Photo and Text by Linette Hidalgo
Ann Bitela does not typically draw much attention to herself. She has a noticeably gentle and unassuming nature, yet a brilliant flicker of strength and determination is evident in her character upon meeting her. Her bright eyes and kind smile reveal compassion and sincerity. Ann’s sense of gratitude and perseverance make her stand out among Denver VOICE vendors.
Ann, a Colorado native, was born near Pueblo. She spent most of her childhood in this area with her sister and two brothers. Ann has spent much of her life in Colorado but has travelled to a few places around the world. She has been to Germany and Hawaii, with Hawaii ranking as one of her favorite places. She hopes to return to Hawaii in the future.
Ann has always maintained a strong work ethic and consistent employment—until a few years ago when she lost her marketing job. She immediately began searching for another job, but finding work proved unusually difficult.
After many months of unemployment, Ann became homeless. This is not a fact upon which Ann prefers to focus. In fact, she doesn’t like to focus on the downside of any life situation, seeing little point in dwelling on the negative. Instead, Ann prefers to focus on what she can do to positively alter a bad situation. Ann also believes it is important to credit those who have helped and blessed her during times of hardship, such as the Samaritan House. The Samaritan House became a temporary home for Ann while she did not have a permanent place to live. She feels very grateful to those at the Samaritan House for the shelter and assistance they gave her during that time.
Ann continued seeking employment without success until one day, while walking along the 16th Street Mall, she noticed a man selling a newspaper. She approached him for information about the paper and how he obtained a job vending the paper. The man explained that he was a vendor with the VOICE, told her about the program, and referred her to the vendor office. Seeing this as a viable and immediate job opportunity, Ann did not hesitate to become a vendor.
Ann steadily began increasing her paper sales but continued to seek other employment opportunities. She hoped to return to marketing, but applied to positions in various fields to increase her chances of being hired. After several more months of applying to numerous jobs and not obtaining employment, Ann decided to give more time and energy to her job with the VOICE. The VOICE gives her regular income, allows her to be her own boss, helps her meet kind people, and is a support system. She now works several days a week vending the paper and has been able to utilize many of the skills from her background in marketing to increase her sales.
In sharing her story, Ann explained that while she has had hardships in life, these experiences have strengthened her character. She thanks God, the VOICE, and her customers. She also expressed heartfelt gratitude to those “angels” who have blessed her while she’s vending, such as the man downtown who gave her a significant donation in a time of need.
Ann is now focused on continuing to build her presence as a vendor and increasing her sales at her usual spot on Colfax Ave. and Race St. As a self-described hard worker and optimist, she is sure to not only meet her current sales goals, but to exceed them. ■