Written by Bethany Howell of La Puente Home in Alamosa, Colo, one of the organizations that hosts a Hunger Through My Lens project. Though an official advocacy day at the Capitol was postponed, Bethany and her co-worker John had already made the trip and were able to meet personally with their legislators. Below is her reflection of the day.
John and I had been excited about this advocacy training ever since it was announced. While we enjoyed meeting the Hunger Free Colorado staff, we were pretty disappointed that the weather kept almost everyone else away and meant that our long-anticipated training and advocacy day would have to be cancelled. We both were incredibly happy to learn that our San Luis Valley representatives would still be able and willing to meet with us. Two Hunger Free Colorado team members, Marion and Cate, gave us a thorough idea of what to focus on in our conversations so I felt pretty comfortable on the big day.
Our lobbyist connection, Scott, and Cate, Hunger Free Colorado’s public policy director, stayed by our side throughout both conversations, shepherding John and I to the correct chambers, facilitating the maze of etiquette, and jumping in when we stumbled a bit on the correct legislation to reference. Our first conversation, with Senator Larry Crowder, quickly proceeded from greetings to “How’d you like to spend some time on the floor?” I jumped at the invitation – it’s not every day you’re offered the opportunity to watch bills being debated and state senators all in one room. Not only was I excited to be in the thick of the action, I was grateful that we weren’t seen as annoying or sycophantic constituents – but as valid members of our community. Senator Crowder spent a few minutes with us outside the Senate chambers while John explained our presence at the Capitol. The Senator’s kindness and genuine care for our community was obvious to both of us and made it much easier to speak openly about the need for his and other government assistance with SNAP/food stamp benefits.
Our next conversation, with Representative Vigil, went even more smoothly. This time, I felt practiced enough to discuss the upcoming legislation without Scott’s help. Representative Vigil’s same genuine and caring attitude dispelled much of my anxiety about being perceived as a nuisance. John and I are lucky. Our legislators are old hands in government, as well as two of the nicest people you could hope to meet. When all of you feel that you’re on the same team, the awkwardness of “disturbing” government processes disappears. The desire to help your community is a strong bond.