By Andrea Fuller | Executive Director
I have been with the Denver VOICE for a few months now and it is time for an introduction. I’ve been struggling with what to write, what to say, what message to give, as the new executive director, to readers. After some thought, my message is this:
“Everyone has a voice.”
This message, while seemingly simple, or perhaps apprearing to be a marketing ploy or pun, is actually something I strongly believe in, and even more so since becoming a part of the VOICE.
After struggling personally with long-term unemployment, with hunger, with trying to provide for my young children through difficult and challenging circumstances, when I joined the VOICE I understood a lot about what drives a person forward. I get it when vendors describe the VOICE as a “lifeline.” I see the look in their eyes when it is frigidly cold outside, snowing, and they are working to sell in those conditions knowing they may not have a stable home, let alone a warm meal or some hot chocolate, to keep them going for the next eight hours.
And I also know from personal experience how much a bit of affirmation, praise, or accolades, encouragement, support, and acts of kindness, can lift a heart and soul and help someone not give up.
It’s the same for our vendors. Many of them do what they do—selling the paper—not just for the money. If you ask them why they sell the paper, many of them will say, “Because of the customers.” They appreciate the conversations and interactions they have directly with customers—a smile, an encouraging word, the repeat customers who come back and buy specifically from them. For our vendors, selling the paper is an infusion of life into their weary veins. It can bring them hope, it gives them a reason to get up in the morning, get out, be productive, and make something of themselves.
And our vendors make a connection with customers—they impact each others’ lives. I get to hear about some of these moments and it is awesome. But I imagine there are even more that we may never hear about. For all of the times when there is a positive connection, when there’s a breaking down of the homeless stereotypes of what it means to be homeless or not homeless, of rich or poor, of white-collar or blue-collar worker, I see the VOICE contributing to that. And it is one of the things I love most about being here.
A lot of people ask me, “How is it going at the VOICE?” and “Are you glad to be there?” My answers are, “There is a LOT to do, but I am very grateful to be at the VOICE.” Some days are more challenging for me than others—just as is the case for our vendors. But I believe in them, in what they are trying to accomplish, and I believe in what this organization can do.
To each one of you who buy this paper, who read it, who support a vendor, who donate to the VOICE, who volunteer, and who extend acts of kindness to our vendors, I personally thank you. Thank you for ensuring that the message, “Everyone has a voice,” is lived out through actions, and not just words. ■