This week, Real Change vendors are back out on the street, earning an income and directly experiencing the caring community that our amazing readers have provided for more than 25 years.
As you know, Real Change offers much more than an income to those who work selling the paper. We are a vast network of people who care for those who struggle. People who take a personal interest in our vendor’s everyday success.
The past three months have tested our community in ways we never could have anticipated. None of us have experienced the dramatic disruption of a global pandemic before. We had no idea of what to expect or what our future might hold.
But we knew one thing for sure. We could trust in our community’s commitment to our vendors. We are deeply touched and grateful for the support you have given.
Thanks to you, our vendors have felt the warmth of this caring community during this difficult time, even when they were unable to see you face to face.
Your generous support of the Vendor Relief Fund has enabled us to provide cash and gift cards each month to help ease the financial pain of unemployment. Thanks to you, nearly 200 vendors have received vital assistance while they have been unable to sell the paper.
We have also asked readers to read our weekly paper online and directly support our vendors through electronic donations on Venmo. Your kind generosity has made a dramatic difference, and has shown our vendors that when times are tough, they can count on their friends.
Your kind gifts have helped us set vendors up for success in other ways as well.
With your support, we have invested $10,000 to remodel our vendor bathrooms and provide “no touch” sinks and toilets to protect vendors from the spread of COVID-19. We have devised methods of social distancing for our vendor center, and are providing masks and hand sanitizer to keep our community safe as we resume sales of the paper.
As the requirements of social distancing have moved Real Change staff meetings to Zoom, we have turned our community room into a robustly supplied food and toiletries pantry. Your cash and in-kind donations have allowed us not only to help our vendors, but also to deliver supplies to homeless encampments throughout the city.
Over the past three months, volunteers have given more than 1,100 hours of their time sewing masks for our vendors and offering other forms of essential in-kind support.
Real Change has also had the opportunity to innovate an exciting new income and employment opportunity. When vendors return to work this week, they are able to purchase 2-ounce bottles of Real Hand Sanitizer to sell for three dollars along with the newspaper.
Thanks to a generous gift from Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard, we are able to subsidize production costs so that vendors earn 500 percent profit on each bottle sold. The hand sanitizer project also provides new work opportunities to vendors who work in our small-scale bottling operation.
Throughout the past three months, your support has allowed us to continue publishing our award-winning paper during these challenging but hopeful times of uprising and pandemic. Last month, Real Change received five awards for excellence from the Society of Professional Journalists.
Thanks to you, independent community journalism survives and thrives in a very uncertain world. Our gutsy advocacy department is finding new ways to support the many opportunities for systemic change that this extraordinary moment offers.
As we enter the final week of the Real Change Spring Fund Drive, we are thrilled to report that we have less than $6,000 left toward meeting our essential $100,000 goal. We are incredibly grateful for the amazing support that this community consistently provides.
We know we can count on you to help us close that gap. You can make your gift at bit.ly/RealChange2020, or mail your support to 219 1st Ave. S., Suite 220, Seattle, WA 98104. Thank you again for all of your inspiring and heartfelt support.
Tim Harris is the Founding Director Real Change and has been active as a poor people’s organizer for more than two decades. Prior to moving to Seattle in 1994, Harris founded street newspaper Spare Change in Boston while working as Executive Director of Boston Jobs with Peace. He can be reached at director (at) realchangenews (dot) org
Read more of the June 24-30, 2020 issue.