My name is Ellen Gangnon. I’m a wife, a daughter of a World War II veteran, a mother of four, a grandmother of six, and a retired first grade teacher. I taught for over 20 years, and now I’m a volunteer organizer for Obama here in Waukesha County and Germantown, Wisconsin.
In June of 2008, I retired from teaching and I was ready to volunteer somewhere but I wasn’t quite sure where. Now that I had some more time, I was able to really focus in the political situation in this country and I became aware of a young state senator named Barack Obama. I was concerned about the Iraq war, the unstable economy, and I just found him so inspiring—so I got involved. I wanted to start a team in Pewaukee, where I live, so I threw a house party. The first time, only 4 people there, but for my second one, I had about 25 people. Things moved quickly from there!
Over the last four years, we’ve been working to energize supporters. We started with one big team in Waukesha country. We figured we’d voted for change, and now we were going to work for change. Since then, we’ve built up 16 teams, all headed by neighborhood team leaders, and the 16 of us all meet up once each month. I really believe that the core of Obama for America is relationships, and I’m touched every day by the staff, the team leaders, and the volunteers, along with the time and energy that they all give. I volunteer 35 to 40 hours a week, and my participation in this process has impacted me in ways I never could’ve imagined. This organization has given me a voice and a place at the table and that means a lot to me.
For me, health care reform has been the President’s biggest accomplishment. Our teams worked so hard for that. We had rallies and forums; we handed out leaflets and did community service projects; we called our representatives and senators. We worked really, really hard and we all felt like we had a part in making such a wonderful thing happen. A lot of us shed some tears when it was upheld. One of my daughters was able to stay on my insurance until she turned 26, which was a big relief. I’m on Social Security now so I’ll be more concerned about my dollars and cents as I move forward, and the Affordable Care Act helps in many ways. My husband starts on Medicare this month and the ACA is closing the doughnut hole. That’s huge. But I wasn’t only fighting for myself with health care reform—I was fighting for a lot of other people. I was fighting for senior citizens, for children with preexisting conditions, and for women’s health.
I live in a very Republican area, so a lot of first-time volunteers will come in and say, “I thought I was the only Democrat!” I tell them not to get discouraged—we’ve got 16 teams throughout the county and we’re working hard! With less than three weeks left, people need to get involved now. I tell supporters that all you need to give is a little time—and you’ll have a fun doing it! I’ll be putting in at least 50 hours a week and working four shifts every weekend, so I’m committed to putting one foot in front of the other to get the job done.