Name: Melissa Bynes Brooks
Campaign role: Volunteer
Hometown: Palm Beach County, Florida
Organizing in: Riviera Beach, Florida
Q1. What do you do for the campaign?
I usually volunteer in the evenings—I stop by after work. I’ve been working with the phone bank and canvassing, and I’ve also been trained to register voters. I’m continuously looking on the campaign’s website to see what types of events are available in my area. There are several campaign offices in this county, but Riviera Beach is predominately African American, so I’ve been devoting more of my time here. I know it’s going to be a challenge to get out the vote in this area—and our votes are going to make a big difference in this election.
Q2. How did you first come to the campaign?
I’m a registered independent, but my personal experiences brought me to President Obama’s campaign in 2008 and 2012. I’ve benefited personally from the President’s accomplishments in so many ways. I was able to get my mortgage interest rate reduced from 6.8 percent to less than 4 percent, saving my family between $500 and $600 a month in mortgage payments. Both of my daughters are college students, and they’ve been helped by the President’s efforts at student loan reform. And as a parent, I support the initiative to keep student loan rates where they are. The Affordable Care Act, that’s a big one. I’ll be able to keep both my daughters on my employer’s health insurance plan if they can’t find jobs when they graduate.
The first time I actually volunteered was in March, when I received an email from the Obama-Biden campaign about the opening of a field office in Jupiter, Florida. My 18-year-old and I went, and from that point on I have been reviewing the list of scheduled events to determine what I can do in my spare time. Both of my girls live at home with me and I fulfill the role of two parents—we’re a good team. They’re volunteering with me when they can, even though they are both working and attending college. I prod them—I tell them, “Come on guys, I’m doing this for you.” And they understand that their futures are riding on this election.
Q3. What’s your favorite part of your role?
My favorite part of volunteering is registering voters. I know the impact will be significant so I’m definitely looking forward to doing more of that. I can see how it pays off—even if you talk to someone who is already registered, not everyone knows they need to be registered at their current address. I met a woman who had moved in with her daughter, and she did not know you must update your address with a voter registration application to avoid voting under a provisional status in Florida. So I was happy to ensure that her vote will be counted on Election Day.
Q4. What’s the most unexpected part of your role?
Well, I realized when I was out canvassing that this is not going to be an easy campaign. The first time I went out, I was sent to a pretty conservative community. I’m glad I had some campaign materials that outlined the specifics about the Affordable Care Act—I’d say, “If you don’t mind, can I just leave this with you so you can take a look at it?” I feel like a lot of people have inaccurate information from radio and TV. When they’re alone and have time, I’m hoping they will review the information and get a better sense of the facts. I think it’s going to be a tight race, and I want to do as much as I can to impact how people will vote in November.
Q5. Tell us a fun fact about yourself:
I’m the first one in my family to go to college—I went to Florida A&M University at 16 years of age. I had fun, but also managed to get a B.S. in Respiratory Therapy, followed years later with my MBA. I didn’t grow up having much, and I’m not ashamed of where I came from. Now, what I find the most enjoyment from is writing—I have a blog, and started a Twitter account a few months ago!