DISTRICT 23 MERCANTILE & FOUNDRY
About DISTRICT 23 MERCANTILE & FOUNDRY
Michelle Tjelmeland is the founder of the Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation (CIAF) and District 23 Mercantile & Foundry, a store that benefits CIAF.
After losing her hearing at age 25, Michelle found that another one of her senses – her sight – kicked into high gear. She became very drawn to visually appealing things, whether for her home or her own wardrobe. People would often comment on her eye for aesthetics, to which she would respond, “I guess I make up for my hearing loss with my sense of sight.”
But here’s the thing – while Michelle is deaf, she actually can hear because of the miracle of cochlear implant technology. And Michelle’s daughter, Ellie, who was born deaf, can now hear as well.
Michelle, hardly a shrinking violet, started the Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation in 2005 to help other people who could benefit from cochlear implant technology. Since then, the organization has helped more than 1500 families in their journeys to find information and resources about the surgery. The organization also provides cochlear implant equipment to needy recipients through it's Hear Again™ Program.
Building on the momentum of the organization first six years, Michelle wanted to bring CIAF to the next level - and help even more people hear through cochlear implant technology. As she considered the options, opening a visually stimulating store that helps the hearing impaired seemed to make - well, sense. In true Michelle style, the store went from idea to reality in two months flat.
Our retail shop is located in District 23 (hence the name) in the up-and-coming Macarthur Boulevard corridor in Springfield, Illinois. In the fall of 2016, Michelle saw the opportunity to open a second location in her home town of Rochester. "We are thrilled to be able to expand, and bring even more awareness to CIAF!"