Get Involved, With Action Together Lakewood Area

Volunteer, grassroots activism is on a rebound in 2017. In big and small communities, ordinary people are taking on the challenge to "think globally, act locally." Figuring out how to do so has required a lot of improvisation.

Action Together Lakewood Area is a good example. The group has sponsored educational programs, community events and political advocacy projects; it holds meetings and has social media accounts. Despite which the structure of the group remains a bit loose, says Lakewood resident Sara Ridley.

Ridley founded Action Together Lakewood Area, essentially. Along with Sarah Kepple, she's now leading ATLA. But she didn't really plan on either role. After last November's election, members of the "Pantsuit Nation" Facebook group began forming local networks which eventually adopted the "Action Together" theme. As Ridley notes, even regional groups would have been too large "because 2,000 people couldn't meet" for an effective discussion.

So she posted a simple question: Does anyone in Lakewood want to meet? "I was expecting maybe 20 people," she recalls.

Instead more than 150 replies followed. When the group first met in December, at Lakewood's library, they talked for more than two hours.

The library's no-beverages policy made it something of an ordeal, an example Ridley cites when explaining how everything has been a learning process. "I think there was an assumption that I knew what I was doing," she says. People began asking her permission to pursue this or that idea; usually "I said yes, go!"

The loose approach has worked out, so far. Other Action Together groups describe themselves as a network of people, more than an organization, and Action Together Lakewood Area has readily played a supporting role in events and campaigns. Its members are active in collecting signatures for a redistricting reform measure promoted by the League of Women Voters, for example.

But Action Together Lakewood Area has found its own rhythm, also, balancing education and activism. Meetings tend to focus on learning, with a well-attended April event on refugees and immigration being one of ATLA's highlights so far.

Getting informed helps with outreach, Ridley says, whether calling a Senator's office or sharing information with the public. In June, the group took up stations outside of Lakewood's and other local libraries, alerting people to proposed cuts to library funding. Along with related efforts nationwide, public pressure succeeded in preventing most of the cuts.

In July, the group held a picnic to recharge. (Even there, several members were busy circulating redistricting petitions, or talking with passersby about pending healthcare legislation.) After looking back over Action Together Lakewood Area's first several months, Ridley briefly discussed possible future activities. Overall, though, she said that the group will remain flexible in trying to accommodate anyone who wants to get more involved. She had recently heard from a woman, for example, who wanted to know if Ridley had ideas for how she might remain active while recovering from recent hip surgery.

The answer was definitely "Yes." Which likely sums up the core mission of Action Together Lakewood Area: there is no fixed format or program, but if you want to help make a difference, ATLA will help you find a way.

Lakewood resident Matt Kuhns is a freelance graphic designer, and occasional author.

Matt Kuhns

Lakewood resident Matt Kuhns is a freelance graphic designer, and occasional author.

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Volume 13, Issue 15, Posted 5:08 PM, 08.01.2017