New year, new hopes
For Real Change vendors, the coming year brings a chance for change
Daniel Anderson has ambitions for 2014.
“I’m looking to get myself ahead next year,” he said. He has been a vendor since February 2013, but in the coming year, “I’m looking to try to get out of Real Change and get back into the normalcy of employment.”
Daniel sells Real Change in West Seattle, at Metropolitan Market. He lives in Auburn, so he takes the bus from Auburn to Real Change and then another bus to West Seattle.
During the holiday season, he worked for Salvation Army as a bell-ringer.
“The change for next year is I don’t have to travel that far.”
He used to work in the seafood department at Safeway in West Seattle, but it was only part-time. He also sold Real Change in West Seattle to supplement his income, but the two jobs plus long bus rides often meant 13-hour days, with three of those hours on the bus.
It’s a long commute, he said; “I do it six days a week.”
Daniel wants to get enough hours at Safeway near his home so that he doesn’t have to work an extra job.
He’s worked stocking the store and in the produce section and says he’s not picky about which position: “Whatever they have available.”
If he does sell Real Change in 2014, “it’ll be down there,” in Auburn, he said.
Shelly Cohen likes to say he’s “59 years young.”
He sells Real Change at the Northgate QFC, in the parking lot, with permission. He started selling Real Change in June 2013.
Shelly’s plans for 2014 are pretty straightforward, if not easy: “To keep on smiling, and get people to respond with smiles.”
“What I do is real simple, ‘Make it a great day,” or “Make it a great evening.”
Shelly had been telling people to have a great day, but a customer once corrected him, urging him to say MAKE it a great day. Shelly liked that: “It’s empowering,” he said.
Some people scoff at Shelly’s optimism, but he responds that good cheer always serves a purpose: “Give someone a smile and make it a great day for them.”
In 2014, Shelly plans to sell Real Change five days a week, Monday-Thursday, and one weekend day.
“I just started taking Saturday off,” he said. And he doesn’t sell Wednesday afternoon because he gets new copies of Real Change then.
Shelly also works as an adult school crossing guard for Pinehurst K-8 and Olympic Hills Elementary, both in the Seattle School District.
Shelly said he’s had people who were experiencing troubles break down in tears, thanking him for putting a smile on their face. His outlook is contagious.
“Now I’ve got people trying to beat me (to it) telling them to make it a great day. That is so funny, when that happens.”
Kathy Corey has a lot of things in the works for 2014.
“It’s all going to come together,” she said.
Kathy recently got a Square reader in order to take payments from mobile phones, and she wants to get it set up on the smartphone she just purchased.
“If you set up an account, the Square reader is free. They mailed it to me.”
Along with helping her sell Real Change, the Square reader enables her to offer other merchandise.
“With the Square reader comes the Square market,” Kathy said. “I can have an electronic marketplace.”
For example, she bought one of the Real Change bags and plans to sell it online.
Kathy said that she was happy to learn that the Square reader does not require a business bank account. Instead, it uses her social security number.
“I was ready to set up my EIN but none of that was necessary,” she said.
Her average transaction is going to be $2, the price of Real Change.
“It will cost me 5.5 cents to make a $2 sale,” she said.
She figures it will be worth it: “I have three people walking by me every day and say ‘I don’t have any money.’”
With Square, a lack of cash won’t be a reason to forgo buying a paper.
“I don’t expect them to buy, but I expect them to come up with another excuse,” she said.
Kathy also wants to sign up for a Car2go account so she can go to Kent and visit her dad and take him out for coffee.
She can’t visit him at his home because his girlfriend doesn’t want her there, she said.
She has a car, but it is sitting in her driveway, in need of repairs she can’t afford.
“That’s why I started selling Real Change. My car broke down.”
“I’ve been selling papers for about seven years. Real Change has brought my confidence back and made me feel that I am a productive person and that my voice and what I had to say do matter,” she wrote.
“What I see for myself or the next year is to continue to let my voice and ideas be heard. And trying to do more advocacy work. Keep on speaking out for the homeless on housing, shelter, and many other important issues.
“I really would like to be going to school to take blood-drawing [phlebotomy.] Finally have confidence in myself to go back to school. I feel great. I’ve wanted to go back to school for years.
“I want to thank my faithful customers and Real Change for making me feel I do matter. I hope everyone has a wonderful and prosperous New Year.”
When 2014 rolls around, Marvin Gnad will be that much closer to his destination.
“I’m leaving,” he said. “A hundred and thirty days from today. April 1 is when I take off.”
Marvin is putting the daily grind behind him: “I’m retiring,” he said. He is going to take the bus to western Kansas, where he hails from. He is one of 13 children, nine of whom are still living.
He has three sons but he doesn’t plan on living with them; “Noooo,” he said with a chuckle. He plans to rent an apartment.
He is looking forward to being there for the birth of his first grandson, due around Easter. In May, his youngest son is getting his master’s degree in mathematics.
Marvin has been saving up his earnings from Real Change for the move. He wants to get all his bills squared away. He will make his last child support payment March 1, and he owes a small sum to the state, he said.
From there on out, he’s in the clear. “April 1, I get everything,” he said. “I don’t owe anybody nothing,”
He has saved up enough for first and last months’ rent.
“I’ve been doing this almost seven years,” he said of selling Real Change.
It’s all gravy. Marvin turned 52 on Nov. 4. He has a host of health problems, so he wasn’t expected to live that long.
An Army vet, he will get Disability and military benefits. The cost of living is much lower in Kansas, he said, and he won’t mind the cold; “Not when you have your own place,” he said with a grin.
Marvin is so excited that he opens his phone to display the calendar. On March 31 there is a notation: “Last day in Seattle.”
Not that Marvin could ever forget.
On the subject of the New Year, Marques Lewis is conflicted.
“It’s a sad outlook,” he said. “There’s optimism, but it’s very dim.”
He feels insecure, but he’s realizes he’s not the only one feeling this way.
“Depression is an industry in America,” he said. “People are self-destructive. Ordinary people suffer in their grandeur.”
In 2014, “I just want to see some boldness. I want people to grow a spine.”
Marques is considering making some changes, too.
“I think I want to change my mindset,” he said. “I care, but then again, I don’t care. It’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
“I do want to do something,” he said. “My main goal is to start writing, do something creative. But it doesn’t resonate.”
It’s hard to stay focused, he said.
“We think immediate. We don’t think long-term. People are apathetic because they know the hill they have to climb.”
Nick Reyes sells in Madison Park. He likes it there, and has developed a rapport with its residents.
“We conversate,” he said. A lot of older people stop by to share stories with him, and he’s developed a rapport, or as Nick, puts it, “We click.”
Nick has been a vendor for a year and a half. Has finished two classes with Path with Art and wants to keep learning.
“I basically want to continue my education,” Nick said.
Nick has also been in the Emerging Advocates program at Real Change, where he got training on how to speak to organizations like churches, schools, shelters, senior housing, veterans and youth groups about his experiences with homelessness and poverty.
“I’m getting the hang of it,” Nick said of public speaking. The first time he did it was with Real Change when he spoke in favor of an ordinance that would have allowed more groups, not just churches, to host tent camps for homeless people.
Nick related his own experience about being homeless to Seattle City Councilmembers.
“I felt good because it’s helping and supporting other people that’s homeless,” he said.
He’s also enjoyed participating in Path With Art. “They give you another chance to brighten up your life.”
A lot of people have skills and interest in art, but they haven’t had the opportunity to use them, Nick said.
This year, Nick took a field class in digital photography. He took a photo of the Space Needle that he liked, so Path With Art director Adam Doody had it blown up into an 11x14 photo, which was displayed in the Path with Art gallery.
Nick, who just got his own camera, hopes to take another photography class in January. He took a trip to Olympia with the advocacy class from Real Change and he got a chance to use it then.
He has hopes not just for himself, but for the world, he said: “I just hope the young kids that are out there have a chance.”
In 2014, Real Change vendor Tex hopes to visit extended family in Texas and possibly move indoors for the first time in years.
“I’m kind of stubborn,” said Tex, 43. “I really don’t want to go indoors, but I’m getting older, and maybe it’s time.”
Tex is a nickname; he doesn’t want to share his real name. When he first arrived in Seattle, a friend gave him the name because he was wearing a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. It also indicates his home state; Tex is from Shamrock, a town of 2,000 people in the Texas panhandle.
Tex has been selling copies of Real Change for about eight years and is a member of the Editorial Committee.
He has lived outdoors in Seattle for about 20 years, most recently in a greenbelt in the University District.
During the day, Tex sells copies of Real Change outside a QFC on the north end of Broadway, or outside a Starbucks on First Avenue South. In the evening, he heads to his encampment, where he takes care of a cat named Sasha.
Tex hasn’t visited his home town since 2006, when his father died. He has aunts, uncles and cousins he wants to see, if he can scrape together enough money to make the visit.
Getting indoors is a long-term goal. He’s not sure it will happen in 2014, but it will need to happen soon. “It hurts at times when I’m out in the cold too long,” Tex said. “It’s just lots of aches and pains, just from years of not taking care of myself.”
Brenda Williams plans to begin studying business at the University of Phoenix in January. She will being taking online classes, working from home on her laptop. She wants to get a degree to prepare for a career in marketing.
“I think I’ll be pretty good at it because you have to be social and talk to people, and I like things like that,” she said.
“I want to go to school and get my degree and get a job,” she said.
Brenda can hardly wait to get started.
“I work all day [selling Real Change] so when I get off work I’ll go home and study.”
She has no doubt that she’ll be successful: “I have a lot of self-confidence.”
The asset comes from how she was raised, she said: “My mom was a nurse practitioner. She said if you want anything in life you have to go and get it.”
Brenda is very close to her mom, who lives in California. In fact, it was her mom who gave her the laptop, shipping it to Brenda from California.
Sometimes, Brenda unwinds by playing games on her laptop.
“I love it,” she said.
Tracey ‘Melvin’ Williams
I was asked by someone, what do you hope for in 2014? Simple. I want to give West Seattle something that it does not have: good barbecue.
There are people I’ve met that prefer this place or that place, but I don’t cook the way they do. Tru Memphis Smok is what I have planned for 2014.
It’s when you smoke your food over a very low temperature for a long time. You see, being a chef from Memphis, the barbecue capitol of the world, I’ve got skills. No, I’m amazing. I’ve smoked quail, duck wild boar, pork, beef and other meats.
The reason I know I would be a success is: I enjoy what I do. It’s a lot of love in every bite.
I asked my daughter, Tamara, a graduate of FareStart, if I should do Kool-Aid pie.
“Naw, Dad, they ain’t ready.”
What about the Hurt-em Burger?
“Naw, Dad, they ain’t ready.”
What about BBQ nachos or spaghetti?
Well, then what can I make?
“Dad, give them a dry rub then a new sauce each week.”
I guess you can say I’m like (Seattle Seahawk) Richard Sherman, I shut them down. Although I’m not a Hawks fan.
My dream for 2014 is to give Seattle love by cooking for the city. I want your tastebuds to tango with Tracey.
Tru Memphis Smok — best barbecue Seattle will ever get.
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