Saturday, June 28, 2008

Storming Capitol Hill with Pen and Paper

There was no one from New Mexico at Bread for the World's Lobby Day this summer. But that doesn't mean that our presence was not felt on Capitol Hill this year. We made contact with our legislators with a huge exclamation mark!

New Mexicans Write More than 2,200 Letters to Congress

Through the middle of June, New Mexicans had written more than 2,200 letters to Congress as part of this year's Offering of Letters. This is more letters than we've ever written in a single year! A total of 19 churches, two schools and one drama class (along with a few members of the audience) participated in this year's letter-writing efforts.

Of the total, 710 letters were directed to Sen. Pete Domenici, 659 to Sen. Jeff Bingaman, 554 to Rep. Heather Wilson, 124 to Rep. Steve Pearce, and 128 to Rep. Tom Udall. We weren't able to determine to whom the other 68 letters went.

At one event, sponsored by the Center for Action and Contemplation, our efforts also produced a handful of letters to legislators from Texas, Florida, Minnesota, and Illinois. (Pictured above is Erin Duffy from Dallas writing a letter to Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas).

Our message was simple: Please increase poverty-focused development assistance in the next budget by $5 billion. And to our senators we were asking them to co-sponsor S. 2433, The Global Poverty Act. I'm very confident that the 500-plus letters he had received through mid-May were very influential in Sen. Bingaman's decision to co-sponsor S.2433.

We may yet get more letters this year, but I do want to pay tribute to some of the individuals who already made this year's Offering of Letters a huge success.

LaVerne Kaufman (shown at left with Bread member Kari Bachman) not only led the letter-writing effort at Peace Lutheran Church (Las Cruces), but also supported and encouraged St. Paul United Methodist Church (Las Cruces) as they held their first-ever OL.

Terese Rand Bridges
(right) was the lead organizer at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church (Albuquerque), with help from Deacon Jan Bales and Linda Towle. Pictured with her is Deanna Vick from St. Andrew Presbyterian Church

Larry Brotman, Beth Kissling, and Mark Stein helped organize letter-writing at Church of the Good Shephard- United Church of Christ (Albuquerque). This is the second consecutive year for an Offering of Letters at the church.

In the picture on the left, Mia Jumbo, a Theater student at the University of New Mexico, lay the groundwork for her hunger class and the cast of Hungry Machine to write letters to Congress about global poverty. The director of the play, drama instructor Anna Saggese, also had a major role in the letter-writing effort.
-Center, Kyra Ellis-Moore, organized students at Albuquerque High School to write 220 letters. Read her account.
- Ester Schneider not only hosted our Offering of Letters Workshop in Albuquerque but was the main mover and shaker behind the Offering of Letters at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church (Albuquerque). Dana Bell, (pictured at right) helped with the letter-writing effort at the church.

Bob Riley (right) has frequently managed to get 100-200 letters at First Unitarian Church (Albuquerque). This year the church surpassed 200 letters. He is pictured with Bread for the World western regional organizer Matt Newell-Ching.

Jane Hanna
(left) has led letter-writing efforts at First Presbyterian Church (Santa Fe) for as long as I can remember. Here she is pictured with fellow church member Aurelia Fule.

George Huggins is not only passionate about playing the guitar at his church (and also at our Taize services), but has also led the letter-writing efforts at New Life Presbyterian Church (Albuquerque) for two consecutive years.

Heidi Ernst Jones
and Lydia Pendley not only hosted our Offering of Letters Workshop in Santa Fe, but organized letter-writing activities over several weeks at St. Bede's Episcopal Church (Santa Fe). Coleen Davidson, a teacher at Pi
ñon Elementary School (Santa Fe) and a member of St. Bede's, had her class write 21 letters.

Marjorie Williams has been in charge of Offerings of Letters at Trinity United Methodist Church (Albuquerque) for almost a dozen years now. She was assisted this year by Frank and Mona Hyder.

Virginia Pitts
(left) was part of a team of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Parish (Albuqueque) who organized an Offering of Letters over two weekends at the church. The team also included Jeannette Beaudette and Ellen Beulow. The OL produced about 500 letters (WOW!). Virginia is shown in this picture chatting with Carol Holland of New Life Presbyterian Church at the OL Workshop in 2007.

There are many other people who did a fantastic job organizing letter-writing events at their churches. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of them, so I'll just name them: Estella Gahala at First United Methodist Church; Jamie Terra Hawk at La Mesa Presbyterian Church (Albuquerque); Hank Hughes at the United Church of Santa Fe (Santa Fe) Else Tasseron at St. Paul Lutheran Church (Albuquerque); Matt and Amy Keller and Lucretia Tippit at All Saints Lutheran Church (Albuquerque); and John Barton, Rev. Carole McGowan, and Maria Smith at St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church (Albuquerque). I organized the Offering of Letters at Aquinas Newman Center (Albuquerque) with the help of the Peace and Social Justice Committee and Campus Ministry. We produced about 110 letters at our university-based parish.

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