Expos,” including the Adobe MAX expo, where I scored one of my most prized messenger bags, which I added to my long line of messenger bags. I got a lot of other trinkets and trash, none of which I can remember now, but a creative conference is a good place for an artist to collect art materials. On Sunday, July 16th, after mistakenly entering the wrong exhibit hall at the Indiana Convention Center, I got a toothbrush and toothpaste from a company in the “health hall,” along with a small first aid kit and a reflector to put on my backpack or bike. I shoved my loot into one of many reusable cloth bags available in the hall, then sought out Cris and her booth in the adjacent exhibit hall.
It was an interesting day for me, sitting behind the table that fronted booth number 448. I watched as Cris arranged informational materials neatly across the table, next to the giveaway items: flashlight/whistles, envelope openers with magnifier, cleaning cloths for electronic screens and refrigerator magnets. The day was a busy one in the hall, where boxers squared off in a ring and exhibitors vied for the attention of the crowd. In front of the accessABILITY booth, Cris seined from the flowing crowd, asking passersby, “Do you know our company?” When she achieved a pause in the stream of people, she pitched the services offered by her company in a crisp, concise and engaging way.
It is always invigorating for me to see people committed to a cause and invested in the promotion of services to address deficiencies in the delivery of services. I learned a lot that Sunday, but the most inspirational moments of the day were when Cris explained the services available to someone in a wheelchair, and Joe Gunn, the Youth Transition Coordinator and Independent Living Advocate interacting with a mother and her children. I don’t know much about the availability of services for those with disabilities, but I have seen a woman with zeal, advocating and educating. It heartens me.
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