Empower Tennessee Consumers Shine in the Wake of Adversity
Author: April Meredith
On March 3, 2020, Tennessee was hit with a series of devastating tornadoes. Many in the state found themselves suddenly facing structural damage and psychological effects – the Empower Tennessee office building and staff notwithstanding. Despite the direct impact, Empower Tennessee employees quickly regrouped to coordinate outreach efforts. As we checked on the people we serve, we soon began hearing stories of hope, strength, and love even when the individual’s own life had been disrupted. Because March is both Women’s History Month as well as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, we would like to highlight commendable actions of some of the kind-hearted women with whom we spoke. Each of these women have selflessly given to others with and without disabilities during our community’s recent time of adversity.
• Albrice recognized the fear and panic her fellow apartment complex residents were experiencing. She clicked into her role as a motherly figure, providing spiritual guidance and a calming voice for everyone around her. While meeting the needs of her daughter and grandchildren, she has treated her neighbors as family and has offered a helping hand whenever they call. Albrice has been a source of stability during these chaotic events
• Carol responded swiftly with care and compassion after the tornadoes struck. As the President of the Mid TN Council of the Blind (MTCB), she worked tirelessly for days to reach out to every MTCB member, checking on their safety and listening to their concerns. She was especially sensitive to the assistive technology and other needs particular to those who are blind or have low vision. Carol has made sure no one she knows feels alone as a result of the tornadoes, nor due to the Novel Coronavirus safer-at-home mandates that followed.
• Clarisse refused to let the tornadoes intimidate her from exercising her right to vote. She utilized paratransit to travel to her polling site on the morning of March 3 and confidently cast her ballot in the presidential primary election. She volunteered that whole day, assisting voters with and without disabilities, to make their experience as stress-free as possible. Clarisse has continued to be a sounding board to friends and loved ones who have needed to talk and process all that happened on the third and since.
• Beverly utilized her faith community connections to provide some comfort and relief to those without power immediately following the tornadoes. She and her husband Alex opened up their church’s doors, and offered all a warm, dry place to charge their phones and communicate with loved ones, or find much-needed resources. Beverly has remained dedicated to her ministry throughout the tornado recovery process and into the pandemic.
• Lacey Looked beyond her personal loss and sought ways she could give to others impacted by the storms. She decided to buy specific recovery items listed on the Amazon.com wish lists of a local community center and school, both of which serve children and youth but were severely damaged on March 3. Lacey has provided safe accommodation for her own students, as she responsibly switched her college course to be online.
While Tennesseans are still recovering from the early March storms, the entire world, including our local disability community, is now tasked with the unprecedented challenge of dealing with the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Although these specific circumstances are new to us, coping with social isolation, managing limited access to few resources, and working diligently to remain healthy are areas where people with disabilities have become experts. These women will undoubtedly rise to the occasion and guide our peers with and without disabilities to safely navigate the uncertain times in which we’re living. We encourage people with disabilities everywhere to shine during these dark times – leading by example and sharing our wisdom with others. We are in this together! We are Tennessee Strong!