Action For a Better Tomorrow group forms
What started in mid-November as a social gathering of 20 Elmhurst residents concerned about the future has turned into an organized group of nearly 700 (and growing) progressive political advocates determined to make a difference.
Action for a Better Tomorrow-Elmhurst offers a forum for discussion and strategizing on politics and policy, with the goal of improving our community, state and nation.
Kirsten Powers, an Elmhurst resident with experience in planning, development, fundraising and business development, saw that this was a unique moment in time.
“At that first meeting, you could feel the palpable emotions and a desire to act,” she said. “We talked about standing up for what we believe this country was founded on: a democracy that guarantees rights and freedoms for all people, as well as a better future … a better tomorrow … rather than returning to a past of neglected schools, the environment, healthcare and economic opportunity.”
Recognizing from campaign season which issues would come under attack, ABT-Elmhurst volunteers stepped up in the first month to form a 12-person steering committee. In less than four months, the organization has grown to 700 members and nine committees focusing on issues important to the group. The state organization of Action for a Better Tomorrow – a 501c4 that is 35,000 members strong — provides advocacy tools to 20 Illinois chapters, from contact lists of local elected representatives to training for members who are learning how to be politically active for the first time.
“One of the goals of ABT is to inspire and educate more progressives to run for office at all levels, from school board and township offices to state positions,” said Powers. “We’re also reaching out to the next generation, tomorrow’s leaders and voters, to get them actively engaged in politics and policy.”
In December, ABT-Elmhurst rallied to encourage District 205 administrators to publicly promote inclusion, respect and safety in all schools; participated in letter-writing campaigns advocating for issues jeopardized by the Trump administration; led phone campaigns asking for transparency in the new administration; and wrote letters of support to area mosques and the Muslim community.
“In response to one of my letters, I received a lovely note back,” says Patricia Motto, ABT-Elmhurst steering committee member. “Then a few weeks later, two men and a very sweet boy showed up at my door with a thank you note, a box of chocolates and an invitation to their mosque’s open house. It was such a lovely gesture, and was one of those moments that can restore faith.”
ABT-Elmhurst’s committees have begun to dig into issues such as healthcare, civil rights, education and the environment. Members of the Immigration and Refugees Committee rushed to O’Hare Airport in the first days of the administration’s travel ban to participate in civil protest, offer legal assistance to those in need, and organize Know Your Rights training for Latino communities. ABT hosted a representative from Muslim Advocates to discuss discrimination toward the Muslim community and ways to combat hate, and a director from Erie Neighborhood House to discuss immigration and deportation issues. Last month, the Political Arena Committee hosted a member meeting with Greg Bales, community outreach coordinator for Senator Dick Durbin, who spoke about effective political engagement.
At each monthly meeting, members are encouraged to bring donations for a designated non-profit. Proceeds have benefitted DuPage PADS (clothing and personal care items), Erie Neighborhood House preschool (books) and the ACLU.
Future plans for ABT-Elmhurst include meeting with U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL 5th District); organizing groups to attend the March for Science and People’s Climate March; media training; speakers on environmental, LGBTQ, violence prevention and media topics; and enlisting volunteers to work as registrars and precinct chairs to Get Out the Vote in 2017 and 2018.
Regardless of politics or party, ABT encourages citizens to:
● Learn the issues – locally, at the state level and nationally. To do so, seek out non-partisan, unbiased, independent news sources.
● Get involved. Pick an issue that resonates with you – from education and LGBTQ issues to disabilities and wealth inequality – and find an organization that can direct you to further action.
● Know your voice counts. Roughly 43 percent of eligible voters sat out the 2016 presidential election. It is estimated that a half million people attended the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. More than 400,000 people donated to Planned Parenthood in the three months following the election. Whether you choose to march, sign petitions, call or write elected officials, or vote, know that your efforts count.
For more information, contact Action for a Better Tomorrow-Elmhurst at firstname.lastname@example.org.