Learning Valuable Lessons

by Barb Hess

 I began working as an intern at NEOCH in January of this year. My internship was a requirement of course work at Baldwin-Wallace College where I am finishing my Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services. For the past 10 weeks I spent my Saturday mornings at NEOCH under the supervision of Dinah Blake. Most of my focus was spent working with the vendors of this publication.

I was introduced to the Grapevine about three years ago while volunteering at the Catholic Worker storefront, a drop-in shelter in Cleveland.

It wasn’t until I began my internship that I understood how the paper operated and how it was presented to the public. I also had a great deal of interaction with the vendors of the Grapevine. I found these individuals to be driven by the amount of paper sales they could achieve. To become a permanent vendor, a vendor must sell 300 papers in one month. Not an easy task! I experienced Tanya’s excitement when she became a permanent vendor back in February.

She came into the office to have her picture taken for her permanent vendor’s badge. I had the honor of taking her picture, probably because I’m a little taller than Dinah and could take the photo without cutting off Tanya’s head! The camera had no film left and I could see the look of disappointment on Tanya’s face. I told her not to go anywhere-I would be right back with film. I ran out and bought some film and soon Tanya had her badge.

When one of the vendors would stop in early Saturday morning to purchase $10.00 or $20.00 worth of papers, most often they would ask how late NEOCH would be open that day. The confidence these individuals had to sell these papers was inspiring. (Being in sales myself, I know how important confidence is!) Also, it is pretty tough to stand out in the cold on a Saturday morning and sell papers to rushed market shoppers who may not be aware of this publication and cannot take the time to find out about it.

My intent of this article is to share. If this is your first copy of the paper, don’t make it your last. Also, spread the word. I passed a copy of the paper to a colleague of mine and she asked me if that was a legitimate publication. She had been asked to purchase a copy of the paper on the Cleveland State Campus and never heard of it. I told her that it was legitimate and gave her the low-down of the operation and purpose of the paper. So if I tell two friends and so on, awareness of the paper will be greater.

The paper offers a lot and serves as financial assistance to the vendors who sell it. I commend all of the Grapevine vendors for their belief in the paper and their abilities to sell. When one vendor, Anthony, asked me what I was going to school for I replied “Human Services” and he replied, “Barb, never forget to be humanistic when dealing with people.” What a true statement! Also, best of luck to Beatrice on her new summer adventure! May you greet each day with the motivation to succeed.

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine Issue 35, June 1999, Cleveland, Ohio

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