Last Saturday wasn’t about convincing people to knock on doors or sign-up for an event; it was about empowering a community to make a difference. In Council Bluffs, the Missouri River flood is discussed daily, with neighbors bringing items over to store on higher ground and families finding housing for loved ones. But for residents less affected by the flooding, it’s been difficult for them to turn their desire to help their community into action.
On July 2nd, at our Independence Day House Party, a group of supporters solved that problem when they brainstormed the “Sandwiches and Sandbags” event for our July 16th Day of Action. Just two weeks later, with the help of more than 20 volunteers, we made over 150 sandwiches for volunteers sandbagging and filled nearly 250 sandbags as well, all while helping to keep the morale high and the city safe.
Last Saturday we came together to serve our community by including everyone in unique ways. Since many of our volunteers were unable to fill sandbags, we spent the morning making sandwiches, allowing people to volunteer in a way that energized and engaged them in the effort.
That enthusiasm was obvious in the conversations and new friendships formed throughout the day. While spreading peanut butter and talking to new volunteers, host Bonni commented that:
“The best part is being with people working for the same goal of positive thinking and moving forward.”
Five volunteers, ranging in age from 16 to 62, braved working both shifts. Fran, a 62 year old retiree, while shoveling and sweating reminded me that “62 is just a number.” For Fran, retirement means more time to be involved and get active.
Loni, another volunteer who worked to both make sandwiches and fill sandbags said, “I’m glad I finally came out here. I just didn’t have a group to go with before.” Both Fran and Loni are first time volunteers with Organizing for America. Watching them quickly become a part of the team made me understand the incredible role that we can play as organizers. Organizing really is about relationship building and empowering communities.
And as if that wasn’t enough encouragement for one day, State Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal joined our group. Coming prepared with his own shovel, he was immediately shoveling sand as a part of the team. I can tell you from first-hand experience, having Senator Gronstal as your sandbag-filling partner means no slacking off between bags. His energy and enthusiasm reenergized us and reminded us why we were all there together.
Under a heat advisory in the middle of summer, it’s easy to stay inside and be a passive observer, but in this moment, helping with flood relief efforts is the most important work we can be doing and should be doing in Council Bluffs. As Democrats, we campaign and we fight for the middle class; we offer a voice to those that don't have the influence to speak in Washington. In times of crisis, we must put our words into action. And that's why we continue to sandbag each week. We come together with diverse backgrounds in order to form one common story: hope for our community. And in return, we find inspiration in the people we meet each week and their reasons for helping Council Bluffs.To get involved with President Obama's re-election campaign in your community, click here.