Don Smith has been a dedicated and consistent StreetWise vendor for the past 18 years since he’s been with the organization. Because of his reliable character and stalwart personality, Don has recently discovered several new job opportunities.
In 2012, he began working as a vendor for Neighbor Carts, a program developed by StreetWise and Neighbor Capital in which men and women are hired to manage their own fresh produce cart. He has been with Neighbor Carts for two years now and because of his past success, he is excited to continue growing his business.
“I’m going to be honest, it’s a great job, but it’s not for everybody,” said Don. “You have to really push yourself and sell the produce. You have to really apply yourself to this. It’s a lot of hard work.”
Because of the skills he acquired with Neighbor Carts, he was able to secure further employment. “This job has helped me prepare for my new job with the Leland House,” said Don. “God just blessed me [with this job]. I’m learning so much. I’m a maintenance man and, while it’s part-time, it’s a learning experience. So I’m a maintenance man, but I’m learning to be a handyman. I’m learning how to landscape, do carpentry, a little electricity, a little plumbing. I fix windows, I put screens in… I’m just handy and I’m doing everything. So I’m hoping that this opportunity will provide me with a bigger opportunity down the road.”
With all of the work he’s put in as a produce cart vendor and with the Leland House, he is very grateful for those who have supported him. “I have to mention [StreetWise Director of Workforce Development] Patrick O’Connor, because he’s a really good friend and he’s been really supportive of me,” said Don. “And I can’t leave out [Director of Social Services] Sarah Brown. She’s always there, giving me advice. They got me an interview at [Leland House] and referred me and then told me to go get ’em!”
Don is also a member of the StreetWise Quality Assurance Team (Q.A.T.). This group of StreetWise vendors carefully monitors the rest of the vendor force throughout Chicago, ensuring that everyone is abiding by the Code of Conduct and representing the organization in the best possible way. With this position, Don takes the opportunity to mentor other vendors. “I’m trying to get other vendors to come in for orientation. I want them to realize what I’ve been through and how blessed I am to be in this position. And I want them to see that I was once in their position, and all they have to do is apply themselves, focus and keep their cool, and they will succeed,” Don said.
Don’s sole motivation in working hard every day is to provide for his family. “I’m focusing on my children and my grandchildren. Everybody’s doing fine and I learned that when I was younger, I made a few mistakes where I wasn’t there for my children. But I’m there for them now and their children. I’ve got four granddaughters,” said Don.
While Don’s employment at Leland House keeps him busy, he does still make time to sell StreetWise magazine at his location in the Gold Coast at Dearborn and Maple. And he will continue to work hard and grow as a person. “I’m just working on myself,” said Don. “I’m married and living good and I hope that my customers will keep supporting me and I ask God to keep on blessing me.”