NAME: Wendy Elmstrand
BACKGROUND: Born and raised in North Branch, Minnesota, the youngest by five years of four sisters and one brother. Raised – and worked – on a farm producing both crops and cattle. Graduated with class in spite of disabling accident in senior year. Attended secretarial school in Minneapolis, then back to the NORTH BRANCH REVIEW to serve as proof reader and gossip columnist. Worked in retailing for a while, then as bookkeeper/receptionist for bulk gas and oil distributor. First uncovered activist tendencies when denied van lift in late ‘70’s. Got lift. Spent time at Courage Center, “getting my act together.” Graduated from North Hennepin Community College with an AA in Mid-Management in ’83. Currently just shy of a degree of a BA degree from Metropolitan State University. Interned in PR at Salvation Army. At Minnesota Independent Living Services since November of 1988.
DISABILITY: C5-C6 Quadraplegic
WHEN/HOW: Senior year in high school. Only seriously-injured passenger in car that went off the road; three of four passengers ejected through same door. Alchohol involved. Had premonition, but chose to ride in spite of it.
OUTLOOK: Remarkably even. No “Why me?” syndrome. Intelligent, creative, ambitious, active. Spiritual by nature. No finger pointing. Believes in, and has experienced, miracles. Observes accident as one of life’s mile-stones – like graduation, marriage, divorce. An opportunity for change. “This is just a little bit different”. Disdains the word “courage”. Believes all persons operate under one or more disabilities; this just happens to be hers.
OCCUPATION: Assistant Director, Minnesota Independent Living Services, Inc. (M.I.L.S.). “Jack of all trades”. Firm recruits, matches PCA’s/CNA’s with those who need them, serves as administrative interface between caregivers and funding source (State of Minnesota).
RESPONSIBILITIES/REWARDS: Recruiting, administration. Pleased with opportunity to provide not only personal attendants, wide range of advice and referral related to independent living. Glows when patted on the back.
ACTIVITIES: Travel (drove round-trip to Florida with a para friend); painting; collecting; square dancing (Perfect Squares group has given exhibitions in Washington, California and Hawaii, among other locations, and will be appearing on the NSP Plaza at this year’s Aquatennial).
GOALS: To open her own art gallery, a co-op where artists can be working on site as well as taking commissions.