By Kathleen E. Carey, Delaware County Daily Times. 3/19/17
MEDIA >> Hundreds came out to Media Providence Friends School Saturday afternoon to peruse the dozens of social activist organizations on display to see which ones piqued their interest enough to get involved.
The brainchild of Ellen Morfei, the Take Action, Give 5 Fair was meant to match the 36 organizations spanning from the political and environmental to the social service and civic groups with individuals with accompanying passions and skills.
The fair comes as concerns increase about Republicans’ push to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a plan that see millions lose coverage amid higher costs, as well as the sweeping cuts to social services laid out this week in President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint.
During the summer, Morfei attended the People’s Convention at the Arch Street Meeting in Philadelphia, which featured a large amount of progressive organizations with breakout sessions.
“But, it was a little overwhelming,” she said.
At one point, another attendant suggested, “Make a decision to make a commitment to give five hours a month to one organization whose mission speaks to you.”
In the weeks that followed, Morfei wished there was a mechanism for individuals to refine their desires to commit their passions and become engaged with activist organizations.
Hence, the “Take Action, Give 5 Fair” was born – where people are encouraged to commit to something that stokes their interest for five hours a month.
“It’s not just matching mission where you care about, but where the organization has the need and you have the skill set to make a match,” she said. “It’s really meant to be matching.”
Morfei explained that it’s a way to create sustainable impact.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to be able to put your passions to work in a way that is fulfilling but also practical for your life and that’s really what we’re looking to do here.”
At the Family Promise of Delaware County table, they were offering fortune cookies to convey their message. Inside each cookie was a link to their website, dcihn.org.
Working with faith communities and other organizations, Family Promise offers temporary housing for homeless families. How it works is these partners house the Family Promise clients for one week, providing housing and meals throughout their stay.
Lori Ackerman, Family Promise executive director, was at the Take Action Fair Saturday with her daughter Brie, hoping to recruit hosting partners and volunteers.
“We’re definitely looking for volunteers, we’re looking for if any host congregations are interested in hosting families,” Ackerman said. “Usually, it’s a week at a time, you can do it one week a year, you can do it four weeks a year. It really gets your congregations involved.”
Her daughter also has been volunteering with Family Promise since she was 4 years old.
“I like that a lot of the kids will ask their parents what we do,” the 10-year-old said. “When we get to some churches, they’ll have toys out for them.”
For those a little tired out from all the social action, there was Self-Care for Activists.
Founder Amy Jackson explained how she conceived of the idea two months ago.
“I was feeling overwhelmed myself with everything going on and I felt like there wasn’t enough outlets for people to figure out how to decompress and relieve some of their anxiety so they could keep going and avoid burnout,” she said.
Using a European model, the group encourages activists to try different forms of self-care from yoga to mindfulness to see what works for them.
On Saturday, the group was offering a free yoga class after the fair, while during the event they packed 15 refugee hope boxes for Operation Refugee Child.
From there, the boxes were to be placed in special backpacks, then shipped out to refugee camps.
On Saturday, Jackson was participating so she could interact with others.
“It’s really important in self-care to connect with other people so … getting input from people in the community that could help out running some of the groups … was kind of my main focus,” she said.
Voices Inc. is based in Media. The organization focuses on creative healing for adult female survivors of sexual and domestic violence. They are hoping to expand it to include male survivors as well.
Melissa Lucchesi founded the group in 2009, two years after she herself was raped by a stranger.
“It was life-shattering for a while,” she said, adding that over time, she learned how resilient she is.
She also gained other insights.
“I realized that we have a lot of talk therapy and a lot of legal support for survivors, but then we expect survivors to just go on, live your life,” she said. “To me utilizing healing yoga and art is a big part of my survival.”
Voices’ work is to help survivors of sexual violence find healing holistically and to educate the community to create more understanding for survivors’ experience.
Lucchesi said she’s channeled her traumatic past in creating this organization with the intent “to give people hope that they can get through it. I know that I live a better life now.”
Paloma Sonzogni of Philadelphia stopped to sign up to work with Voices Inc.
“It seems like what I do in my professional life,” the project manager said.
She said she heard about the Take Action fair at an ACLU event last week.
“It’s a good starting point,” she said, pleased she was planning to help this group. “It’s such a great cause.”
As were so many at the fair including Court Appointed Special Advocates.
“We just want people to volunteer,” said Jacquona Blackwell, CASA case supervisor and development director. “We need more people willing to be advocates for children who are in foster care.”
In Delaware County, she explained there are 1,000 children in the court system. There are only enough CASA advocates for 20 percent of them annually.
“We don’t have the manpower to care for every child that needs it,” she said. “Hopefully, people will be interested in helping out in some way.”
Blackwell said volunteers have to go through background clearances and then complete 36 hours of training – and they have to be compassionate and consistent.
“A lot of the children, they don’t have a consistent adult who will stick with them the whole time so just be there,” she said.
In addition to volunteering, Blackwell was also promoting CASA’s Second Annual Superhero 5K run and walk at Ridley Creek State Park on April 30.
She said people can walk, they can run, they can bring their dogs – they can dress up too, all for the cause of helping kids.
“Every child needs a hero,” Blackwell said, “but abused and neglected children need a superhero.”