We love telling our story! There are two versions, the short version (Christina’s) and the "loooonnnggg" version (Brian’s); however, we are going to tell you the long story so that you know all about how we started!
When Christina was in the fifth grade, her mother bought her a sign language dictionary by Cathy Rice. Shortly after receiving the book and practicing the alphabet over and over again, she saw someone signing at a restaurant and tried to communicate with them. This was the beginning of her journey.
While Brian was growing up in the small town of Ipswich, South Dakota, he took the mandatory hearing exams every year and he always did well on them because he and three other classmates took the test at the same time, raising their hands when they heard the sounds. He did well, because he saw the others’ hands raised, so he figured he must have also heard the sounds. During the spring of his senior year in High School, they brought a trailer to the school that had a soundproof booth, and gave all of the students a hearing test. The next day, Brian was called into the principal’s office. When he arrived and saw his parents, he figured he was in big trouble. It was there that he and his parents learned that Brian had a 50% hearing loss. Subsequently, it was recommended that he be fitted with hearing aids. He received his first hearing aid three days before he left for college. This was the beginning of his journey!
Winding the clock forward to November 1989, Christina and Brian were in Omaha, Nebraska. On November 11th, Brian was laid off from his job and the soon-to-be-married couple sat down to discuss what their next steps were going to be. Christina mentioned the ASL class she had taken her final year at Penn State and that, at some point, she would like to teach deaf children. (Little did they realize the impact this statement would have on their lives!) Due to the nature of work Brian was in, they had their pick of where they would like to live, so they decided that he should accept a job with Visa (yes, the credit card company) in Northern California, partially because of the large deaf community in that area.
After moving to California, Christina started learning from a sign language dictionary as they drove around the San Francisco Bay area on weekends. She then started to take sign language and interpreting classes, which lead to becoming friends with one of the professors. She eventually began working full-time as an interpreter in one of the local school systems and started her Master’s in Deaf Education at San Francisco State University. Through her job, she and Brian made friends with the parents of the students and they both got involved in the Deaf community.
In May of 1998, Brian, Christina, their three year old son, Matthew, and their one year old daughter, Mikayla, moved to Virginia, transferring to the East Coast with Brian’s company. After a few months of Christina staying at home, Christina and Brian decided to “team parent” so that Christina could work part-time in the local public school system. Over time, Christina began to also do freelance interpreting in the community and to meet the local deaf community, other interpreters, and Deaf families.
It is worthy of note to mention that in 2004, Christina and Brian sat down with a some friends to discuss opening an interpreting agency but, unfortunately, everyone agreed that it was not the right time.
After working for Visa for almost 20 years, Brian was laid off on April 7, 2009. This big change was actually something they had actually prayed would happen, because Brian was interested in starting a Christian multimedia collaborative website. Over the next 14 months he pursued this new venture.
Later in 2009, Christina discovered that in order to work in the Prince William County Public Schools, she would have to officially become a business and be insured, so Christina and Brian sat down to talk about a name to be used. They discussed “Hammrich Interpreting Services,” but figured that people would call it “HIS” which they felt would be confused with a number of the other agencies out there with a similar acronym. Eventually, they agreed on “HIS Sign.” The new company became a recognized Limited Liability Company on December 18, 2009. They had no idea at the time that six months later they would actually start a full-fledged agency.
On June 24, 2010, Christina was on an assignment with one of her mentees, Laura ‘Liz’ Macier. Fortunately for all of us, the assignment ended up being cancelled, giving Christina and Liz an opportunity to chat. It is during this conversation that Christina shared with Liz how friends and family had been encouraging her to start an agency, but quickly added that that there was “no way” she would ever do such a thing. Liz replied, “I will help you.” At that moment, for the first time in her life, Christina felt at peace about the idea and responded, “Okay!” After they parted, Christina went home and reviewed the conversation (and the decision) with Brian. The rest, as they say, is history!
Since that fateful day in June 2010, HIS Sign has moved forward as an agency, remaining true to the core values that Christina and Brian have always believed in and have made their motto:
Committed to Following the Golden Rule and Serving with Integrity and Dedication!
We hope you’ve enjoyed our story. We look back on how we started and are amazed at what has transpired over such a short time period and we are so blessed by the responsibility of running this agency. We hope you will take the time to get to know the HIS Sign family better!