To say that Marvin Byrd is a StreetWise veteran would be doing him a disservice to the amount of time he has spent selling StreetWise magazines. Byrd is a StreetWise legend, selling magazines since the magazine’s inception in the early 1990s. Byrd knows many of the original vendors and is proud to have helped pioneer the street magazine initiative in Chicago.
He isn’t sure, but Marvin Byrd thinks this is his sixth or seventh StreetWise vendor profile. “I’ve been around StreetWise for a long time,” said Byrd. “Even at 54 years old and holding a full-time job, I still find time to sell StreetWise. I like to remember where I started, and initially, StreetWise not only gave me the money to pay my bills, but it gave me the opportunity to capitalize on something that was important to me.”
In the early 1990s, Marvin Byrd was a panhandler. That was before he met Vern Cooper. Cooper, a StreetWise vendor since the organization’s early years, was constantly in a cheery mood. Rain or shine, Cooper would put on an ear-to-ear smile for his clients. After passing by Cooper a few times, Byrd inquired about what Cooper was selling. Cooper responded by telling him about StreetWise and how it had provided him new opportunities and a stable income. Byrd was immediately taken by the idea and began selling StreetWise soon thereafter.
Byrd currently has a full-time job at the Family Guidance Center, where he works as the main counselor at Ingalls Hospital. He works in the medical stabilization unit and works with heroin users and alcoholics. Byrd, a former substance abuser himself, understands the implications of drug abuse and found aid through his faith.
“Since I went to rehab for my drug addiction, I have become very involved in my church. My faith plays a big role in my staying grounded and keeping focused on what I need to do in life,” said Byrd. “I’m also part of a 250-man [choir] and being around positive people is very motivating in life.”
Byrd’s motivation also comes from his faith, he stated. “My faith has always been a driving factor in my life. I spent eight years in the military and I could always look to my faith for reassurance and guidance during my time in the service.”
With all that Byrd is involved with, it would seem impossible to fit anything more into his schedule. However, Byrd finds time to help his wife with a small family business. “My wife and I have a business that is part of Life Force International. We sell health products and nutritional products,” said Byrd.
And the best part about the small business, says Byrd? “This year it will start to become profitable.”
Sam McGarvey, StreetWise Editorial Intern