A desire to help people with disabilities find meaningful work and activities is what motivates Christine Marble and Wendy DeVore. The two founders of St. Paul-based Career Ventures, Inc. are the 2014 winners of the Access Press Charlie Smith Awardfor outstanding service to the disability community.
Marble and DeVore began a collaborative effort in conjunction with DeafBlind Services of Minnesota (MDBA) in September of 2013 to resurrect the monthly DeafBlind Club meetings.
The meetings are a place where deafblind Minnesotans have an opportunity to socialize, play games, and share information. The club’s success prompted Career Ventures to launch a similar gathering in May 2014 for individuals who are blind or have low vision, called the Club House
Career Ventures has also helped MDBA obtain office space, helping the organization stay in its longtime home. The two organizations benefit from sharing the space.
Marble and DeVore have improved the lives of countless deaf, blind, deafblind, low vision and hard of hearing Minnesotans. They work tirelessly and enthusiastically to inspire and improve community groups, businesses partners, and provide accommodations and assistance to individuals with disabilities. They both have a passion for helping others to achieve their goals and dreams, no matter what they may be and will help them overcome any barriers that may arise, in order to do so.
Their reward is the smiles and sparkle of the individuals they help, the renewed confidence and feeling of purpose they instill in another, and the resulting increase in moral from honest and effective production that can now be accomplished.
“We are very surprised and we’re extremely honored,” Marble said. “Work is something we’re very passionate about. Getting people out into the working world means a lot to people. It means lot in our culture.
When you meet someone new, one of the first things they ask is, ‘What do you do?’ To be able to answer with confidence and say, this is what I do — that means a lot to people.”
DeVore is driven to help people with disabilities for personal reasons. “My mother was deaf,” she said “We lived in a small town and even though she was a very capable woman, a lot of doors were not open to her.”
“We know that people of various abilities want to and many do all levels of work, and we want to make sure that barriers are out of their way.”
Winning the award is a huge honor, said DeVore. But she said it should be shared with all of the agency’s staff.
Kristin Jorenby, chairperson of the Access Press Board of Directors, said, “the winners were chosen from a strong field of candidates. It is always wonderful to read about all the great work that is happening within the disability community, however, it makes choosing the winner for the award difficult,” she said.
She said, “Marble and DeVore are very deserving of the honor. The board of directors is pleased to recognize work being done in areas of the community that tend to be acknowledged less often.” Access Press Executive Director Tim Benjamin said that in a very strong field of candidates, Marble and DeVore stood out for their commitment to people with disabilities. “Minnesotans who are deaf, blind, deafblind, low vision and hard of hearing face many obstacles,” he said. “This year’s winners have gone the extra mile to provide work opportunities and social activities for people who would otherwise be isolated and marginalized. Christine and Wendy truly exemplify the spirit in which Charlie Smith lived his life, doing what needed to be done just because it needed to be done.
“The real reason I think they deserve recognition is that Chris and Wendy never seek recognition or accolades for the wonderful work that they do – for them it is a labor of love, and the satisfaction of helping others is the reason they do what they do,” said nominator Tony Berka. “It has been said that: ‘It takes a village’ and I also believe that it takes dedicated unselfish individuals to truly make a village all that it can be. Chris and Wendy are such individuals.”
They not only help peopled to successfully integrate into the community and the work force but also works with employers, police departments, and a wide variety of community organizations to educate and to facilitate communication and understanding, which benefits everyone.
In many states in the United States, deaf, blind and deafblind people are left to sit on the sidelines because it is believed that they cannot be employed and that they cannot live independent lives. Marble and DeVore are working to change that stereotype and to help each individual become integrated into society. They’re teaching deaf students how to cook, balance a checkbook, ride the bus, rent a place to stay, and all the other life skills, so they can be independent and live life fully. They have been instrumental in finding people jobs and ensuring all the accommodations are in place to make it a successful fit. Marble and DeVore enhance the community, individual by individual, adding diversity, culture, and utilizing skills in people which would otherwise be unrecognized.
Marble received a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Minnesota in 1989 and an A.A.S. from St. Paul College’s Interpreter/Transliterator Program in 1997. She is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Career Ventures, Inc. and is a nationally certified American Sign Language Interpreter. She has worked as a freelance and video relay interpreter as well as an adjunct faculty member at St. Paul College where she taught classes in the Interpreter/Transliterator Program. She currently serves on the State Rehabilitation Council for the Blind, as well as its Employment Committee and DeafBlind Committee.
Additionally, she has given presentations at the national level on a variety of disability and employment-related topics, and has had articles published in professional journals.
DeVore received a B.S. in Sociology from Augsburg College in 1995. She is a child of a deaf parent and is a native signer of American Sign Language. She is co-founder and chief operating officer of Career Ventures, Inc. and is a nationally certified interpreter, professionally interpreting for more than 20 years. Wendy currently serves as the chairperson for the State Rehabilitation Council for the Blind Transition Subcommittee.
DeVore is a former police officer and is founder of Community Solutions: Crime Prevention and Safety for People who are Deaf, Hard-of-Hearing, and DeafBlind. This program focuses on the safety of people in the deaf community, as well as the education of law enforcement personnel.