Street Roots vendor Mary Starr has the kind of dedication to family that many of us only wish we had. After the death of her husband five years ago, she left work to take care of sick family members. For her, the decision was an easy one. “I’d do anything for them,” Mary says. And she does. Everyday Mary babysits her seven grandchildren, leaving them only to run errands and sell Street Roots for six to eight hours a day, five days a week. She uses the funds from her paper sales to spoil her grandkids as much as she can and keep up with her bills and living expenses.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago the bills from her treatment began piling up. Mary’s cancer is in remission now, but she is still dealing with the effects of many rounds of chemotherapy, which left her physically unable to work.
Luckily, Mary comes from a very close-knit family and has a strong support system around her. “I love my family,” she tells me with a smile. Born and raised in Washougal, Wash., Mary’s family has deep historical ties to the Pacific Northwest. Though Mary has been living in the Portland area since 2010, she still travels to her mother’s small-town in Washougal every Sunday to worship in the church she grew up attending.
Mary first heard about Street Roots a few months ago from the Rose City Resource. Being a former Oregonian deliverywoman, she had some newspaper experience and took to selling the paper with ease. She hopes to be able to save up enough money from her sales to send her grandchildren to summer camp.
“I do it all for my grandkids,” she says, her eyes lighting up. But Mary’s generosity extends to all human beings. She is dedicated to finding ways to help people, even going so far as to donate some money here or there to the struggling panhandlers she sees around the city.
In the future, Mary hopes to start her own newspaper focusing on local events in Vancouver, Wash. Inspired by her experience after the death of her husband, Mary envisions her paper listing obituaries at no cost to the grieving families. The paper would be a non-profit, donating revenue from advertisers to a special fund to help those in need help pay for burial expenses for family members who have passed away. If you see Mary don’t hesitate to talk to her. You’ll immediately be drawn in by her genuine warmth and love for others. Also, be sure to wish her a happy birthday; she’ll be turning 54 on July 9.