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Election 2018

Volunteers make a difference

VOLUNTEERING MAKES SENSE: Nancy Quiñones, left, and Elicia Bent prepare for home visits to discuss the midterm elections with members. They work full-time and are VMOs, volunteer activists.
By DIANE S. WILLIAMS

Nancy Quiñones and Elicia Bent hold down full-time jobs at the Housing Authority yet find the time to volunteer with the union and reach out to other members, engaging them in one-to-one conversations at home and at work.

“I go door-to-door helping members learn about benefits the union has to offer,” said Quiñones, a Local 371 member and community coordinator at New York City Housing Authority for 18 years. “Members are surprised to see us at their door. We bring them valuable union information and answer their questions and talk about candidates the union endorses.”

“I help members see the bigger picture,” Quiñones said. “Unless you are involved, you won’t be part of the change we need. By volunteering, I contribute to strengthening the labor movement at a time when workers are under attack.”

Filling a personal void

Elicia Bent, a 20-year NYCHA employee and Local 371 member, often accompanies Quiñones. “At a critical time in our country’s history, I wanted to fill a void in my life by participating,” Bent said of why she got involved. “When Political Action asked me to become a Volunteer Member Organizer (VMO), it just made sense.”

“A growing number of DC 37 members who work full-time are VMOs. They contact thousands of union members at worksites and at home, hear their concerns and listen to what’s on members’ minds,” Jeremy John, the union’s political action director said.

“They advocate for union-endorsed candidates and are part of a growing network of concerned voters who make a difference,” he said.

John added: “I credit our VMOs for the union’s victory last year against a Constitutional Convention and for the large turnout of union members in the September 2018 Primary.”

“I try to see the good in everyone but I don’t like President Trump. He polarizes people. That’s why I volunteer,” Bent said. “We have to elect people who want to help us­ — not hurt us.

“We can’t expect to get everything we want,”said Bent, “but we can support candidates who understand our needs and concerns as working people. Volunteering makes a difference!”

“Volunteering is personally rewarding for me,” said Quiñones. She recently rang a member’s door bell and the woman answered in tears.

“She told us she just had surgery and she could barely walk or talk; she was so weak. She needed medication from Walgreens. It broke my heart that she had no one to help her,” said Quiñones.

The two volunteers helped get the member medicine and soup. They also set her up and made her comfortable in her apartment.

“I know what we did meant a lot to her,” Quiñones said. “God puts you in places for a reason. A fellow union member was in need and I was there to help her. We made a connection. It’s about caring and solidarity. We help each other.”

To sign up as a Volunteer Member Organizer, please visit https://wptest.dc37.net/PAC/political or call the Political Action Dept. at 212-815-1550.

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