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Giving: Focused outside,
found himself

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Joe Woods | Benjamin Weatherston

Joe Woods | Benjamin Weatherston

Groundcover News, a nonprofit organization, is a monthly street newspaper founded in Ann Arbor in April 2010 by Susan Beckett. Inspired by other street newspapers in the United States and around the world, Groundcover News creates work opportunities and a voice for low-income people. Vendors buy the newspapers for 25 cents each, then sell them to the public for $1. The goal is to help vendors transition from homelessness to housed and from jobless to employed. Below, Joe Woods tells about his experience as a vendor.

Two or three years ago I became a Groundcover News vendor, which was right up my alley, because I have sales experience. Selling Groundcover News, you never know what each day may bring. It could be a nice, exciting, fun adventure or it could be a dull, slow, boring nonadventure. That’s the breaks.

After learning sales, I always liked working for myself. As long as I had a product, I could sell it. When I first started working at Groundcover News I was going through a transition. Due to bad decisions in my past, I had to recondition myself and get back in the right mindframe. And at the same time, I was fighting a spiritual battle within myself. Selling Groundcover News got me outside of myself by interacting with other vendors. Instead of focusing on myself, I was focusing on helping other people.

The No. 1 rule of sales is to give back the knowledge. If you can help a fellow salesperson improve their sales, you should help them. I want everybody around me to succeed. If everybody’s making money, everybody’s happy, so there’s less negativity among vendors. You could say I was selfish, also, because I knew helping somebody else would refresh my memory on stuff I may have forgotten, but is vital to getting a sale. So my sales skyrocketed.

Since I became a vendor with Groundcover News, I’ve gotten two different certificates — one from the University of Michigan and one from Michigan State University — plus I completed a financial planning class, did public relations for the company, and also there’s an interview about me at groundcovernews.org. But the biggest and best accomplishment, to me, was a street newspaper summit I was blessed to attend in Seattle this past June. Attending that event turned my life around, and I’m looking forward to the next summit in Athens, Greece, in June 2016.

Among many achievements with the organization I was able to help many vendors better their living situations by increasing their income. The gratitude and thanks I have for Groundcover News is way bigger than just words. To understand, you’d have to know me and know my past.

I can say this, though: Groundcover News helped me with my mental rehabilitation and helped me get myself back, 100 percent, after years of basically just wasting my talents and time. For that I’m very grateful and thankful to Susan, all the volunteers and especially the vendors.

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