The Contributor, a street paper sold by about 400 homeless and formerly homeless vendors, celebrated its five-year anniversary Wednesday.
"This is my buddy, Bear," said Mario Martinez, proudly introducing his dog. "He's a great Pyrenees. He's my best friend in the world."
A vendor for the Contributor, Martinez and Bear are usually selling papers at the Jackson Village Shopping Center in Hermitage.
"To be honest with you, he is my money maker," Martinez said, laughing and looking at Bear.
Wednesday, the two were at the back of the Downtown Presbyterian Church, taking part in the five-year birthday celebration for the Contributor.
"The Contributor has become an economic force in our city by transforming people struggling with homelessness into micro businessmen and micro businesswomen," Nashville Mayor Karl Dean told a crowd of hundreds.
In just five years, Contributor staff say the paper has grown into the highest-distributing street paper in North America, while providing income to the homeless vendors who sell the paper.
"It has given us a job," said Martinez. "We are licensed vendors. We are out there. We're selling, we're working. We buy our papers wholesale, and we sell them retail just like any other merchant out there."
Martinez said he's just proud he and Bear can be two recognizable faces in the street newspaper movement and proud to share a room with so many other vendors with so many stories.
"It's a job," said Martinez. "We are out there working. We are not panhandling. If it wasn't for them, I just don't know where I'd be or what I'd be doing."
The Contributor is about to release a special five-year anniversary issue of the paper. They plan to distribute 66,000 copies.