By Claire McKenna
Here at Toledo Streets, we pride ourselves for “living in the gray”. For us, this means that we do not apply arbitrary rules or throw the book at people we serve. We try to look at every situation and every person as unique and attempt to find solutions tailored to them. This, for us, is living in the gray. Although it can get messy and be more time consuming, it is one of the things that I love most about Toledo Streets. The same rule had to apply when we chose our Vendor of the Year.
The cut and dry way to name the Vendor of the Year would be to look at items that are measurable, such as the number of meetings attended, the amount of papers sold, or the most amount of money earned. But the things that matter more to us and the spirit of Toledo Streets are the unquantifiable, immeasurable qualities. That is why, this time around, our Vendor of the Year is Shaun “Rooster” Tinch. Not only has he ranked highly in our data, but he exhibits the qualities that we look to inspire here.
Since bragging about “the numbers” of our vendors is one of my favorite things, I will start there with this year’s Vendor of the Year. Rooster reported selling more than 2,500 papers in the past year, reinvested over $500 in his business, and sold papers for over 850 hours. Those would be impressive numbers for any vendor, but it is worth noting that Rooster did not start with Toledo Streets until mid-March and started working a full-time job in August.
That brings me to the next reason that Rooster was chosen this year. While working tirelessly selling papers (over 200 hours alone in July), Rooster also prided himself on making connections with his community. This is where we know the real magic happens and Rooster found that out for himself.
One particular connection would change his life. He started creating a connection with a man (Jacob Estrada) who he saw regularly while selling papers. Their encounters grew into friendship and soon Rooster found out that the gentleman was planning on opening a restaurant downtown. Rooster explained to Estrada that he had over 30 years’ experience dealing with food. Estrada saw Rooster’s dedication, diligence, and customer service and decided the chance meeting was meant to be a partnership.
Rooster assured us at the paper that he wanted to continue to sell papers after work and on the weekends. He made it clear that he viewed Toledo Streets as more than a job, but as a family. And he utilised the paper as his springboard to get to the next level and achieve his next goal – in his case obtaining full time employment. Rooster has become a walking beacon of hope for other vendors and me. He has embodied our mission of inspiring hope and fostering community. He has shown that the combination of dedication, inventiveness, hope and community can be a formula that changes lives and to me that is what Toledo Streets is all about. Congratulations Rooster and thank you for allowing our lives to be changed while you were changing yours.