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Resident Entrepreneur Is a Community Staple

8/18/2015

Tom Rousseau has been selling greeting cards in the San Leandro community since 1946.

Seeing Tom Rousseau driving his electric wheelchair through the community with a bright orange flag flapping overhead, and a sign strapped to the back that reads, “I sell cards for all occasions,” is nothing new.

Tina Frakes, maintenance associate at Broadmoor Plaza in San Leandro, California, is a 59-year native of the Bay Area, and says Rousseau has been in her life since childhood.

“I’ve known Tom since I was a little kid,” she says. “He would go up and down our block selling greeting cards. Mom would buy cards from him.”

Rousseau, 83, who was born with cerebral palsy, was one of the first residents to move into Broadmoor Plaza, owned by ABHOW’s affordable housing subsidiary, Beacon Communities, when it opened in 2004.

An entrepreneur from an early age, Rousseau started his business in 1946, selling greeting cards from a red wagon pulled by his wheelchair. Now 69 years and more than 1200 customers later, the business is still going strong.

“If you were to look up the word perseverance in the dictionary, Tom’s picture should be there,” says longtime friend Tom Casey.

Rousseau’s business acumen even earned him a day of honor. San Leandro’s former mayor, Stephen Cassidy, joined Rousseau’s neighbors, friends, caregivers and city council officials at Broadmoor Plaza to declare Dec. 31, 2014, Tom Rousseau Day.

“He’s touched many lives in San Leandro and the surrounding community, and they wanted to recognize him,” says Suzette Luer, Broadmoor Plaza’s administrator.

Donning his well-known smile, Rousseau tells Luer that “good energy” is his favorite part of the community.

“He’s one of those types of people who is always upbeat and very positive,” says Luer, who also says Rousseau has a healthy sense of humor and highly values his independence.

“He truly gets out into the community,” says Broadmoor Plaza’s service coordinator, Kim Richardson. “He lets you know that he is quite capable of taking care of himself.”

In addition to traveling throughout San Leandro for business, Rousseau also enjoys community parties and events with fellow residents, says Ave Racadag, president of Broadmoor Plaza’s resident council.

“All the residents here have nothing but admiration for him,” she says. “If all the people in the world were like him, it would be a beautiful place.”

Broadmoor Plaza is a part of Beacon Communities. To learn more about it, click here.