Making the leap to door-to-door volunteering

In about a week and a half, I’m going to make the leap to door-to-door volunteer work in a battleground state. I’ve done phone banks and such a little bit over the years, but this kind of face-to-face thing is new to me, let alone face-to-face in a foreign land.
I was a little lost at first — not sure how to start out looking into this. In case there are other newbies out there like me, on the brink, interested in volunteering, not sure where to start, I thought I’d write out the steps I took and the little I’ve learned so far.
Anyways, after that first debate last week, I finally got a little hope in me. Like a lot of us, I started entering all the polls and sending out daily email blasts to folks in the media. In the rush that weekend, with some great encouragement from my better half, I realized that before this is over, I have to volunteer in a swing state for at least a few days. I think entering all those obscure polls and watching the media spin tilt gave me this rare feeling I need to keep alive – the feeling that with a little effort we can all collectively have a tangible, positive impact on getting the country out of this mess.
Starting Local
I had no idea which state to go to or what three days would do the most good. So I went down to my local Democratic headquarters to ask. They didn’t know much about out-of-state efforts and directed me to the Kerry site for more info. Then they surprised me by saying they could use a hand too. I’m in the Bay Area and I guess I just figured, this being Kerry country, they’d be all taken care of. Turns out, my town can still use feet on the ground in just about every neighborhood. They were looking for captains and just plain ole volunteers, and I chose the latter. I called the captain for my neighborhood and found out that this Saturday the whole town is getting a Democratic precinct walk. So I’ve signed up, and I’ll be taking my six-year old Kerry-supporting daughter with me as we walk our neighborhood, asking Democrats if they’re planning on voting. All-in-all it was much easier to get involved in than I would have guessed – and I can do the whole thing on foot, starting out from my front door.
If you’re thinking of volunteering, you may not have to leave town, or even leave your neighborhood. Even if you live in a pretty liberal burg like me, you might be surprised to find that they can still use your help. I figure, sure, Kerry’s got California locked up, but I’m happy to contribute to Kerry getting a majority of the popular vote.
Anyways, I still wanted to do some swing state work so I went to the Kerry site and poked around their “travellers” section. I found it pretty useless. Lots of drop-down menus, but no answers to the big vague questions I had. (Later on I found this page on the Kerry site that lists contact info for headquarters in each state – I suspect it’s another pretty good place to start.)
I was kinda stymied, and decided I should start by narrowing down my options. At first I’d thought about flying out to Ohio or PA but in the end I decided I’d stick to places I can drive in one day, which meant Nevada or Oregon. Love the Oregon. Loooove the Oregon. So I went with Oregon. Googling “kerry edwards oregon” got me The home page screams “We Need Volunteers!” Alright! I’m a volunteer! Phone numbers for city-specific headquarters are up on the home page. This site is very volunteer-focused and in a minute or two I had phone numbers and emails for real people who could answer my questions. This page in particular is packed with great info.
I called one of those numbers and got someone on two rings. Nice guy. Extremely positive and helpful. In about three minutes we’d worked through my options. I didn’t realize that a huge weekend is coming up for Oregon. Oregon votes by mail. The ballots go out on October 18th, so the weekend of the 16th and 17th are huge door-to-door opportunities. It sounds like there will be hundreds of people out in Portland. I told him I wasn’t sure if I should work in Portland, Eugene, or Medford (picking three major stops along route 5). He told me Medford’s a great choice because they don’t have the ready pool of students and such. Plus, it’s a shorter drive.
If you get frustrated like me on the K/E site, just narrow your options a little, pick a state, google the site for that state or call the state’s headquarters. Get an actual person on the phone and away you go.
So that’s it. I’m set. Tomorrow I’ll call the Medford HQ to let them know we’re coming and find out exactly when/where to go. And next Friday night, two friends and I will be up in Oregon, getting ready for three days of door-to-door work on the ground. Hot dang! Can I say “Dang”? I can? Well hot diggity dang!






One response to “Making the leap to door-to-door volunteering”

  1. Dumpster Avatar

    Medford’s a good choice, because it’s a place where K/E probably needs more help than in Portland or Eugene. When I went to grad school in ol’ Bluejean many years ago, we considered Medford (along with most of the state) redneck country. What you saw from I-5 was a lumber mill; if that’s not still there, it’s probably even more economically depressed than it was.
    There’s a lot of rural poverty in Oregon (and in backwoods California, too), but many people don’t realize they’re poor — it’s just “how things are.”
    It’s part of the America that Thomas Frank talks about in “What’s Wrong with Kansas?”, where people are induced to vote against their economic interests in the name of “values.” I’ve only read excerpts of the Frank book, so I don’t know if he has any positive recommendations for addressing that mindset; but a “values” case can certainly be made against the Bush admin. For example, the Pentagon audit of Halliburton/KBR mentions $85K trucks abandoned in the desert over flat tires or minor repairs; if they knew about it, that would not sit well with people who are accustomed to keeping a vehicle running as long as they can.
    (Also, don’t volunteer that you’re from California; and be sure you don’t pronounce it “Ah-ra-gahn” like an Easterner. They hate that. It’s “Orygn,” with no vowel at all in the last syllable. )