Director's Note, October 2014

By Laura Thompson, Executive Director

Stop, look, and listen. As a parent, I swear I said these words (or some variation of them) to my children a million times.  

We would stand at the corner, my kids’ hands in mine, waiting until the traffic had passed and it was clear to cross. Sometimes we would wait there just a little bit longer than necessary. Maybe I was trying to convey an extra sense of caution, and maybe—unconsciously—I sensed that those moments were fleeting and I would not always be there, holding their hands to help them cross safely. 

When they heard my command—OK GO—I remember how they would bound across the street to retrieve the ball, follow the butterfly, or just get as quickly to the playground as possible. 

As my kids have grown up, this command, OK GO, has become more than just about street safety. Along the way it also became a call to action. When they come to me complaining that they are bored with nothing to do (and after rejecting my suggestion of chores that could be done), I tell them the same thing: OK GO. Meaning, go do something—anything. And sure enough, they soon find friends to hang with or something else to pass the time. 

When there is much to do or a hard decision to make, I find myself saying this out loud: OK GO. I find that just starting and doing something little leads to getting through a busy day of multi-tasking or making that hard decision. 

You, dear readers, as you are reading this column and this issue of the VOICE, you did take the time to stop, look, and listen. 

In addition to the myriad other responsibilities I have as executive director, I have made a specific point to meet and talk with the VOICE vendors. I have heard their stories of abuse, neglect, addiction, and illness, but I have also heard so much more. Stories of the vendors’ education, hopes, and dreams leave me continuously feeling grateful. One thing I hear about time and again is how much selling the VOICE means to the vendors. Unfortunately, I’ve also heard that due to the increase in panhandlers out there, more and more people are just walking by and not taking the time to stop, look, and listen. I get it; no one likes to be hounded for anything, especially money. And with so many people out there who are homeless or impoverished, it is easy to get desensitized to what’s going on. 

October 25th is National Make a Difference Day. On this date, millions of volunteers across the nation will unite with a common mission—to improve the lives of others. But why wait for just a single day to make a difference when you can start now? Every day can be a day to make even a small difference in someone else’s life.

So what can you do? 

OK GO. Start small, and just do something. Here are some of my own suggestions:

As a current reader and supporter of the VOICE, you are already engaging with VOICE vendors. So go tell your friends, family, and co-workers. Share your copy of the VOICE and tell them about the vendor you love to support. Explain what a street paper is and why it is important to the vendors who sell it. Hopefully they will seek out a vendor and proceed to tell their own friends, family, and co-workers. The VOICE is one of over 100 street newspapers worldwide; when you buy a paper, you’re part of a global movement. 

The VOICE accepts donations of gently used clothing. In addition to sweatshirts and jackets, many of the vendors also appreciate more professional clothing like button-up shirts and slacks. VOICE vendors may be impoverished or homeless, but they are also business people. They are trying to set themselves apart from the panhandlers not only through their means of income, but also in their appearance and overall demeanor. And they know that a good appearance is vital for good sales. 

Volunteer. There are so many places and ways to give your time and talents. I would bet that if you were to call any nonprofit and ask about volunteer activities, they all have something that they could use help with. Be it IT support, making phone calls, event and fundraising support, or office support, nonprofits can use your help. The VOICE vendor office has openings for two-hour shifts, and we are also in need of other fundraising support. 

Donate. With the holiday season upon us, everyone will be making those pleas for support. I know it can sometimes seem endless, but in order for nonprofits to continue doing our good work, we need financial support. Find out if your employer offers payroll deductions through Workplace Giving campaigns or matching contributions for donating to charities, which can double your gifts. If you have an old vehicle, the VOICE participates in Cars for Charity. We might just be doing you a favor by getting that old car out of your garage once and for all. 

If only more people would take the time to stop, look, and listen, and then take some small action…imagine the possibilities. OK GO.