January 29, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 5

Vendor of the Week

Vendor Profile - Ann Crowder

by: Mike Wold

Ann sells Real Change on Bainbridge Island.

Photo by: Jon Williams , Arts Editor

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Ann Crowder was a year out of high school when she was faced with a choice. She’d just finished a program at Idaho State University, learning basic job skills: cleaning floors or doing food service. She couldn’t get more than a part-time job and working part-time wouldn’t pay her rent. Perhaps, she thought, the sensible thing would have been to go home.

Instead, she set out hitchhiking. “There were three of us, not by myself. We went up to Canada, then to the East Coast. And I got married. My momma said it was a nightmare for her, but for me it was fun. And had a kid.”

Even working 40 hours a week, Ann never was able to make enough money to get her and her daughter out of poverty. After her daughter was grown, Ann trained as a certified nurse’s aide, which she found to be hard physical labor. She was in her 40s by then. “When your body gets old, it says no. And when your body gets older, you can’t do the work. If I could make good money and good benefits, I’d be happy to work for everything, but I never did figure out how to make good money at a job.”

Then she hurt her neck and was told she couldn’t go back to her job for six months. At that point she decided that she’d have to live on Supplemental Security Income (SSI). She couldn’t afford to get injured again and face having no income and needing to find subsidized housing.

SSI strictly limits the amount of income recipients can earn before payments get cut. She found that out when she started petsitting. A woman who needed help walking her dog at night got her started. At first, Ann says, “I didn’t want to be paid for it, but I would still do it” with that woman and with other neighbors, too. But she also figured out that, while she could earn a little money taking care of pets, earning very much would affect her SSI and food stamps. So, she says, “I’m not making any money.”

Not being paid has advantages. It means she’s free to go down to Vancouver, Wash., to visit her daughter, now 38, and her 17-year-old granddaughter. Ann says her daughter looks just like her. “We talk almost every night.” Sometimes they read the Bible to each other over the phone.

As with petsitting, Ann doesn’t sell Real Change for the money. But she always looks for something to keep busy. She’d been buying Real Change off and on when she came into Seattle from Bainbridge Island. She liked the paper. She saw an ad and found out Real Change was looking for vendors on the other side of Puget Sound.

Ann likes watching TV news. And she’s still looking for other ways to keep herself busy. After her interview she was headed for a Real Change vendor advocacy meeting. Pretty soon, she may be making the news.

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