By Ross Evertson
Not hyperbole: A modest storefront on Champa and Park Ave. houses the heart of the Denver VOICE—our distribution office—where every weekday morning dozens of vendors converge to purchase their papers.
Frequent readers will be familiar with the Vendor Profile section on page three. It is written by Gretchen Crowe, the Vendor Program Director, as it has been since she started some two years ago. No one at our organization knows these people better.
As the Art Director, I find myself working a few blocks away and fourteen stories up, in an office with beige walls and tinted windows that have not and will not ever open. It’s a logistical thing, this separation. Putting together the paper and managing the organization (thankfully not my job) requires a kind of quiet that you can only get in a modern office cave.
It is, as you might imagine, a joy to occasionally find myself street level, in a much less sterile business environment. Make no mistake, though, it is still indeed a business environment—hour long training sessions, guest lectures delivered by everyone from sales specialists to the police. One of the surprisingly great things about the Denver VOICE as a jobs program is that the level of involvement is almost entirely up to the individual. Follow the rules and you’re in for good. But if you apply yourself and take advantage of the knowledge and skills the staff and your peers have to share? It is almost unavoidable at that point to not become one of the more successful vendors.
In that sense, visiting the distribution office is walking into a microcosm, a petri dish of professional growth. Most of our vendors wear their personalities on their sleeves, their personal and professional wants and desires are right there to parse, not hidden privately in hopes of some ladder climbing political advantage. It makes for a very telling and often tender community.
Most of these photographs are from our 2010 vendor holiday party, which—as you might imagine—is one of the more obvious examples of said community. It doesn’t have to be, and rarely is, so blatant. On a quiet Wednesday morning you will find two or three long-time vendors coaching a mutual friend that they finally convinced to sign-up; they talk about the best places to vend, their most effective sales pitches.
It is in witnessing those moments, eavesdropping on questions and comments during orientation sessions, that it becomes incredibly clear to me why we do what we do; why every month the editor Tim Covi and I put together this little twenty-page magazine. Why our Executive Director, Amelia Patterson let’s the pressure and responsibilities of running the organization pile on as she plows through. Why Gretchen Crowe and Amanda Keller (our Vendor Program Coordinator) lug tons of papers all over downtown every week. Why Rick Barnes and the rest of our board put their spare time into making sure this boat keeps floating.
It is simply because it is worth it—it is absolutely worth it. We all get breaks in our lives, good and bad. The Denver VOICE has allowed me to work with amazing people on an amazing project that is in and of itself a break for the homeless and impoverished community in our city. If you have time after the holidays, I urge you to look us up and volunteer. We can always use the help, of course, but I can honestly say the perspective, insight and understanding that comes with working with us, our vendors and within this community are rare and wonderful things. •