William “Billy” K. may have set a Contributor record in 2010: He got into permanent housing just five days after he began selling the paper. He’s kept that housing with money he earns from selling The Contributor in Green Hills and working full-time at a MAPCO Mart. (He averages 75 hours in his work week between the two jobs.) After losing both his mother and father, Billy became homeless in West Virginia because he was unable to find work. After moving to Nashville in 2010, he noticed another Contributor vendor and decided he would give it a try. Now, he’s proud to say that he’s never had to accept any assistance to help him pay his rent and bills. “If you can put the effort forward, you can do whatever you want with this paper,” he said. Here’s a check-in with Billy since his last Vendor Spotlight in 2014.
What do you want people to know about you?
Don’t judge a book by its cover. I don’t have the best clothing because I don’t have the money to buy new clothing, so my clothing is worn out. My initials are WRK, the scientific abbreviation for work. I’m working 75 hours this week. I’m a hard worker.
What did you do after high school?
I grew up in West Virginia and (went) to college for a semester before infinite loans were available for school. It was either work and survive, or go to school and starve. So, school became second.
How did you feel when you had to quit your education?
I went to school for chemistry – true chemistry, not medicine. I wish there had been more federal aid or state aid. Most states have now implemented programs that (will) pay for two years. There wasn’t that stuff when I was growing up … My dad was a drug dealer my entire life and I was always his money maker. I was always good with numbers and he put that talent to use. Before I graduated high school, I was in college calculus.
You’ve written for The Contributor a lot during your time here. What do you like about writing?
It’s a way to let loose of feelings and stress. It lets people know about you without having to tell them. You can be open in that moment. With poetry, a teacher used to come to me every few times I was published so her autistic kids could understand emotion. To have the ability to touch kids that way, so that they can understand their own emotions, is an amazing feat.
What do you like about selling The Contributor?
I love the interaction with the people. It’s one of the things you can call family and community here. I have a few [customers] that are like my parents.
What would you like to say your customers?
Thank you for helping me be better than I am. They’re the reason I’m motivated to get up in the morning, the reason I smile every day. Even if I’m having a bad day, my customers put a smile on my face … if I’m at the gas station or selling the paper. I love people, I’m a people person. I’ve had a long bout with depression, but people are the way I deal with that. I put my best foot forward for them.
Why are you working two jobs now, at MAPCO and The Contributor?
(Selling the paper) doesn’t cover all the bills because of the cost of living in Nashville. It’s too expensive to live (here), even with a full-time job.