• OFA volunteers honored as White House Champions of Change

    Volunteers from Nevada and Arizona were honored by the White House earlier this month as two grassroots leaders taking critical steps in their communities to reduce gun violence.

    Being honored by the White House is no small recognition—but if you ask Pam Simon or Teresa Crawford what it feels like to be named a Champion of Change, they'll be the first to say this award is about their community, not them.

    "Alone, I am one voice, but joining with so many others, we are breaking the silence and beginning to move toward meaningful change," said Pam, an OFA-Arizona volunteer and gun violence survivor.

    "This isn't about me—it's about every single person who has done something, even if it's just one conversation, to address this issue," said Teresa, the OFA-Nevada chapter lead for gun violence prevention. "That's where change comes from. It's not about me, I'm just willing to speak out and up." It's that attitude that makes Teresa and Pam truly deserve their awards. The White House Champions of Change program was created to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to "empower, inspire, and support members of their communities." That's really what Pam and Teresa are best known for.

    Pam Simon is an OFA-Arizona volunteer, gun violence survivor, and White House Champion of Change.

    For Pam, community has always been something that has mattered to her—professionally, and personally. On January 8th, 2011, while serving in her capacity as Community Outreach Coordinator for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords at a "Congress on Your Corner" event at a local grocery store, Pam was shot in the arm and chest.

    That day, 12 others were shot and wounded, including Congresswoman Giffords, and six were killed. After retiring from Congresswoman Gifford's office, Pam made advocating for common-sense gun legislation her life's mission—something she's continued to work on as a volunteer with Organizing for Action and with other organizations in Arizona.

    Pam confronts her senator, Jeff Flake, after his vote against expanding background checks for gun sales.

    Teresa's fight for gun violence prevention started a bit differently. She had studied gun violence trends as a student, noting that Nevada scored highly on every index relating to gun violence—not an especially great feat.

    Teresa Crawford is the OFA-Nevada chapter lead for gun violence prevention.

    But in January 2010, an ex-felon used a shotgun he had purchased without a background check to murder a security guard at a building Teresa sometimes frequented. She didn't know the guard by name, but she remembered him as someone who always had a warm smile, and she knew she couldn't stand by without acting to try to prevent future violence.

    Teresa spoke at the No More Names bus tour on July 8th, 2013. "Everyone around me is a champion," she says.

    Since then, Teresa has stepped up in her community to become a top volunteer for every major organization in Nevada working to prevent gun violence. She's never been a paid organizer, but she says that the relationships she's built with the staff and volunteers, and the coalitions they've help build in Nevada, are her biggest accomplishment.

    These women personify what it means to organize for action in their communities. Their stories of how gun violence touched their lives makes fighting for more common-sense laws to protect their communities all the more personal, and all the more important.

    Personal stories of why we are committed to the cause of preventing these tragedies can be a powerful way to remind lawmakers about the need for action. Do you have a personal story to share? It's up to us to remind Congress that we're not backing down—now, or ever. Share your story today.

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