Rissa Haynes' friendliness and warm smile made her one of Groundcover's most popular salespeople. With health difficulties that caused her to rely first on a cane and then a walker, she has recently cut back on her selling. But when she worked regularly, Haynes says, she would usually pull in at least $160 a month. "It made quite a difference," she says, explaining that her "income" without Groundcover relies on disability payments--which after other expenses leave her only about $14 a month for food.
"If it weren't for Groundcover, I wouldn't have nothing," says Lonnie Baker, who has held a variety of jobs but says that deteriorating vision now makes it difficult to find work. The money he earns selling Groundcover helped him move off the streets and rent a room in a friend's house. Moreover, "It gave me an incentive, a purpose."
These stories buoy Groundcover founder and publisher Susan Beckett, fifty-nine. Earnings aside, she says, the vendors gain sales skills and a sense of community from weekly meetings at the Bethlehem United Church of Christ. The handful who choose to write for Groundcover also get the thrill of seeing their work published.
Editor Lee Alexander and associate editor Andrew Nixon both get stipends, but Groundcover stays alive through the efforts of about 100 volunteers. During four-hour weekly shifts at Bethlehem church, they train prospective vendors, make name tags, and frequently, Beckett says, "make somebody a cup of coffee and let them vent."