A crucial step in Hal’s recovery came when the Lances found Courage Center, a nonprofit agency in Minneapolis that works with stroke families. The people at Courage Center helped Hal land a job at Pillsbury despite his severe aphasia, but he was laid off. He soon got a job with Honeywell, only to be laid off again.
After that, Hal, an engineer, was ready to go back to work for himself. During a visit to Courage Center, a counselor told Hal about a business opportunity. The Radisson Hotel chain needed someone to scan customer survey cards. It sounded promising, and after discussing it with his wife Mae, he opened a small office in their home. Eight years had passed since his stroke.
“It expanded quickly from there,” says Hal. “I took over the basement, then two rooms upstairs and out into the foyer. I had to get help, so I hired another stroke survivor, then another person with a disability.”
Before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Hal processed about 45,000 cards each month, but the number has since dropped to 32,000.
“It was very difficult to find something to fill the void of my job after the stroke,” says Hal. “The layoffs were painful, but you can’t give up. A lot of people quit, but once you give up, you lose out on your opportunities.”