I met Evie Lovett briefly one day during my shift in the Real Change Vendor Center. She came up to the door of the community room where, at that time in the pandemic, we would pack a bag of food and hygiene products whenever someone asked. I cannot remember what Lovett asked for, but I remember she asked for my name in a voice that spoke right to my heart. She introduced herself and waited patiently as I bumbled around trying to collect the different things she had requested. Something about her struck me. Perhaps it was the warmth and gentle nature she exuded — the caring that accompanied her words.
I asked her if she comes in often, and she said it had been a while but that she was hoping to come by more regularly.
“I hope to see you more regularly,” I said cheerily as she left. I harbored a hope that I would get to talk to her again and have the chance to connect with someone whose kindness was magnetic.
Lovett passed away not long after. Her departure was a shock, even amid the health struggles she endured, for those who knew her well and those, like me, who had just met her and taken for granted that there would be more time.
Lovett had filled many roles at Real Change: a vendor services specialist and a newspaper vendor. Even more so, she was a confidant, friend, well-wisher and cheerleader to fellow vendors and fellow staffers. All around, the Real Change community loved her. Her presence will be missed, but never forgotten.
Lovett and her husband came to Seattle from Atlanta on a whim after seeing the city featured on the Travel Channel. Lovett had a young daughter and felt that Atlanta was not the right place for her child to grow up. The family moved to Seattle and stayed in a hotel briefly before getting an apartment. Within a week, both Lovett and her husband found jobs.
Lovett worked at a café while spending four to five hours a day filing court proceedings for intellectual property lawyers, which one day became a full-time position. Soon after, Lovett had a son, who died of sudden crib death.
Losing a child was devastating and Lovett never fully healed from the pain. Eventually, Lovett sent her daughter to live with her adoptive grandparents.
Lovett’s daughter is now grown and attends Western Washington University. She was Lovett’s pride and joy.
Lovett came to Real Change during a hard time that was set in motion by the loss of her son. The community was a rallying force for her. “Being a vendor for Real Change restored my self-confidence and allowed me to lift myself to realize that I should be living the life that I am capable of living. For that, I am grateful,” she wrote later in a 2018 article for Reader’s Appreciation Week.
In that article, Lovett’s words to her readers and customers are heartfelt and powerful. “The part that I didn’t foresee was that the vendor-to-reader relationship was strong. We were sharing stories. We all have a story, no matter what your background or socio-economic status is, and our stories become the ties that bind. I can say wholeheartedly that I was extremely fortunate to have the customers that I had.”
Customers would bring her tea on days when it was freezing and bottles of water on sweltering afternoons. They would even help quiz her as preparation for interviews, including to become the vendor services specialist.
One of Lovett’s closest friends was a fellow vendor powerhouse, Lisa Sawyer. The two met when Lovett joined the Vendor Advisory Board, of which Sawyer was president at the time. At first, Sawyer said, Lovett was quiet. As Lovett became more comfortable with the Real Change community, she began to open up and grew into the role of board secretary.
Lovett would call Sawyer “baby girl,” and Sawyer thought of Lovett as her street mom — a bond that turned into a close friendship, though they had opposite personalities. They would talk on the phone a couple nights a week. “I miss our short conversations, our late-night chats,” Sawyer said.
The two friends often went through parallel experiences: Both applied for the vendor specialist position and received housing at the same time as each other.
Sawyer last saw Lovett two days before Lovett passed away. Lovett seemed to look well, and her passing shocked Sawyer, though Sawyer had known about Lovett’s health struggles.
“I’m just happy she’s not in so much pain,” Sawyer said.
Lovett created a treasure trove of memories at Real Change, all in the way she positively impacted the community around her.
Real Change Case Manager Ainsley Meyer remembers Lovett impacted Meyer’s first few days as a Real Change intern. Lovett made her feel welcome immediately. “She was the first person at Real Change to share her personal story with me, and despite my being a complete stranger to her at the time, she shared with such brilliant candor and vulnerability,” Meyer said. “I loved her ability to make strong connections with those around her. She’s going to be so missed in the community.”
Lovett was voted Vendor of the Year in 2019, a testament to how beloved and trusted she was in the vendor community at Real Change. Circulations Specialist Wes Browning echoes this tangible impact she had: “I think she made a huge, lasting impact on the vendor program. She held us to a high standard of fairness, which we won’t forget.”
Jerred Clouse, who is now the executive director of Roots Young Adult Shelter and was the vendor program manager at Real Change, recalls Lovett as a playful, supportive and patient teacher. One fond memory: Lovett was especially concerned that Clouse was “clueless” about the reality of selling the paper. So, she took Clouse into the field with her, gave him a quick training and left him to his own devices. He tried. People avoided eye contact and tried not to engage. Then he finally got his first sale. Another one soon followed, and another. Clouse was excited to share his accomplishment with Lovett, only to find that she was in fact hiding in the parking lot, sending all her regular customers in Clouse’s direction.
“I caught her red-handed, middle of the parking lot, laughing warmly and talking with someone, and then clearly pointed in my direction,” Clouse recalled.
He was incredibly humbled by the experience. “Evie did not need to invest in me or my growth. She could have been making sales that whole time. But she did invest in me. She made sure I experienced the highs and the lows of being a vendor. Evie was a trusted confidant, an insightful friend and a grounded mentor. I’m so incredibly grateful for every moment I had with Evie and will forever cherish the time we shared.”
Lovett always rose up past life’s demands and struggles. She would often go to Green Lake to relax and think. A lover of poetry and writing, Lovett wrote her own original pieces. We now remember her life with her poetry, which is a testament to her spirit, strength and tenacity. We will miss you, Evie, but we will cherish these words and all the memories you gave us.
I AM WOMAN
Never again will I be mistreated
No longer will I be defeated
I do not need companionship to feel completed
I AM WOMAN
Destined to be the mother of all men
Biblically speaking because of another’s sin
But I find it gracious to bear children
I AM WOMAN
Entering the workforce with vengeance
Not asking for anyone’s clearance
How I grow weary of this petty interference
I AM WOMAN
Gone is the subservient for eternity
I stand tall with undiminished dignity
And I shout this all in the name of equality
I AM WOMAN!
Read more about Evie here.
Kamna Shastri is a staff reporter covering narrative and investigative stories for Real Change. She has a background in community journalism. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @KShastri2
Read more in the Oct. 7-13, 2020 issue.