December 26, 2012
Vol: 19 No: 52

Community & Editorial

Real Change: Our vision includes you

By Timothy Harris , Executive Director

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The Real Change Holiday Fund Drive, like the Mayan calendar marking the end of a 5,100 year cycle, is more or less over. Since the middle of November, 356 readers like you have contributed $89,433 to make our work possible. We have until Dec. 31 to reach our $150,000 goal before 2013.

Last year, nearly 1,700 readers generously supported Real Change. The 56 percent of this year’s $950,000 budget that comes from people like you is the reason for our success.

Our newsroom, while informed by vendors and other low-income and homeless people, is staffed by professional reporters and supported by skilled volunteers. Without your help, we’d be like most homeless newspapers, with one or two paid news staff at best. Weekly publication would be unlikely. We wouldn’t be winning a lot of journalism awards. Not the seven we won this year, anyway.

Our vendors would get less staff support and pay more for their papers. Circulation revenue — the 35 cents vendors pay for their papers — generates about a third of our budget. Street papers with less community support charge their vendors as much as half of the cover price to fund operations.

Your strong support means Real Change vendors can keep more of your dollar.

Our four-person vendor services staff works with about 350 homeless and low-income people each month, resolving problems, offering assistance and helping vendors put their best foot forward. Because of this, our vendors are welcomed at locations throughout the city and beyond.

And, thanks to your support, Real Change is able to take on issues other organizations might avoid. Occupy CEHKC took on the powerbrokers in government and the foundation world, who make up the Committee to End Homelessness–King County, with a direct action campaign to demand expanded survival services for the most vulnerable and underserved of the homeless. We are uncompromised by our funding.

Last year at this time, a prominent foundation took us to task for criticizing a major local corporation, and we were able to walk away from their money without regrets. Our broad community support made that moment of integrity possible.

In January, we’re adding a new community organizer to our staff. The first year of funding for this position, and our new Thomas Dannenfelser community meeting room, come from a $59,000 bequest we gratefully received from a long-time supporter in 2012.

Your support also means that we have the infrastructure we need to operate responsibly and effectively. About a third of Real Change staff hours are matched by volunteers, and we have a full-time staff person to support this community service. We keep costs down, for example, by pairing our paid bookkeeper with a volunteer. Our managing director, office manager and development director keep the money coming in, the bills paid, the staff happy and the lights on.

And because you made all of that possible, we were able to serve nearly 900 homeless and low-income vendors over 2012. Thousands of readers like you were able to take a moment to practice loving kindness and collectively put more than a million dollars directly into the pockets of our vendors. Thousands of readers, just like you, helped make Seattle a warmer, more compassionate place.

You are the caring community that makes Real Change possible.

But there is so much more that we need to do.

To meet all of our goals for next year, we need to make our $150,000 Holiday Fund Drive goal. Immediate plans include:

Regional publication: By 2014, when we celebrate our 20th anniversary, we will be distributed in Kitsap County and throughout King County to the east of Lake Washington

Cashless transactions: By next spring, our vendors will gain new sales opportunities through new Android and iPhone apps that will allow purchase by credit card

Better access to services: The Affordable Care Act means that many homeless and low-income people will have access to newly available health care and mental health services. We will train volunteers to help our vendors through the complicated choices this can involve.

Expanded organizing and advocacy: With new resources, our work will focus on meeting the survival needs and maintaining the civil rights of the most poor, creating better access to housing and being a catalyst for community action.

We will more effectively walk our talk on cross-class organizing. We’ll be a model for how low-income and homeless people can effectively combine with allies throughout society to work toward a more just economy.

In 1994, I moved here from Boston with a vision for how to build a powerful community institution among the most powerless. I wanted to forge caring connections across racial and class boundaries, increase compassion, reduce fear and make it possible for the poorest of the poor to work for a better world while meeting their own most pressing needs.

Since then, a whole lot of people have helped make that vision possible, from our staff and board, to our community allies, to the more than 20,000 readers who support our vendors and the many individuals who offer their generous financial support.

Please be a part of that vision. Take a moment before Jan. 1 to make a gift to our Holiday Fund Drive. You can make your tax-deductible donation at our secure website at realchangenews.org or mail a check to Real Change, 219 1st Ave. S., Ste. 220, Seattle, WA 98104. To make a gift of stock or discuss planned giving options, please call 441-3247 x201, or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Thank you again for doing your part. Together, we make real change happen.

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