Editor’s Note: Another in our periodic surveys of local grassroots organizations, compiled by Holly Hazard. This time: Herndon-Reston Indivisible.
Herndon-Reston Indivisible’s mission is to fuel a progressive network to resist the Trump agenda while electing Democrats who support our values of transparency, inclusion, tolerance & fairness. HRI is led by a steering committee: Heidi Zollo, Carrie Bruns, Anne Alston, and Joanne Collins.
Q: Other than the 2016 election results and/or the Women’s March, what was the spark that moved you to create your organization and what has kept you engaged?
A: Heidi: Fear of living in a country governed by Trump’s values and policies. I believed that citizens had to do something to respond to Trump et al., in some way. I had an idea that Herndon and Reston election volunteers could join forces to respond against Trump and Republicans. We would organize by issues, but could respond as a group if a larger voice was needed. I pitched my idea to Carrie, and, after some brainstorming, we agreed to call ourselves Herndon-Reston Indivisible.
A: Joanne: Early on HRI began breakout Issue groups where participants took on leadership roles. Issue groups which have coalesced include: Election, Immigration, Defending American Institutions, Science & Environment, Education, Gun Violence Prevention, Economy, Healthcare, Federal Government, & Voting Rights. These groups have their own meetings monthly outside of the general meeting held each month. Each group participates in resistance activities and groups collaborate on initiatives and the whole of HRI comes together to participate in marches, letter writing, postcards, voter registrations, canvassing, phone banking, lobbying, and meeting with representatives. The HRI Issue groups partner with other local groups working on the same initiative to enhance their effectiveness. Our strongest groups are led by activists who care deeply about their issue.
Q: How have you been most surprised by your success in the past year?
A: Heidi: We anticipated no more than 50 people to join our efforts. We were completely surprised at the number of local citizens who wanted to join us. Many people were feeling as we were – anxious about the future, and the need to do something. Citizens in and around Herndon and Reston signed on to resist. Eileen Minarik, Sunset Hills Montessori School, offered her school as meeting space for our general meetings. It’s a great location and perfect meeting place. HRI’s membership has talented, creative citizens who are committed to making our community and country a better place to live for all.
A: Carrie: The number of people who continue to join Herndon-Reston Indivisible is a wonderful surprise. The talent and dedication of our volunteers is a constant source of amazement. Another unexpected surprise is that HRI is known and respected by elected officials and candidates.
Q: What has been your most joyous success and why do you think you were so successful?
A: Heidi: The November 2017 election results. Virginia’s election results were huge, beyond expectation. The goal was to win and send a message to the country that the Democrats are motivated and excited. Virginia’s energy is contagious and inspiring. The Democrats are organized and committed to winning big.
Q: What could Fairfax County Democrats do better to help grassroots groups like yours better help Democrats?
A: Heidi: After the 2016 election, there was a spontaneous uprising of grassroots groups in response to the Trump administration. These groups, while outside of the traditional party structure, are here to help elect Democrats. The party can look to these outside groups for volunteers, participation, commitment and dedication to making meaningful, lasting change. Clear, consistent communication between the party and the grassroots needs to be maintained so that efforts and values are aligned toward a common goal of electing Democrats that represent our values.
Dranesville District Democratic Committee and Hunter Mill District Democratic Committee have recognized Herndon-Reston Indivisible and its volunteers for their grassroots activities and its efforts to elect Democrats. Hunter Mill Democratic Committee awarded HRI the Martha V. Pennino Community Service Award. It is an honor to be recognized by our local Democratic Committee. Our elected officials are working together with HRI to make a difference, it’s a real partnership. We have something really special in the Herndon/Reston community, and we are proud to be part of this energized community and look forward to big wins in future elections.
Q: It can’t be all work and no play. How do you inspire your team to keep going and what does your team do for fun?
A: Heidi: We had a weekend of fun in PA-18 – a field trip to Pennsylvania to elect Conor Lamb – share the energy and excitement. Brainstorming new ideas and working out details for our next steps. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. You can’t help others, if you’re not healthy and up to the task.
A: Carrie: We had a year-end celebration, a casual get-together, after the November election at our local tavern to celebrate the success of the elections and a year of resistance.
Q: How will you be changing the world next?
A: Carrie: In order to elect candidates who represent our values, we need to increase the number of people who go to the polls and vote. In Virginia, where we have elections every year, the need to educate and find voters is ongoing.
A: Heidi: Elect Democrats. The only way out is to elect Democrats. We can resist in the short-term, but the only way to change our government is to elect Democrats to represent us in Washington, DC. Once Democrats are elected, we must work with them to get the policies that benefit our families and communities.
A: Joanne: We have pivoted to the Congressional elections of 2018. Our close proximity to Washington D.C. has allowed us to participate in many resistance activities. We have developed a plan of action in the event of a Mueller firing and remain ready to take action. We have actively worked to block the Sinclair Tribune Merger, defend the Dream Act, protect the environment, protect the ACA and advocate for Virginia Medicaid Expansion, and pushback against the NRA while demanding action be taken on gun violence prevention.
Q: It’s your turn. If you had 50 words to praise or admonish, pitch or plea, what would you say?
A: Carrie: This is a dangerous time in our country – racism, destructive immigration policies, anti-environmental policies, weak or no gun violence prevention measures, foreign influence in our elections, basically, the take-over by a group who violate our First Amendment rights with relative impunity. We need to continue to speak out, work for and donate money to those organizations and candidates who resist these assaults against our democratic institutions.
A: Heidi: Elections matter, your vote matters. The future of our country depends on citizens stepping up to get involved and vote for candidates that represent their values. Every vote matters.
A: Anne: The most surprising thing was the number of women from all walks of life that decided to run and won in the Virginia General Assembly. The willingness of so many people to canvas, write post cards, donate and most important vote for these candidates must continue. We can never become complacent again.
HRI contact information:
Holly Hazard is is a member of Mason District Democratic Committee and is on The Blue View Staff.