Heber Springs, Arkansas (PressExposure) June 06, 2009 -- Recording an album at seventeen, winning her high school beauty pageant and supporting herself singing for a decade, would make most women proud. If they had performed at such notable places as Branson's Lawrence Welk Theater and Silver Dollar City, they might even be a little snooty. Lori Hunter (38, Heber Springs), however, is not impressed with these accomplishments. "All these things together may sound okay, but I am most proud of the place where God has brought me, using my talent for His glory, not mine."
That place enables Lori to contribute to the world through many vital roles. Most recently, Governor Beebe appointed the Apostolic Church of Heber Springs' pianist to the Arkansas Independent Living Council Board of Directors (AILC). AILC, a nonprofit education, advocacy and referral agency, envisioning an Arkansas where all citizens have equal rights and opportunities, promotes independence, freedom of choice and full inclusion into the mainstream of society, for all Arkansans with disabilities.
"I'm really excited about that and learning all there is to know," says Lori.
Governor Beebe could hardly have made a better choice. Lori, legally blind, designed and built her own home. Diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at age three, she lives with her pound pup, Moses, a three-year-old, 125 pound German Shepherd, Akita and Labrador mix. Lori earned an Associates degree in business management from Arkansas State University. She supports herself as a Work at Home United customer service rep for the marketing and referral business Melaleuca.
In July of 2008, Lori was elected to the Board of Directors of the volunteer-run nonprofit Performing Arts Division of the National Federation of the Blind (PAD, NFB), which supports blind entertainers through scholarships, subsidies and networking. Funds come from sales of the "Sound in Sight" CD, a multi-genre compilation of eighteen original tracks and covers donated by blind recording artists. As a way of giving back to society, PAD offers nonprofits $4 for each $12 CD sold with no minimum.
"I want to give blind musicians not only an outlet for their talent but to let the public know what blind people are up to and how we are contributing to society."
Working from home lets Lori do other important things like babysitting for her sister's children and caring for her parents. Lori was the production coordinator for Heber Springs' Gem Theater's six-part talent search, doing advertising, prize-gathering, lining up MC's and judges, script-writing, as well as program-design. Lori and her sister started a local Alzheimer's support group.
Lori says of blindness, "The biggest problem is lack of knowledge and stereotypes. People are afraid of the unknown; they can't imagine going through life not being able to see."
"We have to find a balance between educating the public and just living it, doing things for ourselves and being independent. For instance, going out for coffee," she explains, "I know that when the man behind the counter offers to fix my coffee, he probably thinks I can't do it. I know that I can, though, and that's the important thing. It's just nice sometimes to have a man fix you a cup of coffee."
Lori, who writes Christian music and sings at weddings, is also in her forth year as NFB's representative on the board of the Division of Services for the Blind (DSB), part of Arkansas's Department of Health and Human Services.
Arkansas Independent Living Council: [http://www.ar-ilc.org/cils.htm]
Performing Arts Division, NFB: http://www.padnfb.org