This past Labor Day, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. I volunteered with the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, a non-partisan political branch of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Contrary to Planned Parenthood Health Systems, who is prohibited from intervening in elections, The Action Fund can endorse political campaigns. Their endorsement of President Barack Obama brought them to the DNC.
I met up with everyone from Planned Parenthood at the Westin, where many of the delegates from all over the country stayed during the convention. Blocks surrounding the Westin, and the Convention Center right across the street, were stockpiled with volunteers and delegates, all enjoying the festival.
My leader, Bridget, signed me in and gave me a bright pink shirt reading “2012 Yes We Plan”. Bridget handed me a folder and gave me a mission.
My mission as a volunteer had two parts: to spread the word about the rally, happening the next day, and to earn signatures and names supporting the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
Inside the folder Bridget had given me, I found a small stack of flyers, reading the same “2012 Yes We Plan” as the shirt and information about the rally. I also had a script, along with a few sign-up sheets, teaching me exactly how to approach a random passerby about the Action Fund.
As you walk through the crowded streets of the festival, flyers and petitions are thrown at you from all angles. I had the joy of being one of those people.
As people walked past, I shoved the flyers in their faces, asking them if they heard about the rally. If they accepted the flyer, or didn’t continue walking after quickly snatching it, I approached them about the Action Fund.
I asked them to sign their names, emails, and any other information they could give, telling everyone Planned Parenthood would send them important emails regarding progressive candidates, a part of the Action Fund’s “Women are Watching” campaign. The campaign aims to ensure pro-choice women know who their candidates are at all levels of government.
Out of the people who accepted the flyers, less than half of them would sign up as a supporter of the Action Fund, fearful of the number of emails. The majority of the ones who signed the Action Fund sheet seemed to be searching for anything to sign.
Despite how intimidating approaching strangers and urging them to sign a sheet of paper was, those who took the time to sign it were always supportive, and most of the time interesting. At one point during the day, two delegates from Alaska signed up for the Action Fund.
The shirts my fellow volunteers and I wore received a lot of attention. The occasional person stopped me simply to say they supported Planned Parenthood. Others asked where I’d purchased the shirt. Whether or not I signed as many people up as I needed to, I knew my shirt had to have made some sort of a difference — just by wearing it, I spread the word that women’s health mattered.
While volunteering, I noticed a sense of camaraderie buzzing around the streets of Charlotte. It was unspoken, but clear — everyone wanted to nominate the same presidential candidate, to support issues they thought important, and to buy tons of Obama-Biden campaign buttons from vendors who didn’t have the proper papers to sell them.
After four hours of volunteer work, in rain and shine, I had finished for the day. I left Charlotte knowing I was one of the 400 people registered to volunteer with Planned Parenthood throughout the week, and that I had spent the last four hours working towards what I believed was a good cause.