Homelessness and hardships haven't kept Mary Ann from spreading smiles

Jan 17 2017
Posted by: Staff
Homelessness and hardships haven't kept Mary Ann from spreading smiles

By: Amelia Ferrell Knisely

Mary Ann has only been selling The Contributor since December, but her constant smile and thoughtful encouragement have made a long-lasting impression on Contributor vendors and staff. After growing up away from her parents, expereincing homelessness in her teenage years and suffering through a marriage to an alcoholic, Mary Ann emerged with a mission to put a smile on the faces of others. 

Her big, cheerful personality – contained in her short stature – has already won her some loyal customers at her sales spots on Thompson Place in front of her apartment building and where the road intersects with Murfreesboro Road. 

Mary Ann says selling The Contributor has been "the biggest blessing" and she hopes “I can bless someone as well as I’ve been blessed.”

Get to know her better in this week’s Vendor Spotlight. 

What brought you to 'The Contributor?'
I was working for my apartment complex as the groundskeeper for six years and they were paying half of my rent and I was taking care of the other half, (then) the company sold out and they got rid of everyone. I started praying and my church helped me out to get ahead, and I thought there’s gotta be something I can do to better myself. I saw people out there selling The Contributor and I brought questions to them because I was curious. So, I jumped on the bus – my first time ever riding the bus – and I came down and found this place and signed up on my own.
Now, I don’t have to worry about where I’m going to live. Being a Contributor (vendor) is the most blessing thing besides God that I have ever had in my life.

Talk about finding new customers.
I’m a people person. I always smile, especially to the little kids. I’ve never had a person be rude to me, (but) sometimes it’s rough.

What is rough about selling the paper?
My age – standing for a length of time. I’m so short, when I sit down they can’t see me. 

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Georgia. My parents were alcoholics. We lived in a wash house behind my aunt’s house. When my mama would take off and leave me, (my aunt) would walk out and bring me to her house. She loved me very much, but she couldn’t do anything with me because she had a big family already. She took me to Columbus, Ga., when I was a year old and she gave me to these people that were supposed to be my daddy’s sister’s family.

Did you ever see your dad again?
No, and my mother ran away when she had been drinking and married another man. I’ve never heard from her and I don’t know where she’s buried.

Do you still talk to your family?
I was put in a girls’ home at the age of 11 in Columbus, Ga. by (Child Protective Services). It was awful because I had a bitter spot in my heart. When you called, you had to make an appointment to see your child and go outside and spend an hour with your child. My step-mother would never call. I felt bitter and lonely. 
When I go back to Georgia, I still talk to my second cousin on my dad’s side. My own family doesn’t want anything to do with me.

How did you get to Nashville?
When the home let me go, I went back to my foster parents and stayed there, then decided it was time to make a new life for myself. I left my family behind and came to Clarksville because I had a feeling that’d be a good spot for me. I was married at one time to a Hispanic man, and he was a drunk and hit me and made me sleep outside at night because he was drunk. 
We lived in an apartment complex (in Nashville). He was bitter at me because I wouldn’t make him a legal citizen, but I wouldn’t because he wasn’t my husband – he was a drunk. We had an apartment in our name, and when he left, I got it in my name and I’ve lived there since. That was 11 years ago.

What has been the biggest lesson of your life?
Nobody in their life deserves to be mistreated – a kid, a grown up – and don’t ever let somebody put you through that and make you feel terrible because you are who you are.
I’m so blessed that I turned my situation around and started going to church and got God in my life. Not only have I been blessed through The Contributor, but I found myself. I won’t say I don’t have any problems, but when I’m selling The Contributor, it doesn’t matter what anybody did to me because people don’t have to give you anything in life. You have to appreciate if a customer gives you a penny. 

You have such a wonderful attitude.
I don’t complain. I love to see people smile because that makes me feel good. It’s important to me to be kind and generous before I leave this world. It don’t cost anything to be kind to others.

What do you like to do for fun?
My main (goal) is to keep a roof over my head and keep my customers as happy as I can. When I’m not seeing my papers, I spend time with my little dog. We watch TV together and eat together. I’m going to put him on my corner when the weather warms up a little bit. I want him to train to be with me on my corner.


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