Update: This story has been updated from a previously published version. Bryn Moore, who regularly writes emails to Sen. Pat Toomey, has not received a personal message from the senator, but has received form letters in response.
The Columbia County Democratic Headquarters is buzzing with activity these days, attracting Danville residents along with those from Bloomsburg. The main draw is Columbia County Indivisible, one of over 7,000 grassroots organizations across the U.S. meant “to show there’s broad resistance to the agenda of the current administration.”
Jerry Stropnicky, of Riverside, said he got involved because “I wanted to do something.” He likes the fact that the Indivisible group is a “loose clearing house” for people who want to get involved. “You don’t have to wait to do things from the top down. If you want to make postcards, you just make them. It’s just a group of people energizing each other.”
In January, when he and his family were looking for a way to get to the Women’s March in Washington, the Indivisible group had a bus organized, and he got to know some people. Soon he was asked by Dwayne Heisler, one of the organizers and the elected State Democratic Committee member from Columbia County, to be on an informal steering committee to decide what issues they were most concerned with. The organizational meeting on February 9 attracted 70 attendees.
“At least a dozen of these came from Montour County,” said Heisler. “Our ties with Montour County are very deep.”
Beyond Columbia County
Since Columbia County has a permanent Democratic Headquarters in downtown Bloomsburg, that space has become a center of activity for people from Montour, Northumberland, and Luzerne Counties as well. “We’re thinking now,” said Heisler, “that the Columbia County Indivisible group might need a new more-regional name, since it draws from Montour and Northumberland counties, too.”
The group has a Facebook page and an active emailing list to let people know what is happening each week. Everything works toward their stated goal: “We believe that the next four years depend on Americans across the country standing indivisible against the Trump agenda. We believe that buying into false promises or accepting partial concessions will only further empower Trump to victimize us and our neighbors. It’s time to coordinate Indivisible efforts in and beyond Columbia County.”
To that end, there are calling, mailing, and letter writing campaigns. There are local protests. There are educational workshops. The 15th of every month is a “Pink Slip Day,” when everyone is encouraged to send President Trump a postcard with a pink slip. April 1 is a “Fire the Fool” Rally with a location to be announced. April 15 is “Show Us Your Taxes” day, with a rally scheduled for noon outside the Bloomsburg Post Office and at Post Offices throughout the country.
Making politics local
The Indivisible movement was initiated as a reaction to the 2016 election and started with a Facebook post by a group of people. It is a totally grassroots effort that relies heavily on social media to spread the word. Besides the Columbia County Indivisible, there are two other chapters nearby, Indivisible Lewisburg and Indivisible Coal Region, in Shamokin. Morgan Benowitz-Fredericks, a Bucknell professor who lives in Danville, participates in both the Lewisburg and Bloomsburg groups and finds that “coordination makes both more effective.” Students have also organized BU Indivisible, with a membership of 500 students, on the Bloomsburg University campus.
One key effort among Indivisible participants is to send postcards to their members of Congress, known as MoC’s. The group provides a number of PDF designs to choose from, or people can simply handwrite their own. Bryn Moore, of Hemlock Twp. near Danville writes five every day—to Barletta, Toomey, Casey, and others, like Paul Ryan and other Congressional leaders, depending on the noteworthy news of the day. She also sends daily emails to Pat Toomey, and has yet to get a personal reply, only form letters, but nothing with a personal response. “I read something in the paper and write about it,” she says. “I find it a little cathartic.”
Moore works in research at Geisinger and came to the Indivisible group after the Women’s March, through an invitation from a friend on Facebook. She grew up in Danville, went away for college and grad school, and is now back. As a scientist and mother, she is particularly concerned about support for research, the environment, education, and women’s rights, but she feels you can’t just pick one issue today. “It used to be just one movement at a time, but now there are so many things to fix, you don’t know what to focus on.” She feels her postcards are a good place to start.
Bringing in newcomers
The Indivisible group offers lots of help and encouragement. They have a group letter writing event and a workshop in making effective calls both scheduled for March 17 at 6 p.m., and calling brigades at regular intervals. Postcards, they have found, are superior to letters, because letters get delayed for several weeks while the government checks them for anthrax. Emails are good, too, especially if they are specific and have a personal angle. Form emails are much less effective. Always, the return address is crucial, because only mail from a representative’s constituents gets logged in.
Letters to newspapers are another effective tool to reach members of Congress, and Jerry Stropnicky has prepared a guide for writing Letters to the Editor, available on the Indivisible’s Facebook. He leads the Marketing and Press Committee, who write letters and also offer help in editing letters to anyone who wishes it. Other committees include Social Media, Postcards and Emails, the Calling Brigade, Protests, and Research and Education. Members choose their area of greatest interest and brainstorm together. One goal of the Research and Education group is “diversity training” to understand better how conservatives think and how to open dialogue with them. After a month, Heisler said, “all our groups are up and running and running strong.”
One very visible activity is Lou Barletta Days, every Thursday from 2-4 p.m. at his office on Arch Street in Sunbury. All are welcome at these “Where’s Lou?” rallies. The Indivisible group tries repeatedly to set up Town Hall meetings with our 11th District Representative.
Planning is also underway for the March for Science on April 22, Earth Day. Bus seats to Washington, DC, may be arranged through the Columbia County Indivisible website and Facebook page. Plans also include a local march to be held at the fountain in Bloomsburg on April 22.
Respect for science and scientific research is a cause that matters a lot to Bryn Moore. She says that although she has voted straight Democrat for a while now, because she finds Democrats in general more supportive of science and social issues that matter to her, she has not been politically active. “Being in science, you talk a lot with like-minded people and can ignore politics’” she said. She has never wanted to deal with the politics on TV and the loud discussions of a campaign. But she feels the time has come to be more active.
Neither Stropnicky nor Benowitz-Fredericks had ever been active in politics either until post-election this year. “I find it interesting,” Stropnicky said, “to see people fired up and feeling empowered.” He likes, too, that “no one is telling you what you can’t do.”
Welcoming all to participate
To see the full schedule of upcoming events, visit the Columbia County Indivisible Facebook page and join their emailing list. Meetings are held every two weeks at the Columbia County Democratic Headquarters, at 10 E. Main St. in Bloomsburg, usually on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. Because of a scheduling conflict, the next meeting will be on Monday, March 20, instead of Wednesday, but the regular schedule will resume on April 5.
Heisler stresses that “the Indivisible group in Bloomsburg is open to everyone in Montour and Northumberland Counties and welcoming to everyone.” This holds true not only for regular meetings but also events like the Thursday “Where’s Lou?” gatherings and the bus trips. And people can participate from home by simply writing postcards and emails to their members of Congress. “We’re in this for the long haul,” said Heisler.