Dave Williams may be the only vendor who started selling Real Change regularly because he wanted to go to the Seahawks playoffs, even though he’d known about Real Change for a long time. “When Tim [Harris] first started Real Change down in Belltown, I worked for a group called hop, Homestead Organization Project.” hop operated out of the Belltown office.
Dave had thought about becoming a vendor. “Finally three, four years ago I really got into it.” He’d been setting aside $50 a month from his fixed income so he could buy season tickets to the Seahawks every year. But when the Seahawks went to the playoffs, “I got the bright light bulb. Why don’t I just sell Real Change?”
It was a little more complicated than that. As Dave’s mom said, “You got to think outside the box, but stay within the limits.” Dave found out he could sell up to 75 papers a month before it affected his disability payments. He’s been selling ever since.
Dave grew up in Iowa. “Corned beef. Raised on a farm, had no choice when I was 7 my step-father moves out here to work for Boeing.” Thirteen days after Dave graduated from high school he joined the Navy.
“I served four years, got out because they wanted to screw around with me, and I just wasn’t about that. That’s why I do so much for Real Change, because they helped me.”
Dave has an apartment now, but he’s been homeless more than once. He wrote an essay in a college class about that. “They ended up publishing it in a book. I said, ‘You’re never more than a paycheck away from being homeless.’ Everybody was like, ‘It can be that quick?’”
“If the bottom falls out tomorrow, what pit are you falling into? You can dig your way out, but you’re going to have to make a ladder, start with baling wire.”
At one point Dave, who is right-handed, was living in his car and had a broken right arm. “I went to have dinner, something good and warm.” Some people there needed another player for a dart tournament. ‘We’ll pay your entry fee, we’ll buy your dinner.’ I found out I was ambidextrous with darts. ‘Are you sure you’ve never thrown? You’re throwing a hundred points plus per round and you haven’t missed.’” He won enough money playing tournaments to rent an apartment for six months.
Dave has fun selling Real Change. One reason is “the main attraction. Her name is Laya. She’s a 5-and-a-half-year-old brindle [striped] Great Dane, all self-trained and taught. She has her own Facebook page, under Laya Williams. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Besides selling Real Change, Laya helps him in other ways. “Come the first Friday in December, I stop selling Real Change until Christmas.” He dresses Laya up like a reindeer and sells “Danedeer” candy canes. The money goes to a veterinary clinic that helped him with his first Great Dane, now deceased. “That,” as Dave says, “is giving back to the community.”