STEP is thrilled to honor Christi Rice with the 2017 Wayne Parker Advocate of the Year Award.
Christi Rice volunteers at Menchie’s, works a full-time job, is a wife to Jamie and a mom to four young people, two on the autism spectrum. Christi took a registered nurse position working on the weekends in order to dedicate her time and energy to starting up the Menchie’s employment project. Everything she does at Menchie’s is voluntary because, in her words, “I want to see every penny we earn go back to the store or to other ventures to promote employment of folks with disabilities in our community.”
Advocating for a job for her son, Wesley, is how she began helping other young people with disabilities find employment opportunities through training at Menchie’s. She said, “I saw what a difference a job made in my son's life and wanted that for all his friends. I love this community and have an overwhelming sense of urgency to make a way for folks like Wesley.”
Christi honed her advocacy skills striving for educational success for her two sons with IEPs in the school system. Her efforts at Menchie’s forced her to change her focus and direction. She said, “I began looking toward the future realizing there is so much more out there for our friends than high school. I realized that my focus needed to expand past today and work towards their future - towards a time when I am not here to advocate for them to have every opportunity anyone else may be given.”
Christi believes the Menchie’s initiative has given folks, and the community at large, hope. She said, “It shows us every day that we can never put limits on our friends with disabilities. We are proving every day that a business can thrive if only they give folks a chance.