TSN Has Always Managed
Toledo Streets has always managed. Through the years TSN has endured many hardships and survived. In all honesty, the organization has more than survived. On the other side of each hardship, Toledo Streets has come out stronger, fiercer and more focused on our vision to inspire hope, foster community and cultivate change. The ability to react so creatively to an unprecedented circumstance, such as a pandemic, has been built into our very core. So when news of Coronavirus infiltrating the United States broke and leaders began formulating plans to move forward, so did we.
In mid March, we made the difficult decision to halt paper sales entirely, to protect our vendors and the public they sell to. We had no idea when we could reopen while projections from national and global organizations were regularly changing. Two days later, we launched a GoFundMe to match the sales our vendors logged in February in an effort to get some quick cash in their hands. The idea was to assist our vendors for a month or two until we could get a new, more sustainable plan in place. Thanks to The Greater Toledo Community Foundation and MANY other supporters, we exceeded our goal.
Through April, we distributed those funds to our vendors, delivered groceries donated by Fellowship Matters, provided assistance in filing for the stimulus check and aided our community in any other way we were able. Looking forward, we brainstormed more ways to prompt digital support of our vendors. Ed Conn, TSN’s Art Director, championed two new initiatives to make that a possibility. We launched a virtual map that shows each vendor in their most regular selling spots with a message asking to exchange a donation for a digital publication. The digital publication was the second big project we presented. Digitizing our publications has been a topic of interest at TSN for a while and the pandemic gave us the time and resources to make it a reality.
With support for our vendors underway, we continued to research grants and other funding for our organization. At this particular time, it felt almost disrespectful to ask for financial support, as every business, organization and individual across the globe began to feel the economic impact of the virus. A Toledo favorite, Jupmode launched a campaign to support local businesses and organizations by selling pre-order shirts and giving half of the cost back to each of us, all we had to do was promote it. With the help of our board, we’ve maintained most of the funding from our regular supporters.
As we learned more about how the virus spreads, local, state and national governments presented phasing plans for reopening businesses. That lit a fire under myself and Claire, our Vendor Manager, to organize and contemplate our own reopening plan. We looked to other street papers across the nation and the globe. We adopted a plan from an Australian street paper, The Big Issue, to have vendors attend individual safety training in which we emphasised the importance of social distance selling and explained the requirement of wearing a mask while selling. We read The Denver Voice’s reopening plan and opted to sell our latest publication, which only sold for a week, buy one get one free. This is an effort to get vendors more funding in a shorter amount of time. We packed each vendor a bag to distribute at their safety training, which they could sell newspapers out of for contactless selling. The bags contained disposable masks, sanitizer, a bank to collect donations in to avoid hand-to-hand contact, ten free papers and their new safety badge.
We have no idea what the future will hold for our country or our world. The virus is still actively circulating and vaccines are being tested. Our country reopening has prompted a peak in new cases nationally. But having managed through the first round of the virus and the many other hardships TSN has faced in the past, I have no doubt we will prevail and continue to work tirelessly for our community. Our vendors remind us every day why we do this. And we hope that as we continue to stand by our vendors, you’ll continue to stand by us.
If while reading this you are interested in supporting us, so we may continue to work towards our vision, there are many ways to do that. Every Thursday, vendors are provided lunches that are donated to us. We have ad space available, we offer community partnerships, we host a calendar fundraiser every year that promotes our vendor’s art. We also accept in kind donations and guest writers in our paper. If you’re interested in any of these options, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
And to those that have supported us and our vendors through this chaos, THANK YOU! We could not do it without you. We feel eternally grateful that even during a global pandemic and much uncertainty, you thought of people in need.