By Lindsay Hueston, Real Change
If there’s any vendor who deserves a cup of coffee in the morning, it’s Rose Gascon.
Rose’s daily itinerary consists of commuting from Issaquah to Ballard, selling Real Change most mornings at the Trader Joe’s there, commuting back to Issaquah and working another job at Ross Dress for Less at night.
“I have no time to sleep very long — when I’m in Ballard before 11:30, almost 12, then I just pick my things, and then it’s 12 already before I lay down [at night]. And then at 5 I will get up and take shower before I go sell my papers. But I am happy to be part of Real Change, because I see my life change. Loneliness to happiness, it’s always nice to be in.”
Rose has felt that loneliness several times over the past few years. Immigrating from the Philippines, she’s been in the U.S. “for six years on March 14!”
Before she immigrated to the states, Rose lived in the Philippines and was an administrative secretary for Dole — like the bananas. Then, she lived abroad with her husband, a chemical engineer and professor at universities in Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
“Seventeen years we stayed there, until my husband had a high blood stroke.” He passed away a few years ago, and though Rose feels lonely without him, she’s been struck by the power of the community around her who have helped to fill in those gaps.
“I have experience also of sleeping outside. Not very long, because the people care for me and they don’t want me to live like that; one family in Issaquah, they have a big house – so many times I’ve moved to another place because they say, you come to my house.”
Rose stayed there for four months, and she met the family through selling papers. They put her in the guest room – even though “they have basement,” she says. But the generosity of Rose’s customers knows no limits: she also stayed at a customer’s apartment in West Seattle for four months.
Though Rose now lives in Issaquah, she sold at the Trader Joe’s in West Seattle for several months, and has switched stores several times due to long commutes from Issaquah. Her customers, though, no matter where she sells, have remained loyal and support her as she sells.
“[They say to me], ‘You know, you make us happy if you are here with us. Every [person] coming — ‘Rose, you okay? You want coffee?’ They are very nice to me, just like that, and then I stop and I leave, and they drop me in my apartment, and I will change my uniform to go on the bus again. That’s why I am happy at Trader Joe’s now.”
Rose really enjoys the high level of community support at her selling locations and the fact that the customers and managers want her around. She owes her success to a close friend who is another Real Change vendor — “always guiding me where I stay because he knows that I know how to talk nicely to people and sell my paper” — and former Real Change staff member Alex Becker — “He is very nice, he was the one who trained me, and [taught me] how to talk to the customers.”
“It’s been really hard for me since my husband passed away. Your problem — nobody can solve your problem if you have a problem. It was very hard for me when I came here and it’s good that I have a chance to join Real Change. I see my life change because of selling papers … but I do love Real Change, because I see my life change. I become happy.”