Published April 2010 Vol. 14 Issue 4
by Gretchen Crowe
November 11, 2009 was a normal day at our vendor office. After we conducted vendor orientation, we heard a vehement and forthright, “I got the job; I actually got the job!” It filled the room with sound and sincerity. “You don’t know how long I have waited to be able to say those words.” Anita Rios, nearly in tears, had become a vendor. Having been denied for more jobs than she could remember, she has taken the VOICE and created her own job and means to income.
Born in Schweinfurt, Germany, she was adopted into an army family while her father and mother were stationed on base. Her mother is Australian. Anita talked of being a typical army brat, moving and growing up in more than just Germany, but in Chicago, Oak Lawn, Ill. St. Louis, Culver City, Calif. and on and on. Anita went to high school in Los Angeles. She finished high school, and entered Santa Monica City College, but as her father’s heart began to fail, she dropped out to help take care of him.
Anita was soon married, and although she worked hard as a waitress, after a breaking her arm at work, she found herself accessing public assistance for the first time. She had two children, Janet and Scott, and was a housewife, waiting tables when she could. She even had to walk out of one job where people were doing and selling drugs from the restaurant. Money was never easy; State and Federal assistance were a part of making ends meet. Somewhere in there her marriage slipped away. She found another partner, and was married again.
They moved to a successful co-op in West LA, and she continued waitressing when needed. It was 1994. Her children were raised and were on their way to their own lives, and she overheard an unfortunate conversation between her husband and another woman on the phone. She couldn’t sleep that night. Around 3:30AM she felt something odd and woke her husband up to tell him there was an earthquake. It didn’t feel that serious at that point, and he went back to sleep.
Anita knew it was an earthquake and things were about to change. There were over 100 aftershocks in the Jan. 17, 1994, Los Angeles 6.7-magnitude earthquake. She didn’t know as she felt those early morning tremors that the quake would take 72 lives; she just knew things were changing.
As the aftershocks rocked LA, she packed up a bag—weary of her cheating husband and the city around her—called a taxi, and when the roads permitted later that day, she headed to the Greyhound Station. She booked a ticket to Denver, and has never looked back. She got a job at Sun Café, now Tom’s Diner, on Colfax and Pearl, working there for nearly five years. When Tom’s took over, she began to look for work. Like so many, Anita has worked telemarketing, fast food at Wendy’s and other odd jobs. “It’s been hard and you get caught in it.”
Anita’s strength is evident, and you will find her vending on the 16th Street Mall. “My impression of the VOICE is that there are nice people. I like the way they approach me. Plus, I like the articles.” Although she still keeps her eyes open for full-time positions, she is making the best of her hard times. Anita is a beautiful woman, loves to style her hair and try on new clothes—not so different than any of the rest of us.