Chicago’s StreetWise celebrates Vendor of the Year, unveils film

Veteran Chicago street paper vendor Russell Adams was honoured as StreetWise’s Vendor of the Year at the publication’s annual gala dinner last weekend.

Russell has been selling StreetWise since 2002 and is now the paper’s top seller.

He was voted the readers’ favourite in a poll, which ran from 20 July – 9 September and drew in more than 10,000 votes.

Russell said: “I had a good time, especially since I was being honoured there. I got to see some of my customers and spend some more time with them so that was really good. It seemed like everybody had a really good time, I did at least!”

Russell grew up in the foster care system and is a former Marine. He sells StreetWise five days a week to support himself and his girlfriend.

He was also presented with a handmade award produced by the paper’s creative director Dave Hamilton,  and was on the cover of the 28 September edition of StreetWise, in recognition of his achievement.

Russell wasn’t the only one celebrating on Saturday night, though. The gala, held in the Museum of Broadcast Communication, was an opportunity for the city of Chicago to show its appreciation for their local street paper.

More than 250 supporters bought tickets to the event – helping to raise funds that will support the street paper’s ongoing work in empowering people to work.

StreetWise’s creative director Dave Hamilton, said: “The vibe was eclectic. The atmosphere was much more party-like than I had envisioned.

“I think one of my favourite things were two guests that I talked to, who were former vendors. They had moved on with their lives and were no longer in need of StreetWise, but they had gotten to a place financially to actually support us in return. That was beautiful.”

The centrepiece of the evening was a brand new video tribute to the work of StreetWise, made by local creatives The BMP Film Co.

Russell has a starring role alongside his fellow StreetWise vendors.

The film highlights how hard vendors work for their money, pointing out that StreetWise sellers travel an average of 20 miles to get to work – and that an average of 150 people walk past before each sale.

But it also celebrates the fact that StreetWise has empowered more than 10,000 people with the opportunity to change their lives.

StreetWise now hope to have the films shown on Chicago TV stations to boost vendors’ sales this winter.

Check out the film below.