“The Contributor has taken us out of poverty and we are now able to enjoy life. Instead of being apart from society, we are a part of society, and it feels wonderful.” – A mother and daughter vendor team
The Contributor is so much more than a newspaper.
Since 2007, Nashville’s street newspaper has worked to restore dignity and hope to those experiencing homelessness and poverty. It creates a flexible source of income for homeless and formerly homeless individuals, sheds light on these issues in Nashville through its editorial content, and breaks down barriers of discrimination and judgment in our city. (Check out these profiles of Contributor vendors.)
“Amazing things happen when names are exchanged, eyes meet, hands shake – perceptions are altered and room for caring and community are created,” says Tasha French, executive director of The Contributor. “The Contributor hopes to continue breaking down barriers that further discrimination against those experiencing homelessness and poverty, and replacing them with an understanding of the human condition.”
What began as a simple idea more than five years ago has grown to become a life-changing opportunity for hundreds of homeless and formerly homeless individuals in Nashville. With the launch of the first issue of The Contributor in 2007, a handful of homeless and formerly homeless artists, writers, and outreach workers hoped the street newspaper would help a few folks struggling with poverty to earn some income. More than five years later, the paper has grown to be the highest-circulating street newspaper of its kind in North America at 100,000 copies per month, with about 400 active vendors each month, garnering national attention.
“We used to say during vendor training that this was not a way off the streets,” says French. “We have long stopped saying that because Nashville has graciously blessed this project.”
More than 35 percent of vendors who sell The Contributor secure housing via their income from sales of the newspaper. And they are building relationships with people all over Nashville, bridging the gap of division and misunderstanding. “I LOVE Mr. James,” one customer says of a vendor. “He just makes my day. I can come into work and not be having a good day, and when I pass by him on a corner he has a smile on his face and always gives me a huge smile and a wave. He is awesome… I think this man is loved by many and he doesn’t realize it.”
While The Contributor has experienced tremendous growth since its inception, it is still the little nonprofit that could. Run with a very small staff, the nonprofit heavily relies on volunteers to do everything from making deliveries and helping run the newspaper release vendor meeting, to day-to-day office operations. Two to four volunteers are needed on any given day.
What can you do to help support the uplifting work of this amazing organization?
> Volunteer for paper release meetings. Volunteers are needed to assist with unloading the paper bundles from the truck, stacking the papers inside the church, setting up for the meeting, and helping breakdown tables after the meeting. Releases happen on the second and last Wednesday of each month.