to create opportunity and a voice for low-income people while taking action to end homelessness and poverty.
The Real Change Homeless Empowerment Project is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Real Change is a member of the North American Street Newspaper Association, the International Network of Street Papers, and the Greater Seattle Business Association.
Real Change has an 11-member Board of Directors headed by President Stephan Fjelstad, President. There is a bare-bones office staff of 11, with Executive Director Timothy Harris at the helm. Five interns flesh out the administrative labor force.
A total of 48 volunteers abound on the Editorial Committee, and in the pool of Contributing Writers and Photographers and Graphic Artists. Two copy editors and a bookkeeper also volunteer their time and services. Then of course there are more volunteers for all sorts of other things. I counted 29 of them.
Ending the list of people involved with the organization is an Advisory Board of 38 citizens from poet, to filmmaker, to media consultant, to author, to journalist, as well as those affiliated with various organizations like Children’s Alliance, Racial Disparity Project, Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness, Puget Sound Alliance for Retired Americans, Economic Opportunity Institute, Colors NW, United Way of King County, and educational institutions such as Seattle University and the University of Washington.
A grand total of 145 people at Real Change give of themselves to strive to make life better for the less fortunate, people like David Chow.
Outside the Kirkland PCC on a rainy afternoon, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday was the perfect occasion to meet with this Vendor of the Week, David Chow. As we talked about David’s experience as a Real Change vendor, it was immediately evident that King was an inspiration and an example of true service to mankind that David had tried to exemplify in every part of his life. David refers to his work as a vendor as a real blessing in his life, and he said that to have such a supportive environment and loyal customers at PCC adds to his ability to be of service to his customers, and to be an example to other young men of color. David sees his work as a sacred responsibility to challenge the subtle and not-so-subtle biases that seem to dominate much of public opinion.
David is truly a Northwest guy. Born in Seattle, he spent much of his youth here and in Salem, Ore. As a child David started working out in public by selling candy door-to-door, where he was mentored by his uncle. He learned how to work hard for what he wanted, to be responsible for his own efforts and most of all how to be courteous, helpful, and sensitive to the people who became his customers, he said. That experience has given David a rock-solid confidence in himself, which he radiates as he sells the newspaper. He speaks with assurance when greeting his customers, many of whom he knows by name. Currently he says, “Happy Holiday” to everyone, and when they ask which holiday it is, he is able to say, “This is Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday,” which is often an opportunity to start a conversation, and a chance to encourage his customers to check out the Real Change website.
David is currently attending Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Ore. where he is taking classes in political science, history, and writing. His ambition is to complete his associate’s degree and then move on to a university and get a bachelor’s degree.
David encountered Real Change when he was trying to start a non-profit called D.O.P. (Doing Our Part) which he envisioned as a service organization giving young people an alternative to the prevailing lifestyle. He was seeking donations in front of a local Trader Joe’s where a Real Change vendor was working and through conversation and with the encouragement of that vendor, he started selling Real Change. He has continued selling the paper for about the last four years, but really started to put more effort into the endeavor in the last year. David sells mostly on the weekends because he takes classes during the week in Salem. He drives to Seattle every week to see his daughter and to sell Real Change at the Kirkland PCC. ” ‘I am grateful every day for the opportunity Real Change has given me,’ he said, ‘and I want to thank all my customers who have been so generous to me.’ “
Entitled “Vendor of the Week,” this story was written by Joe Chitty.
change happens…one person at a time…hugmamma.