Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Tribute to the People

For the last 5 months my life was taken over. Every morning I headed to Beacon in the hope of Changing the Course of this country by working on the John Hall For Congress Campaign. I would listen to my daughter's iPod as I took Route 84 West through the Hudson Valley. Every night I would then head home in the darkness to my family, who missed me terribly but understood why I was doing this daily trek that lasted 15 hours many days.

If you told me 20 years ago that I would be fighting the good fight to elect a former singer, anti-nuke activist, environmentalist and alternative energy candidate I would have believed it.

But that is enough of me... I wanted to tell you about the people that helped on the John Hall Campaign. The volunteers!! The souls of this campaign. The Grassroots because they kept me going every day.

Some came to bring food, cookies, baked goods or fresh fruit. The apples were a big hit of many as New York has many, many apple orchards. But the candy corn was the most requested. For some reason our volunteers always placed the food on my desk. Were they testing me? I was on a strict diet to lower my cholestral and half of these treats were off limits to me.

Dick Mendes came every Monday to help with anything that needed to be done. He is 87 years old and a retired Professor. He reminded me of Christopher Llyod in "Back to the Future." Then one Monday he was not there and I became worried and asked if anyone had heard from Dick. No one had. Then the next Monday he did not come, I really worried so I called his home and cell phone but I only got voicemail. So I left a message that I was truly worried that something had happened to him. He appeared the next Monday and insisted that he speak with the Campaign Manager because he had to tell her how moved he was by the gesture of the campaign to check up on him.

Dick had a sense of humor that left me smiling. As he left one day, he requested that I lay a red carpet the next time he came. I told him I was sorry that I could not do that but I would lay a blue carpet. And lay it I did for him.

Lucille working the phonebanks

Lucille was our star phone banker. She could speak to anyone. Lucille needed 2 phone books to sit on to reach the computer comfortably. We got her a cushion to put on top of those phone books. She would place the headphones on and log into our Pop Vox system and never stop til her time was up. Lucille would give the message of the day but also listen to what the voters said. She was always polite. I remember she showed up on the Friday before GOTV all eager to make her phone calls and I had to tell her to take the day off, because we were collecting all the data. She was not happy about that. The next day she did not come to the office to phone bank because we had set up staging sites outside of HQ. I missed her. So I gathered up a tin of candy and I went to visit her with Vane (our Tech Assistant). She was happy to see us as well as others, although the Phone Bank Captain wasn't too happy, since I literally shut down the phone bank for 10 minutes so they could enjoy a treat.

Rosemary doing datawork

Rosemary and Bram were from New York City. They had called me in early August and wanted to volunteer for John Hall. They took the train from Grand Central to Beacon, where I would pick them up. After the first day of volunteering they asked if they could come again each day and they did. Rosemary is a retired History teacher but she had such spunk and was a wiz at data entry or anything else that was given to her. Bram was also retired from teaching at the age of 25. He taught in the South Bronx for 3 years and needed to find a new profession. Bram ended up joining the staff and he said to me when he was hired, "I think I sold my soul for lunch and a train ticket." He came to stay with my family a couple of times as opposed to travelling back to New York each night. Rosemary lost her travelling partner but it was Aida who volunteered to pick up people from the train station every morning and bring them back to the train each evening.

Bram buried in paperwork.

Steve Ives was a volunteer that never ceased to amaze me. He is a photographer. He did not mind getting up on the roof of the building to hang the John Hall Sign. Steve would pick up the phone when he saw that I was busy with someone. He would take out the garbage. But more Steve was a star Canvasser. He would come in and get the lists and walk the streets handing out literature and speaking with people about John Hall. He knew when to back off with a person who felt that the bombardment of campaign literature was too much. I remember calling Steve to see if he would help with security when Pres. Clinton was coming. He left me a message "Sorry, Beth I will have to pass up the visit from Bubba as I have to do a shoot." Steve ended up driving the Visibility Van on Election Day. He had a blast too.

Jo-Ellen was invisible. She would sit for hours doing data entry and peek out from behind the computer to say a joke or just let us know she was still there. Jo-Ellen was available whenever we had crunch time. She would call before she came in to ask if we needed anything and many times she made trips to Staples for us when we were doing mailings. I remember Tate (our Tech Guru) said that it was time to put Jo-Ellen on the phones. But that was one thing Jo-Ellen would not do. She stood firm and she won. Tate had to find someone else. Jo-Ellen loved to talk and she gave great advice too.

Then there was Adell. She came from Tarrytown, due south and not in our district. She had no clue where Beacon was but she was coming. I gave her the directions. She needed to come in the morning because she could not see well in the evening. She brought 3 friends with her. They were all the ripe age of 85. They were the greatest. They did a mailing for us. But Bernice insisted that she was not going to put the flag stamps on the envelopes unless she was able to place them upside down. She said her country was in distress. Funny thing that day that the "Geriatric Woman From Tarrytown" came, the staff seemed to be very busy in their cubicles. The women stayed for 2 hours and then needed a good restaurant to go to after their hard work. I directed them to a lovely outdoor cafe down the street and they left. I was exhausted, too, after all the tending I had to do for them.

Sherwood Martinelli was a special person. He and his wife attended every fundraising concert, but he did not buy the cheap seats, he bought the most expensive in order to help the campaign. He would come to the concerts all decked out in his tuxedo jacket, or Grateful Dead T-shirt. Sherwood would call all the time. He had a very distinct voice too. The volunteer coordinator, Jonathan just did not have the time to talk to Sherwood so I did. I told him what was occuring at times. I told Sherwood about the first debate between Sue and John and he called from the parking lot to say that he had plastered his car full of signs. Sherwood became our runner for GOTV and a driver for Election Day. But each morning he would bring donuts for the canvassers. On Election Day, he had delivered an assortment of pastry and coffee. I remember I complained to him that he only ordered regular coffee and not decaf. Sherwood told me I was a wimp if I drank decaf, he said I needed high test for Election Day.

Bob with Mike Richter

Bob was John's driver. He is a school psychologist who would donate his weekends and holidays to take John to all the events. Bob placed lawn signs all around our district. He is also an excellent photographer. He would take pictures of John at the events and then come back to the office and upload them on my MacBook. At first no one really wanted to pay attention to his pictures, so I asked Bob to make a slideshow for my screen saver. Within a few days everyone was coming to me asking for a picture that Bob had taken. Bob drove a Volvo SUV which had a navigational system. So every Friday and Saturday I would make sure he had the addresses to the different events so that he could program his system. He is gentleman who cared so much about getting John elected.

But it was Janet who is to be thanked for me joining the Campaign. She was the Vice Chairwoman of our Democratic Committee. Every meeting she would talk about Take 19, a group who were telling our District of the failures of Sue Kelly. No one was listening to her, so I did and we attended the meetings and that is where we met John Hall. I came home that night and I wrote an email to John telling him I wanted to work on his campaign. I blogged about him in the early days. He told his Campaign Manager, my mentor, Amy Little to get in touch with me. I met Amy in January at a Candidates Forum and she asked if I could be her Field Director. I asked her what a Field Director did and she looked at me. Lord knows what went through her mind that day.

Janet and me

When school ended, I got a call from Amy. She asked if I would be the Office Manager for the summer. I knew what an office manager did and I took my job very seriously. The week before GOTV weekend we held a staff meeting and at that meeting they announced that I was going to be the Volunteer Services Director. I looked at Amy and then asked "What does a Volunteer Services Director do?" She said she was not quite sure but she knew I would be fine at it. I was responsible for finding housing and making arrangements for all people coming in from out of state to help. The highlight of that job was meeting Ambassador Joseph Wilson and driving him to his hotel after a House Party. He told Bob and I the story of when he was on CNN and a Senator was not acknowledging him as an Ambassador. When we said good night to the Joe Wilson we said, "GOOD NIGHT AMBASSADOR" but he said, "CALL ME JOE."

So I tribute this post to all those special people who volunteered their time to help the campaign. Without their help, dedication, humor and donations we could not have accomplished all that we did.

Thank You from the bottom of my heart!

Amy on Election Night

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