Saying goodbye is never easy, especially to a place that has had such a big impact on my life, and one that I love so much.
My time at Real Change began as an Americorps vista volunteer in 2008, when the office was in Belltown. I was 21 and after two years in college, I decided to devote time to national service. I wanted to be outside the classroom where the action was. So Real Change was perfect. I helped coordinate the vendor services program, and my workstation consisted of an old computer nestled among other refurbished computers in the drop-in vendor computer lab. Eventually I was upgraded to a desk. It was gritty, but I loved it. Most of all, I loved the people.
But it was also a difficult year. The financial crisis was in full swing, and unemployment had skyrocketed. I led the orientations for new vendors, trying my best to put people at ease. At one point we had well over 400 vendors selling the paper, far more than we could manage. That same year a beloved staff member and former vendor, Michael Garcia, unexpectedly passed away. Now Real Change’s vendor center is named in his honor.
After that year, I returned to college to finish my degree. Upon graduation, I came back to Real Change because I couldn’t forget how special the people were.
And they are the reason I have stayed here these past four years. Real Change vendors are the hardest-working and most courageous people I know. They know the cards are stacked against them, but they don’t give up. They fight, they persevere, they hustle and they achieve great things.
And nearly every time someone reaches a goal, I’ve seen that person reach back and help lift others up. Because that’s what you do.
During my time at Real Change, I’ve also had the privilege of working with a talented and amazing team of dedicated staff and board members doing groundbreaking work. I’ve learned so much from my colleagues, and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to work together. This organization runs on its passion for justice and its dedication to serving others, and I can’t think of any other place I’d rather have spent the last several years than with such a creative and inspiring group of people.
As the Advocacy Program Manager, I’ve had the opportunity to work with the incredible community connected to Real Change. We have led and participated in campaigns that won real, concrete improvements in peoples lives, and contributed to the growing movement for social, racial and economic justice in our city. Vendor-activists have led the way at Real Change, selecting campaign issues, giving testimony during council hearings, collecting signatures on petitions, organizing rallies and coordinating unforgettable and effective tactics.
One example of this was the OutsideIN campaign shoe display, when 3,123 pairs of shoes were set-up at City Hall to bring attention to the number of unsheltered homeless people in our city. I know that Real Change’s Vendor Organizing Committee will continue to fight for change that brings greater justice and dignity into people’s lives.
Thank you to my Real Change family and to everyone in the community who I have had the opportunity to work with, for making my time at this organization so meaningful. My last day here will be Dec. 24.
Please stay in touch.
Real Change is hiring. To learn more about the Advocacy Program Manager position see: bit.ly/RChiring