Since arriving at Envision Unlimited nearly four years ago, workforce consultant Christopher Watts has been a bridge for those who want a job. Some have been out of the workforce for a while. Others have never worked. All have disabilities--and an advocate. This year, he delivered record job placements for individuals with intellectual, developmental, and psychiatric disabilities.
We can draw a straight line from Chris’s success today, to his first job. It was in a grocery store, where he worked alongside a cashier who did not have fully formed arms. Chris marveled at how well the cashier performed his job. He emerged from that experience with something unexpected, an attitude that can be best described as compassionate confidence in people with disabilities.
“I think ‘disabled’ is a misnomer,” he asserted. “In my mind, they are ‘differently abled.’ Everyone can do something. You simply have to discover what their abilities are.”
Chris generally views life and people through a lens of discovery—and a generous heart. Both enabled him to build relationships with human resource professionals at local retailers, corporations, and universities. And they helped Envision outperform other organizations that find meaningful employment for people with disabilities.
Chris' personal career path reflects an openness to embrace something new. He holds a bachelor’s degree in human resources and a master’s degree in business administration. But after reading Barack Obama’s autobiography, “Dreams of My Father,” he discovered a new passion: community organizing. With that inspiration, a servant leader was born.
It wasn’t easy to convince residents to attend his community organizing meetings. But Chris noticed that attendance improved dramatically after word spread that he was helping residents find jobs—even people with criminal records and other roadblocks to gainful employment. Our members have also benefited from his gift for toppling employment roadblocks.
“Chris Watts was a game changer for us,” said Susan Gardner, Vice President of Day and Employment Services. “We exceeded our contractual obligations to the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services for the first time. As a result, we were awarded a second DRS contract to find employment for Chicago Public Schools students in special education programs who want to work.”
In his spare time, Chris is the executive director of The Kindness Campaign, an organization that performs random acts of kindness throughout the city, even easing tensions during heated police brutality protests by distributing "kindness cards." Since he founded it in 2014, the Kindness Campaign has distributed 200,000 pounds of fresh, healthy food and 35,000 meals to those in need.
This has been a rewarding year for Chris. He was named a 2022 Fellow in the Chicago Urban League and The University of Chicago Booth School of Business’s IMPACT Executive Leadership Program. This summer, Chris also fulfilled the dream of fatherhood with the arrival of his beautiful daughter, Adell. Congratulations, Chris. And congratulations to Adell, who receives the kindness treatment 24/7!