Real Change is a place for growth. I should know. As of this February I have been working at Real Change for eight years. But my journey with the organization starts even further back than that. In 2000 I was a depressed college dropout who had retreated home to Seattle from the East Coast and decided to start over. I restarted my life at Seattle Central Community College and looked for an internship. That’s when I found Real Change.
I volunteered at a time when Real Change was still a scrappy organization in a small Belltown office with no walls and one bathroom for all 250 vendors, volunteers and staff. I sold papers to vendors at a desk perched on top of a stage-like platform; vendors would climb the steps to make a transaction. Over time, I realized that my favorite thing to do at Real Change was have conversations with vendors when they bought their papers, but at that time I was a pretty closed-off person who shied away from tons of interaction.
A Real Change staff member saw that I wasn’t having fun and found another way for me to help. They assigned me to assist at the organization’s Street Life Gallery down the street. It was a quiet space at the corner of Blanchard and Second Avenue. I could tell immediately that Street Life was a refuge for people. A place to paint and craft their worries away, a place that allowed them to just be artists, if only for a few hours. At the end of sessions, people walked out of the gallery with smiles on their faces, looking a little bit taller. Real Change helped them find a bit of themselves again.
In time I picked myself up too, found myself again and returned to the East Coast with a new perspective and a greater appreciation of all people.
My commitment to work with the most marginalized of folks continued at other organizations through outreach services and HIV prevention work. Not long after graduating college, I noticed that Real Change was hiring a Program Manager, so I applied within an hour of the job posting. I knew I was ready to come back. Founding Director Tim Harris agreed, and I have been here ever since.
The Street Life Gallery is gone, so is the funky office. Now we have a meeting room where the Vendor Advisory Board discusses pressing organizational issues. A current vendor now runs all of our new vendor orientations. I see these vendor leaders walk out of the office with the same smile and confidence that echoes those who departed from the Street Life Gallery.
They are whole again.
Real Change is successful because it’s an ever-changing organization and, as a result, allows the community to grow with it.
I am proof of this.
After running the vendor program for more than four years, I realized that I may prefer to work more behind the scenes in our operations department, especially as I navigated my new journey of motherhood. Real Change recognized that I needed a change and provided me with the opportunity to learn and contribute to the human resources (HR) department. Within a couple of years, I was running HR and operations. As of January, I have become co-director alongside Tim Harris and Alan Preston.
They have supported my journey and eagerly welcomed me as a new peer. For that I am grateful.
The three of us are committed to continuing to provide growth opportunities for the organization, our vendors, our community and our staff. We must learn, change and adapt to stay relevant and thrive.
With that in mind, I’d like to remind you that we’re currently hiring. We are looking for an organizer to help put smiles on our vendors’ faces as they find their own voice and push our community to do better.
If that sounds exciting to you, visit our employment page. I look forward to growing with you.