The Bridge street newspaper will celebrate its fifth anniversary March 21. Rhodes students created this publication so that people often unemployed and without housing would be able to become vendors and make a profit, as well as have the opportunity to submit articles and voice their stories and observations. Since 2013, The Bridge has become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a board and an executive director. Vendors collectively have earned $35,000-$45,000 annually in paper sales.
“When I began as co-executive director in the fall, multiple times I heard from multiple vendors that The Bridge is working for so many people,” says Etta Danielson ’19, who is pursuing a bridge major in mathematics and economics. “We have these very strong relationships with community members and other Memphis organizations. It’s definitely important to be a publication of Memphis and always thinking about how we are relating to this community.”
Minister TA Robertson, who has been a vendor with The Bridge since its origins, expresses, “When you pray to Heaven and ask for special things to appear in your life and to show up and when it does appear will you know it? Well, my prayers were answered through The Bridge newspaper, by the students at Rhodes College.”
Vendors are considered independent contractors rather than employees. After certification, each vendor receives a badge and 20 free copies of the month’s edition of The Bridge. Vendors can purchase further copies from the organization for 25 cents each (which goes toward paper production) and then sell them in the Memphis community for $1 per paper. Vendors keep 100 percent of the profit. Vendors are also encouraged to contribute articles to the newspaper.
Rhodes students serve as volunteers helping to interview, train, and certify vendors. They also serve as the paper’s co-writers and production staff. Rhodes this year commissioned an economic impact study that revealed its students dedicate 394,758 hours to overall community service each year, and the value of those volunteer hours equals more than $9 million.
“When The Bridge was just starting out, we had no idea it would touch as many people as it has in the last five years,” says Evan Katz, one of the newspaper’s founders. “The Bridge has a huge amount of moving parts, and to see everyone from vendors, to staff, to the whole Memphis community work together every week is pretty incredible. Originally, we thought the student-run model would be just temporary, but I love how sustainable it's been, and how it's become part of The Bridge's mission to bring together both college students and people experiencing homelessness.”
There will be a concert on Saturday, April 7, to celebrate The Bridge’s fifth anniversary. “We’re coordinating with the Social Exchange PR firm to have the concert at the Levitt Shell. It’s going to be a free event although $10 donations are suggested,” says Danielson. Some of the bands include Grandpa Grew Trees, Trezevant, Fish and Chips, and Lipstick.
Other anniversary events include a party with vendors and volunteers, a bake sale in the Middle Ground, a pottery class fundraiser at the Belltower Artisans studio and coffee shop. The Bridge’s new cover design, created by computer science major Kathleen Blanck ’18 will be on display at the events.
By Meg Jerit ’20