The words “Election Day 2019” have a decidedly clunky sound to them. Not just because this was an “off-year” election, it was an “odd-year” one as well. As Americans, we like nice even numbers with our elections, particularly ones ending in “0.” However, that does not diminish the importance of the victories and defeats this week, nor the work of volunteers all over Idaho who made those victories possible.
This week marks the three-year anniversary of me volunteering in Idaho politics. Had you met me in 2016 and asked me about the political landscape in this state, I would have told you the Governor was Butch Otter and the mayor of my hometown was Dave “something or other” (Dave “something or other” remains the mayor for at least another month). The thought of “getting involved” held little appeal to me for much the same reasons it does to most: too busy, it won’t matter, I’m not political, etc.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Don’t take my word for it, just ask any of your friends and neighbors who knocked on doors, made phone calls and passed out flyers for a candidate or cause this year. Because of their work, there will be new leaders, new ideas and new hope for communities all across the state.
These everyday Idahoans don’t get the headlines, but they make all the difference. While it may not seem like much, the act of speaking face-to-face with fellow Idahoans about the future of our towns, cities and state can be a game-changer for all of us.
The power of volunteering is at the heart of the grassroots organization Reclaim Idaho. If you doubt the impact of “getting involved,” consider Medicaid Expansion. The volunteers who carried clipboards, knocked on doors and collected signatures made a $400 million-a-year difference which will bring healthcare access to tens-of-thousands of Idahoans and shore up rural hospitals all over the state. As you read this, thousands of people are enrolling and will gain coverage January 1, 2020.
Try and tell those families that “getting involved” didn’t make a difference in our state.
That same organization, packed with volunteers both new and old, spent this week fighting for rural communities, Idaho’s teachers and Idaho’s children.
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The “Invest in Idaho” ballot initiative would generate up to $200 million per year for Idaho public and charter schools with the goal of paying teachers competitive salaries, investing in career-technical education (which has been described as a “gold mine” for Idaho students), and stabilizing rising property taxes all over the state.
From Sandpoint, to Grangeville, to Kooskia, to Caldwell to Teton Valley, hundreds of volunteers collected thousands of signatures this week so teachers don’t have to buy their own supplies; so our kids can gain the skills to land family-supporting jobs; so Idaho can dig its way out of a years-long jobs crisis created by cuts to education.
The power derived from volunteering is gaining the knowledge that people are just people. Regardless of your politics, the vast majority of Idahoans want a level playing field for their kids, fairness in how they’re treated, and security for their families. That comes from investing in our schools, investing in the well-being of our families and giving every Idahoan an equal shot at success. I know this because I’ve met thousands of Idahoans through volunteering.
I know you’re busy. That’s what I would have said three years ago. However, I can tell you the couple of hours you spend getting involved is worth every minute. Not just for yourself, but for your state and your country.
The more time you spend connecting with Idahoans rather than your social media world, the better off you’ll be. Spending more time shaking hands with fellow Idahoans than zoning out in front of your cable news channel of choice will make us a stronger state.
But don’t take my word for it, ask a volunteer.
They will tell you the power of getting involved is real.