By Sarah Denby
As most people know, change arises out of dedication and hard work. With this in mind, the members of the UMW chapter of the Virginia Organizing Project have been following these guidelines, along with the rest of the Organization, making strides towards health care reform in the state of Virginia.
The UMW chapter is brand new to the Mary Washington campus this semester. The Virginia Organizing Project is a statewide organization that focuses on a variety of issues. According to their website, the VOP is “ committed to challenging injustice by empowering people in local communities to address issues that affect the quality of their lives.”
The Virginia Organizing Project was founded in 1995 and since then, has been reaching out and involving individuals who have never worked toward change to better their society, as well as uniting different social groups together to initiate change.
But junior Ashley Border, 20, vice president of the chapter wouldn’t call this a club.
“ Its more of an outreach thing instead of a club”, Border stated.
Junior Natalie Grossman, founder and the president of the UMW Chapter of the VOP became interested in the VOP along with their mission and goals after taking a psychology class last semester that focused on previous social movements throughout history.
“ One of the organizers from the VOP, Kevin Simowitz, came in once a week to talk to our class”, Grossman stated.
After that, Grossman interned with the VOP this past summer for 10 weeks in Fredericksburg. As part of the internship, Grossman went door-to-door five days a week canvassing for health care reform.
“Seven to eight of the hours were spent canvassing. Our main issue was health care, as well as finding out other issues or concerns that people had as well.” Grossman reflected.
After spending her summer with the VOP, Grossman shared her interest to Border, who is now vice president of the chapter.
Border states “ Natalie was talking about it a lot, so I took interest in it, and it gave me something to do and helped me stay in tune to what was going on politically.”
The Chapter, as well as the rest of the VOP has mainly been focusing on health care reform. If passed, the reform would provide affordable and accessible healthcare to residents in Virginia.
To reach this goal, the UMW chapter has been canvassing and holding phone banks throughout the semester in which they have called households asking individuals to call senator Mark Warner, asking him to support health care reform in the Senate.
Along with canvassing and phone banking, the UMW Chapter of the VOP has also had tables on campus walk and in the nest as well throughout the month of October.
On Oct. 20th, the Chapter held a table on campus walk for Healthcare for America Now National Call-In Day, where they asked people on the spot to call Senator Warner, asking him to support a public health insurance option. On Oct. 27, the Chapter held something similar to this and had a “ Halloween Healthcare Reform” table outside the nest with candy and a fake “blood” drink that people would receive if they called Senator Warner asking him to support health care reform, on the spot.
On Oct. 28, the chapter tie-dyed t-shirts on the front lawn of Randolph Hall. Junior Elena South helped organized both the Halloween table and the tie-dyeing event.
“ It was impromptu, we got a bunch of people to come out and asked them to call Senator Warner. We talked about health care reform.” South stated.
South became involved with the UMW Chapter of the VOP by attending a few meetings and helping out at the phone bank after listening to Grossman and Border talk about it. During the tie-dyeing event, South was impressed with the amount of people who came up and talked to the Chapter.
“ A lot of people come up and talk to you, and even if they are opposed, it’s really interesting.”
With canvassing, phone banking, and having tables at the nest and on campus walk numerous times, Grossman has definitely noticed a change through the efforts of the UMW chapter, and the VOP as a whole.
“There was a change in the number of people calling senator Warner. There is definitely progress you can see.” Grossman stated.
When compared to other schools that have chapters with VOP, Border stated that Mary Washington’s chapter is the largest she has seen.
Border stated, “ Yeah there’s a small group of people [in the chapter], but other schools have like 2 or 3 people.”
The Mary Washington chapter of the VOP has also been trying to work with other clubs on campus as well. So far, they have had two movie nights with the Young Democrats and have met with Organizing for America as well.
Other recent issues that the UMW chapter as well as the VOP has been focusing on are predatory lending and the environment.
When asked about the result of the work that the chapter has done so far, Grossman is very pleased as well as South is with chapters overall efforts.
“ Maybe actually we are making a difference. Its actually gratifying.” South stated.
The Mary Washington Chapter of the VOP generally meets Thursday nights, from 9-10 p.m. in Trinkle B52, but the time is subject to change. If you would like more information about this club, or would like to help out and join, email Grossman at