Every year, I’m struck anew by the breadth and depth of the relationships that contribute to Real Change’s success and our remarkable mission of “providing opportunity and a voice for homeless and low-income people while taking action for economic, social, and racial justice.”
Part of that, of course, is the tens of thousands of people who encourage and support our vendors by buying Real Change on the street. These relationships are the heart and soul of what makes the work of this 22-year-old newspaper so powerful and profound.
When we ask our vendors each year what they value most about Real Change, the answer always comes back the same. It’s the relationships with readers.
For those who are too often ignored in our society — too often seen through the lens of what they lack rather than what they contribute — these daily interactions are a humanizing balm that says they matter as people and are appreciated for their work.
From there, the circles of support extend inward throughout the organization and outward through a variety of supportive institutions and individuals.
There are the more than 200 volunteers who help out here each year, some of whom have regularly committed their time for years on end.
For every eight hours worked by Real Change staff, there are at least two more that come as a gift from our extended community of volunteers.
Volunteers who work the vendor desk, and know our people by name.
Bookkeeping and accounting. Photography. News writing. Book reviews. Proofreading. Technical support. Legal support. Envelope stuffing and gift bag assembly. Serving food and donating supplies. The list is as varied as the work itself.
If you would like to get involved, you can email email@example.com, and our experienced full-time volunteer manager will do her best to find something right for you.
Then there’s the staff and board. Fifteen board members who each offer at least 10 hours a month of their time to keep Real Change whole and accountable to our community. Fourteen staff who come to work everyday to give Real Change their best, who see lives transformed everyday through your support.
Our community allies are another piece of what makes our work whole. Human services professionals who take an interest in our vendors’ success. Labor organizations, who understand the meaning of solidarity. Organizers and advocates who work toward racial equity. Civil and legal rights organizations. Housing and homeless advocates who continually fight the tide of growing inequality.
All of these form a dense web of solidarity and support, as we all work to help each other succeed.
And then, of course, there are the vendors. Real Change puts more than 700 people to work each year and has an average of 325 active vendors selling the paper each month. This is not the easiest way to make a living.
For every yes that our vendors hear, there are dozens who say no or don’t even acknowledge their presence. Our vendors are out year-round in all kinds of weather, overcoming their personal struggles through hard work, personal commitment and the power of community.
Many of our vendors support Real Change by volunteering their own time as well. For this, we are both awed and grateful. The Vendor Advisory Board keeps us focused on what matters. The Editorial Committee that keeps our ear to the street. Members of the Vendor Organizing Committee, who bring their voices, energy and passion for change to our advocacy work. The list goes on.
And finally, but not by any means least, there are the nearly 2,000 people who directly contribute financially each year. People who give $10 and people who give $10,000, all equally important. More than 60 percent of our annual budget comes through the support of our amazing donors, and quite literally make our work possible.
This is the community that keeps Real Change strong through all kinds of weather. And we thank you from the bottom of our grateful hearts. As we enter the uncertainty and challenge of a new year, we’re all working together.
We’re changing lives, one day at a time, and working together to change the world.