We’re looking for a few good women and men to be MS Activists, volunteers willing to stay in regular contact with their state legislators on matters important to the MS community.
Activists will be asked to donate an average of an hour a month, talk to their representatives at least three times a year and visit them during every-other-year 60-day legislative sessions.
Contacts by activists will replace the Chapter’s Advocacy Conference in Olympia during the shorter sessions, starting in 2008. Advocacy Conferences open to all who want to participate will continue to be held during the longer 105-day sessions held in odd-numbered years.
With the change in focus, the Chapter hopes to build stronger relationships with key legislators, while at the same time giving volunteers an opportunity to step up their political involvement, says Ruth Cashell, manager of advocacy and direct services.
A trained team of MS Activists will help the Chapter maintain contact with lawmakers throughout the year, not just during the legislative session when it’s really busy, Ruth says, noting that it takes about a dozen calls or letters to get a legislator’s attention on a given issue.
“Amazingly enough, only 20 percent of voters ever contact an elected official,” she says. “With the MS Activists program, we’re trying to organize so we can be that unified voice for MS.”
The Chapter hopes to get MS Activists for each legislative district it serves in Western and Central Washington.
Lobbying for MS issues has been personally rewarding for volunteer Teresa Rapozo, a self-help group leader and a member of the Government Relations Committee which finalizes the Chapter’s legislative agenda.
To those who think they can’t make a difference, Teresa points out the mere 150 votes that decided the last gubernatorial election.