When you think of Real Change, what comes to mind?
For Shelly Cohen, our 2016 Vendor of the Year, the word that comes up over and over again is “community.”
“I’ve always been interested in helping people help themselves,” he says. “When you care about people, they care about you. That’s Real Change.”
Born in Seattle. Graduated from Roosevelt High. A school crossing guard for the past four years. Real Change vendor, activist and board member. When Shelly smiles, people smile back.
But it wasn’t always like this. Like most of us, Shelly has his problems. A lifelong struggle with diabetes. Mental health challenges. Trouble making ends meet.
“Before Real Change, I had to borrow money to survive. I couldn’t always pay rent.”
Shelly’s small, fixed income put him at risk of homelessness, even while living in public housing.
Shelly is one of the seven in 10 Real Change vendors who cope with one or more forms of disability. Like Shelly, two-thirds of our vendors are 50 or older. Nearly half are vulnerably housed.
Real Change offers flexible and supportive work opportunity to those who often have few other options.
When you buy Real Change from your vendor, you’re not just a reader. You’re part of a community of supporters who help people like Shelly feel valued and cared for.
And while you help our vendors meet their most immediate needs, you support committed activism and movement-building led by those who have the least.
Every year, we depend on your grassroots support to provide opportunity, a voice and effective activism for the most vulnerable. Please make a gift today, and be one of the nearly 3,000 readers each year who make our work possible with their financial support
Thanks to people like you, Shelly doesn’t worry about being homeless anymore. Your gift is a hand up to more than 700 independent entrepreneurs each year.
Your gift helps our vendors — homeless and housed alike — to be their best selves. To be a part of the solution to economic and racial injustice.
What does that look like for Shelly?
If it’s Monday, Shelly is probably at the weekly newsroom meeting, making sure our newspaper serves the concerns of the homeless and vulnerably housed.
If it’s Tuesday, Shelly is helping lead the Vendor Organizing Committee. Bringing his voice to the work of healing a broken world.
If it’s Wednesday, he might be meeting with the Vendor Advisory Board. Having a say in the work of building vendor success.
And on the third Thursday of each month, Shelly is at the Real Change board meeting, directing the organization he loves.
“Real Change makes me feel very successful. It’s not just the money. It’s feeling good that I’m helping people.”
Now it’s your turn. More than 60 percent of our annual budget comes from thousands of grassroots supporters just like you.
Please make your gift today to support our Winter Fund Drive.
Shelly says it best: “Community starts one person at a time, and it builds and blossoms.”
This is what Real Change is. A community in action. Award-winning journalism on issues that matter. Opportunity and a voice for those in need. Effective, boundary-pushing activism.
And all of it is driven by the generosity and caring of people like you.
After 22 years of providing opportunity, a voice and uncompromised activism, our work is still growing.
The majority of our homeless vendors — like more than one-in-three homeless people in Seattle — do not stay in shelters and are struggling for survival, living under blankets in tents or cars wherever they can find space.
Things are hard out there and likely to get harder. Your support of our vendors helps them know someone cares. When you give to Real Change, you help ensure that our community in action will continue to grow and thrive during difficult and uncertain times.
When you support Real Change, you stand against the politics of exclusion and with those who are most affected. You make it possible for those who are most vulnerable to stand for justice and against hate.
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s beloved community exists, right here and right now. And you’re a part of it. Our work together is to make that so big we’re all included.
That begins with you.
Please make your gift today.
Visit our donation page or mail your support to Real Change, 219 1st Ave. S.,
Ste. 220, Seattle, WA 98104.