Today is Green Blog Action Day, a project of Green Change which was inspired by the global day of blog action on climate change. The topic: Local action. Check out all the Green Blogging going on over at Green Change to see what people around the country are writing about local action. My local action topic for today is a story about how I grew into taking action on a local level that is making a difference in my community.
As a young child I decided that because there was so much greenery on the earth my favorite color would be green. I grew up appreciating the beauty of our planet due to the inspiration I had from family that influenced my love for life. That inspiration led to personal practices that have helped me to work towards reducing my footprint on the world. One of those practices is that of consuming only what is necessary. This continues to be a practice which I constantly examine and refine in my life. I buy clothing at thrift stores and make my own jewelry and handbags, for example. I grow a lot of my own food. I compost. I recycle. I take public transportation and walk as much as possible. It is no wonder, then, that the Green Party, a party that promotes values near and dear to my heart, would eventually become "home" to me.
Local Action=Personal Responsibility
As a younger woman growing up in Frederick County, Maryland, about 50 miles west of Baltimore, each Thanksgiving I would watch with intrigue as the local news would air the piece about the huge Thanksgiving Feast organized by this amazing woman – Bea Gaddy, the
"Mother Teresa of Baltimore", a woman who grew up in poverty and rose above her life’s challenges to become a successful advocate for human beings on our planet.
Each year I would continue to be inspired by the stories published about Bea Gaddy and her efforts. I would think to myself "I want to be like her when I grow up." She demonstrated a level of community action that touched my heart and warmed the souls of tens of thousands of people through the years. Then one day my wish began to come true.
Local Action=Following Bea Gaddy’s Mission
I became involved with the Green Party when I moved to Utah in the late 90’s because of everything the Green Party advocates with regards to life on earth. I became active at the national level and met many great people. One person I met from Rhode Island, Greg Gerritt, told me
about the Rhode Island Green Party organized "Winter Coat Exchange" held each year on Buy Nothing Day, the day after Thanksgiving….the heaviest shopping day of the year. This year is the 12th year for the Rhode Island event where thousands of coats are now collected and
given away. All types of community organizations have become involved. The idea: "If you need a coat, come get one. If you have a coat, we know someone who can use it." As I learned more about this event, I knew that I had to organize a sister event in Utah.
Local Action=Community Action
I had participated in Buy Nothing Day actions before. At malls and shopping places I would join dozens of activists in "anti-carol" sings, with messages about the pitfalls of consumerism, including its impact on our planet. But something just wasn’t working.
Shoppers would hurry past us as we sang and any leaflets we handed out ended up on the ground. I was frustrated. There had to be something else that could be done on this day to have more of an impact. Something that would touch the hearts of people as they spent their money on material goods that day. The concept of a coat exchange was something I decided to pursue.
Local Action=Pulling people together for a common good.
The first Community Coat Exchange was held in Salt Lake City, Utah The day after Thanksgiving in 2006, with about 300 coats collected, and 100 given away. TV cameras showed up and people responded positively to the idea. The next year we collected about 400 coats and gave away 200. Last year we collected over 700 coats and gave away 600. We now have 5 collection sites. People from all walks of life participate. The event is growing. Next year we hope to have a sister event in Ogden, a city north of Salt Lake City. We have more community partners. We get some media attention, but there still seems to be more "news" at the malls where people are shopping. No matter. As we grow, we touch lives and warm hearts in our local community.
As I reflect on this growing event, this local action, I have come to realize, on a small scale and relevant to my world, that my wish has come true, thanks to everyone in my life who has influenced me – my amazing and wonderful husband, my parents, my grandmothers, my
siblings, my children and grandchildren, my wonderful friends, my Green Party colleagues from around the country, and others in the world who have inspired and influenced me.
I am growing up to be like Bea Gaddy.
My desire now is to continue to grow and serve our community in ways that all people will benefit from efforts such as the Community Coat Exchange: A local action that has made a difference to the lives of countless people….to the life of the disabled man who just
needed to talk to someone (and get a coat)….to the families of refugees who were in need of coats for the cold Utah weather….to the war vet who was struggling to get the care he needed to survive….to the women who were being sheltered in a domestic violence victim shelter and needed winter wear for their children….to the homeless men who came to stock up on winter wear for the weather in which they were forced to live….to the school children who collected coats at their schools for the event….and for the many people who realized that shopping on Black Friday was not as important as giving back to the community and taking pause to consider how to better protect and prolong the life of our planet.
Local Action=Making dreams come true. You can do it!