In June of 2019, Janet Nelson moved from Montclair, New Jersey, to Massachusetts. A retired child psychologist, Janet was interested in finding an activist group that was youthful and impactful. In the midst of her search, she found Swing Blue Alliance and said it “fit the bill.”
How Janet’s Volunteer Group Works — Then and Now
After contacting Swing Blue Alliance back in 2019, Janet invited her neighborhood community to write letters, hosting people at her house once a week. In January 2020, Janet and her community were focused on the national election, writing and sending several letters and postcards to encourage electing Democrats in key states.
When the Covid-19 pandemic surfaced, many challenges arose, one being how to maintain group camaraderie and keep everyone connected. Janet pivoted from in-person meetings and began to deliver postcard packages to her members’ houses, creating deeper relationships within her community.
Delivering postcard packages “was inadvertently a way to really get to know people and the group grew,” Janet says.
Currently, Janet dedicates her time to focus on voting rights and the Freedom to Vote Act. The Freedom to Vote Act improves voting accessibility, allowing Americans to exercise their right to vote through actions such as automatic voter registration and same-day registration. Janet believes voting rights are fundamental, and without them, the rest of our democracy will fall apart. To contribute to voting rights efforts, Janet and her group members have been sending many postcards and letters discussing the importance of passing the Freedom to Vote Act.
Additionally, Janet also writes the Swing Blue Alliance Organizer Letters, as one of her greatest passions is writing.
Communication + Community + Focus = Motivation, Says Janet
When working with her group, Janet says an effective way to motivate members is to stay in touch. She explains how many volunteers can become overwhelmed, but it is key to remind her members of the large movement they are a part of. She encourages her members to bring personal stories into their letter writing as an effective motivator. She tells them that their actions are “not activism, it’s what we do.”
Some advice that Janet has for other volunteers is to be proud. “It is easy to feel demoralized, to feel like it’s hopeless,” she says, but it is important to stay proud and surround yourself with people who share your values and passions.
Janet concludes every email she writes with Elie Weisel’s quote, “do not stand idly by.” Weisel, a Holocaust survivor, wrote numerous books about his experience and the importance of taking a stand against injustices. Inspired by Wiesel, Janet explains that “we do not have the luxury of doing nothing”, and letter writing allows her and her members to make an impact.
Want to make an impact like Janet and her group? Learn more about organizing with Swing Blue Alliance >
Kiran Houri is a Fall 2021 Swing Blue Alliance Intern studying International Relations at Tufts University.