Sunday, September 06, 2009

Our Work Has Only Just Begun

Hard work pays off.
But no one said it would be easy.
Our Work has just begun.

These three clichés apply to our Offering of Letters efforts in New Mexico.

First, the hard work.
The Bread folks in Washington have noticed the hard work of activists in our state.

We were featured twice this year in Bread for the World's montlhy (sometimes-bimonthly) newsletter.

February-March newsletter
In the February-March newsletter, entitled
Offering of Letters Swings Into High Gear, there was a note about our offerings of letters workshops in Las Cruces and Albuquerque (although they forgot to mention the one in Santa Fe).

Our workshops helped activists around the state, like those at Church of the Good Shepherd pictured at (led by Beth Kissling and members of her committee), to organize 23 Offerings of Letters this year.

Pictured immediately below are scenes Offerings of Letters at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church (led by Terese Rand Bridges) and Church of the Risen Savior in Albuquerque (led by Kathy Freeze).

Our Offerings of Letters produced almost 2,100 letters again this year! Below are photos taken at letter-writing Sundays at Aquinas Newman Center (which I led) and the young adults group at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church (led by Mike Shawver).

September newsletter
We were featured again in the September issue of the Bread newsletter, in which our efforts to contact Reps. Harry Teague and Martin Heinrich were noted. The piece is entitled
Seizing Every Opportunity for Advocacy

Here is the sequence of events: I met up with Rep. Teague at the Railrunner station in downtown Albuquerque, then went on to Talin market to Rep. Heinrich's Congress on Your Corner meeting with constituents. Marge Williams of Trinity United Methodist Church followed with a meeting of her own. The next day, LaVerne Kaufman of Peace Lutheran Church followed up with a meeting in Las Cruces with Rep. Teague.

And a few weeks later Ellen Buelow of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church followed up with Rep. Heinrich at Smith's supermarket on Coors and Central. Our ask was very simple. Please cosponsor HR2139, the bill related to our 2009 Offering of Letters to reform foreign aid.

Lobby Day
On top of that, I met with aides to Reps. Heinrich, Teague and Ben Ray Lujan and Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall in Washington.

Because of their busy schedules, I wasn't able to meet with the representatives themselves, although Rep. Harry Teague happened to be coming back to his office after I finished the meeting with his aide. So we got a photo with him and his legislative aide.

The ask was the same for the House members. Please cosponsor HR2139, For the senators, we asked that they support a yet-to-be introduced bipartisan bill on foreign aid reform. That bill has now been introduced: S1524. But more on that later.

Here's where the second cliche comes in. No one said it would be easy. Despite our phone calls, letters, direct appeals (and Ellen's reminder to Rep. Heinrich that her church sent more than 600 letters on the topic), Rep. Heinrich, Rep. Teague and Rep. Lujan have yet to cosponsor HR2139. .

Advocacy opportunities
Which leads me to the third cliché: Our work has just begun.
As Congress returns from its summer recess this week, we still have the opportunity to continue to urge Reps. Heinrich, Teague and Lujan to cosponsor HR2139. More importantly, since S1524 was introduced just before the summer recess, there was no opportunity for Sens. Bingaman and Udall to consider the legislation.

Please contact their offices via phone call, e-mail or postal letter asking them to support this very important bipartisan bill.
And you can follow Bro. Jim Brown's example, who wrote a letter to the editor of The New Mexican (Santa Fe). There is help available from our Bread grassroots media organizer Shawnda Hines. Read her letter-writing tips.

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