Dawn Carter of Mount Airy may be legally blind, but that certainly does not dampen her vision for improving her neighborhood. In fact, she and her husband Clarence, who is also visually challenged, made it to the grand opening of Philadelphia’s first Obama for America field office in West Oak Lane on Wednesday, Feb. 15.
She returned to the new location for a phone bank a week later on Wednesday Feb. 22 which was preceded by a pep talk from Congressman Steny Hoyer, the Democratic Whip on ways to ensure that Northwest Philadelphia and other communities remain viable.
At both events one could find Dawn Carter signing in those who were among the more than 300 who showed for the event. Those in attendance for the Feb. 15 ribbon cutting included Mayor Michael Nutter, state Rep. Dwight Evans of West Oak Lane and OFA regional field director Philip Gaskin. Also present were guest speakers Stefanie Brown, OFA national African-American outreach director and Michael Blake, OFA deputy operation vote director.
Yet most of those on hand were just local community residents, like Dawn Carter, who have no official titles and just want to volunteer in their community. Carter, who has been volunteering with OFA since last summer, is excited to have a home base for the team she works with.
“The well-attended opening gave me more energy and drive to continue,” said Carter. “It was so enthusiastic and upbeat. I thought it was just fabulous how people came together. I thought all the speakers were great.
“I really thought that Michael Blake coming in from the national campaign was great. He was just awesome. He really got the crowd energized, and everyone got charged up listening to him. It was just a good night, and I really enjoyed the experience. More importantly though, I believe in the positive changes that have taken place,” Carter said.
In his remarks, Mayor Nutter stressed how President Obama’s initiatives kept the city afloat despite its own budget crisis. Evans, too, spoke about the importance of grassroots organizing in taking ownership of the campaign to improve the quality of life in Northwest Philadelphia. While Brown shared her personal story about getting involved in NAACP voter drives at a young age, Blake pumped up the crowd with his energetic Biblical references to the president’s national and global vision.
OFA previously held the grand opening for its Center City headquarters on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011. The organization has been organizing in the state since early 2009. For the past three years it has been boosting the number of Democrats statewide through voter registration and voter education, and by embarking on various field organizing efforts.
In addition to field offices the campaign launched a nationwide “Truth Team” initiative. The goals are to show how the president has kept his word, to keep the GOP honest, and to respond to untruthful attacks on the president’s record with the truth, according to OFA.
Among those who are members of the new Truth Team is Nutter. “President Obama’s achievements should speak for themselves, but they won’t,” said Nutter. “That’s why this work to engage our supporters is so essential. We’ve got to stand up for the president, let our friends and family knows what we’ve achieved these past three years and help supporters get the word out.”
There is a mix of holiday toy and food drives in the Northwest section of the city.
Ninth District Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco is partnering with CH2M Hill and Neighborhood Bike Works to distribute 80 bikes for the holidays this week.
The Mount Airy/Chestnut Hill Organizing for America (OFA) team partnered with Northwest Interfaith Movement (NIM) for food drives over the last two weekends.
Also, the East Mount Airy/West Oak Lane team is partnering with SEPTA’s Yuletoy Drive to distribute gifts to homeless and unemployed families.
Tasco’s office is scheduled to do the bike giveaway at the Kinsey Elementary School, 6501 Limekiln Pike in West Oak Lane on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. Public school children from Kinsey were to be on hand to accept the bicycles at the formal ceremony.
“For the fifth year in a row, CH2M has partnered with us to distribute bikes to the less fortunate children for holidays through the Bikes for Kids Program,” Tasco said. “New to the partnership are Councilwomen Maria Quinones Sanchez and Councilwoman-elect Cindy Bass. (They) will distribute bikes to students in their respective districts.”
Also scheduled to be on hand for the Dec. 21 event are staff members from CH2M Hill. They were responsible for raising funds to purchase the bicycles. It was the Neighborhood Bike Works that assembled the bicycles.
Over the weekends of Dec. 10 and 17 OFA volunteers stood outside of the Chestnut Hill Pathmark for their community food drive.
They handed out flyers asking Northwest Philadelphia shoppers to consider purchasing non-perishable food items for the holiday drive for needy families.
The results over the first weekend were overwhelming, according to OFA regional field director Philip Gaskin. “We received several full boxes of food items during this drive,” Gaskin said. “We will be doing another community service over the Martin Luther King weekend.”
Also, many dropped off toys for neighborhood children at the Stixx N’Snips Hair Salon, 1614 68th Ave. with the entrance off Smedley until Friday, Dec. 23. On that date they will also pick up toys from other business sponsors such as SEPTA. The toys are scheduled to be delivered Saturday, Christmas Eve.