Regular purchases, friendship, and smiles have created courage in your newspaper vendors. From courage comes hope, and with hope, overcoming barriers that contribute to homelessness becomes possible.
Enjoy the following stories of courage, friendship and hope.
To share how The Contributor has impacted you, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Bigger Picture
“We own a small business and have had a really hard time for awhile. I am usually optimistic and try to see the best in all. With the economy being relentless, I have found myself not so happy. I can honestly say that Tiger made me smile and the card I received with my paper is the first I’ve got this year that I felt the hope and love. Thanks so much for helping me remember the bigger picture.”–Tammye, Customer of The Contributor’s vendor, Tiger
“My customers are super friendly. They always ask if I need anything and will bring me bottled water or breakfast. Sometimes I don’t need anything and just tell them, ‘No, I’m good. God bless!’” - Michael, Newspaper Vendor
“You change people, and I don’t mean the homeless…You change homeful people like me because I don’t have the feelings I used to have…” - Racquel, Customer
“The Contributor has taken us out of poverty and we are now able to enjoy life. Instead of being apart from society, we are a part of society, and it feels wonderful.” A Mother & Daughter Vendor Team
Mr. James & Ella
“Almost two years ago on my way to work, I kept seeing the same man on the side of the road selling newspapers. I have to tell you – I don’t read the paper that gets thrown in my driveway each day. I pick them up and make a pile for Steve to read when he comes home. Something about this man just drew me to want to buy a paper from him. Each morning as I passed by I began talking to who, Ella and I, now call Mr. James. What started as just a wave and a smile has turned into this friendship if you will…
Last year after Halloween, I took Ella’s left over candy to work to share with everyone else. As I passed Mr. James, the light stopped me. I rolled down the window and asked if he liked candy. He got a twinkle in his eyes and said “Yes ma’am. People call me the Candy Man.” As he carried his handfuls of candy back to his backpack, he was smiling from ear to ear – just like a kid in a candy store…
One day we were fortunate enough to be stopped by the red light – right next to where this man stood every morning. He came over to the car to speak to me and noticed Ella in the backseat. Since that day, Ella and Mr. James have become big buddies. If we pass that corner and Mr. James isn’t there I get at least 20 questions. Where’s Mr. James? Is Mr. James sick? Does he need to go to the doctor? If it’s raining – Is Mr. James gonna get wet? Mr. James will come back later?…
This child of mine has fallen in love with the Candy Man selling newspapers on the sidewalk for a dollar…
Mr. James came with us to church today to say thanks to you all. You see, things have been hard for him lately and he needed a little help…Mr. James knew by talking to me and Ella that he could ask us for help. He wasn’t ashamed to do so. We could all learn from that – to be able to ask for help when we need it. I told him our church would help him and we did.” -Amy & Ella, Customer and Friend of The Contributor’s newspaper vendor, James
Making Green Hills A Better Place
“Hey! I just wanted to tell you how I think all of the vendors in Green Hills make it a better place. I am a firm believer in what all of the vendors are doing and I applaud them for working in hot, cold, and miserable conditions. I love buying the papers and reading them. I am amazed about all of their sweet personalities. I have gotten to know Sharon at Kroger in Green Hills who is so sweet and always asks how I’m doing. I love picking up a meal for her if I’m going to subway or Mcdonalds not because I feel like she needs someone to buy it for her but I feel as if she deserves it. She puts in the hard work like so many vendors, and I never see a frown on her place…Just wanted to share how highly I think of them and The Contributor as a whole!“ -Lucy B., Customer
With His Head Held High
Over the last twelve months, Curtis A. has entered the lives of my wife Allison and I first as our local The Contributor vendor, then as our vendor in immediate need, then our friend and now Curtis holds a permanent place in our hearts as an extended member of our family.
My wife got to know Curtis on her morning commutes to work and made it a point to stop, chat and buy a The Contributor paper to support Curtis’s employment. Over time, she was able to help with remedy advice for his sore muscles and headaches but she was not prepared for the news she received from Curtis one morning in March, 2011. Curtis had been wrongly evicted from his apartment, all of his belongings thrown in the yard and stolen, and he now had nothing after two years of steady housing. At age 67, he was staying in a drug house at $100 per week just to have a roof over his head and avoid sleeping outside. I decided to take two days off work and help this man who had grown so dear to us. With the help of The Contributor being able to provide W-4 income information for Curtis, he and I set out to find housing. In two days, we received approval for an apartment downtown and Curtis and I moved his remaining possessions out of the drug house and into his new apartment. Over that weekend, Allison, Curtis and I hit the Goodwill and thrift stores and managed to furnish and accessorize most of his apartment and return normalcy and stability in his life.
What amazed Allison and I throughout this emotional roller coaster Curtis experienced during this six day period was how well Curtis held his head high and stayed grounded behind his faith in God. Curtis was on his corner every morning selling The Contributor to his customers, a smile on his face and a kind word for others, even while his world was falling apart. Curtis is an absolute inspiration to me, Allison and I am sure many hundreds of his customers and passersby of the corner of Wedgewood and 8th Ave. We are thankful for the life path of Curtis crossing ours and we are proud to call Curtis ‘friend’ and ‘family’. The culmination of the experience we shared with Curtis was his invitation for Allison and I to come to his new apartment several weeks later so he could cook us a Sunday brunch (cooking is Curtis’s passion in life). The feast was delicious and it was so nice to spend a Sunday afternoon with family. -Chris and Allison Koch, Customers, Donors and Friends of The Contributor
My Vendor Is…
Starting April 1, 2011 online and in the paper as an opportunity for Nashvillians to reach out and share what The Contributor‘s presence means to them, My Vendor Is… received more than 1800 responses.
My vendor is a friend who has enriched me more than one could ever begin to imagine -Patsy
My vendor has a real job. -Kim Phillips
My vendor is courageous in ways I’ve never had to know. A total inspiration to me! -Amy M.
My vendor is taking control of his future. -Wendy Woodall
My vendor has a future in Nashville. -Lea Bayer
My vendor is a dedicated member of my community. -Debra
My vendor is a reminder of how fragile we all are…You truly touched my heart today. -Melvin O.
My vendor is Nicky B, she smiles despite whatever she’s going through. It brings me to tears. One newspaper has changed me significantly. -Randi D.
My vendor is a person trying to make a new start and I salute them. I was once the same.-R. Bradley
My vendor is James M.! His story changed my views on life. He’s awesome! -Alli Arms
My vendor is a responsible entrepreneur working hard to make a living. -James Overby
My vendor is a vital part of my neighborhood. -Anonymous
My vendor is an old friend I haven’t seen in years. I never knew he was homeless. - Anonymous
My vendor is a community asset, advocate and accidental activist. -Lyndsey Godwin
My vendor is a reminder that it could have been me. -Tanitta Benimon
My vendor is a bright spot in my day as well as a reminder to me of all I have and of the great needs of others. -Anonymous
My vendor is challenging perceptions. -Ann Patty
My vendor is a salesman, not a panhandler. -Alyce
My vendor is someone who I see a little more hope and determination in every time I talk to her. -Matthew Thomas
My vendor is full of contagious optimism. -Stephanie
My vendor is my son who is trying to better himself. -Anonymous
My vendor is Jesse Hayes, a great friend of many at Vandy. -Jack Boone
My vendor is Mr. George! He’s a joy to have by our campus. -Lipscomb Student
A Note From The Contributor‘s Executive Director, Tasha French
My own experience of forming a caring relationship with a community member experiencing homelessness is the founding path of The Contributor. This was first developed by asking his name–Don. Followed by regular conversations with him outside of my workplace in downtown Nashville, I found him doing the strangest normal things anyone one of us would do when our living depends on how resourceful we are. The Contributor‘s goal is to first, restore dignity and hope to those experiencing homelessness. This is accomplished by creating a flexible source of income for impoverished Nashvillians through the face to face interactions of selling The Contributor. Amazing things happen when names are exchanged, eyes meet, hands shake–perceptions are altered and room for caring and community are created. To see those who are formerly homeless and those who are still homeless as separate from our community, is to exclude them from any chance of genuine opportunities for their advancement. The Contributor hopes to continue breaking down barriers that further discrimination against those experiencing homelessness and poverty and replacing them with an understanding of the human condition.
We used to tell say during vendor training, that this was not a way off the streets–we have long stopped saying that because Nashville has graciously blessed this project.