The Woman Who Wanted to Work for ACORN

Santa Fe    Last night I kept waking up and remembering that I had a picture of Tina and her resume on my computer and I needed to find it now.  When I woke up it wasn’t there, but on the old laptop that has not been synchronized yet for that period of time, but the memory is still clear.  Tina was the woman who wanted to work for ACORN in one of the most persistent pursuits that I can recall in my years.  She wouldn’t listen to “no.”

    Christina Rivers responded to a notice Kevin Whelan, then ACORN Communications Director, had filed of an open slot in his department in New Orleans.  The job eludes me now, maybe a writer.  She came in 2nd.  She applied for another opening shortly thereafter as a communications coordinator.   For whatever reason she had some background in this area, but the fit was not ideal based on her experience, and she came in a close second.  Each time when Kevin reviewed the candidates, he kept noting how much he liked Tina, her attitude, and her desire to work.  He liked her story.  How she had been from Buffalo and come down to New Orleans after doing this and that, mainly trainings for corporations around diversity issues, because she wanted to be part of making the future happen here.  He kept saying we didn’t match up on the job, but he really liked her.  Kevin is persistent in lobbying me when he has something on his mind, so he finally said, “Look, we’ve turned her down twice,  so she may never talk to us again, but if you will, why don’t you read her resume and interview and see if you don’t think she might fit somewhere.”  

    I shrugged, but I did it, and they came in.  She was still totally game for any job where she could make a contribution.  She lit up the room.  I asked her about some notes on her resume about a company she did training for and how that worked.  Later I told Helene O’Brien, ACORN’s Field Director, that when she moved to New Orleans we might have found the training director she was looking for.  Tina filled in for a couple of weeks in the Communications Department, and Helene was smitten as well, and away we went.  She became Helene’s right hand in putting together the training program as the staff and academies expanded rapidly last year.  She only lobbied me once during her tenure and that was to make sure there was no one else lobbying me about a trainee with connections in New Orleans.  She wanted to protect Tanya Harris’ emerging skills as a supervisor, and wanted to make sure her call on a trainee stuck.  And, of course it did.  I was looking for a picture of the Mid-Level Training sessions last summer near Point Reyes in California.  I know I had one of her laughing in front of the cafeteria with the Kansas City sisters and Monica Sandschafer, I believe.  Maybe it’s lost expect in my mind, but I’m looking for it still.

    Tina had to go back to Buffalo for a bone marrow transplant when her cancer returned.  Her family was there and the doctors knew her file.  It made sense.  The health plan had to “razor” her claim earlier this year, which was a first to put a cap on the costs.  Helene had talked to her some weeks ago and had a date for her return, but then the date started to slip away from us.  We heard from her family and it looked like the recovery might take longer.  This week the call indicated that organs were failing and in the last call Helene got, they were hoping for the best.

    Yesterday, the call said that Tina had died.  

    Not to me.  I have the picture in my mind.  She was the woman who wanted to work for ACORN and kept chasing us until we caught her, made her contribution in a time too short, but still long enough to stand with the many who have marked and made this organization what it is today.

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