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Vendor Profile: Betty Whittey, Valuing hard work throughout her life

Fri, Jan 31, 2014

Betty Whittey StreetWise Vendor

Photo: Andra Gomberg

Vendor Betty Whittey traces her love of people and animals to growing up as the 23rd of 24 children on a family farm in Providence, Louisiana. With her 19 sisters and four brothers, she helped take care of the horses, cows, sheep, chicken, and ducks. By age 5, she was the “water girl,” bringing water to the workers in the fields. As she grew older, Betty cut wood and picked cotton and beans until she left home at age 17. The farm is still in the family and Betty travels back to Providence at least once a year.

When Betty left Louisiana, she came to Chicago to join family in the Midwest. She worked in a jewelry store and later did private duty elder care. She did that part-time along with selling StreetWise until a few months ago when health issues prevented her from doing the required heavy lifting.

Betty was married for 38 years, and has “four beautiful daughters, now grown” and six grandchildren ranging in age from 3 to 16. She describes the father of her children, who is now deceased, as a good provider who worked two jobs to try to support the family.

Betty was introduced to StreetWise by a good friend. Betty worked off and on at StreetWise for years before becoming a consistent vendor during the last 12 years. She now works just west of State on Adams in front of Walgreens five mornings a week, catching the commuter traffic coming off trains to work. Her clear voice and pride in her work have earned her lots of loyal repeat customers. She starts at 6:30 a.m., except on Wednesdays when she starts a little later because she goes to pick up her new papers. Betty is proud that she now sells 60-90 papers a week. She says that, “It is through the grace of God that I have been financially blessed with the people who buy StreetWise. They are like family.” She stated that she appreciates StreetWise “with all my heart,” because she does not know what she would do otherwise without an education.

When asked about the future, Betty said that she wants to continue to work for StreetWise for the rest of her life. She also stated that she always struggled in school and regrets not finishing high school. But she knows that it is never too late in life to start something new: she said in the next year or two she would like to become a better reader and start to earn her GED. She feels that God will always provide a way for her to accomplish her goals.

Andra Gomberg
StreetWise Contributor

Andra Head Shot Dec 2011 Cropped

Andra Gomberg

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