Archive for the ‘ACORN’ Tag

Thanks ACORN for Taking a Chance on Me

It’s pretty much official that ACORN is dunzo.  After working for the organization for a year and a half I can pretty much feel the chaos that was the debriefing conference call that happened on Sunday. All the current employees knew it was coming and there was tension in the proverbial air. Whether that air was static on a cell phone or the static of the home phone and children in the background I could feel it. I’m sorry you all had to go through it. You all have my support in whatever you end up doing in the future.

I’d like to take a minute to thank ACORN for being there for me. No, I was not a member. No, I was not going to lose my health insurance nor was I going to lose my home to foreclosure.  I was an atypical ACORN employee. I grew up on a good side of town, probably didn’t (and probably still don’t) understand everything that happens in ACORN neighborhoods, but, I wanted to organize. Or, I wanted to work for them.

Before I worked for ACORN I was a telemarketer. I was a dedicated telemarketer..well, to a point. But, I was ready to move on to something bigger and to help.  To help doing what, I don’t know. Before I applied for position with ACORN I had no (explitive) idea what a community organizer was. Mind you, this was before Barack Obama was the Democratic Presidential nominee. So, the job just sounded fun. I would work with low to moderate income communities to empower them. I googled ACORN and weighed the pros and cons of the organization.  The pros outnumbered the cons in April 2008. Yes, they had been acused on voter fraud at the time, but it did not occur in Texas so I brushed it off my shoulder.

Later on, oh boy, that was an interesting (to say the least) choice.  Weeks after I started I went off to Houston for a statewide training on our new campaign for foreclosure prevention.  It was at this point that I realized that the organization was interconnected to so many more organizations that I didn’t even know what to do. I didn’t even know what SEIU was. SEI-what? U? Learning about “organizing” people and what “organizing” entails was….hmm. I don’t know. At this point I’d like to say I’m neither pro nor con labor.  I see labor’s point and angle, but sometimes it’s just overboard. Did any of you hear about the old man in northern Wisconsin who was kept from volunteering  as a crossing guard because the crossing gaurds were unionized? Seriously!

I was not turned off by what organizing was.  I learned so much. Organizing is sales, it’s marketing, it’s PR,  it’s pushing. It’s helping. It’s….I don’t know. I never really sunk my teeth into.  To be honest I probably would be the worst organizer in the whole wide world. As I was looking for work this last go around I past up dozens of jobs with this title just because I knew I dreaded the days when I was organizing.

There were days when I “organized,” but I was never really an organizer.  I asked people to sign petitions on a side of town that I wouldn’t be caught dead in previous to my employment.  I asked people to join vocational education classes in one of the worst public housing apartment complexes in the city (I mean…even police cringe at the thought).  Seeing real organizers at work, like I did at the national convention in Detroit in 2008 was inspiring. These organizers are passionate about justice and politics in the way that I am passionate about children and poverty. While I share the passion of hope, change, progress, and the middle class, I did not share the passion to walk up and down city blocks for 49 hours a week.

When I started with ACORN I was a recent college graduate looking to serve the people of the city of San Antonio.  I spoke okay Spanish and knew how to get to my office and home.  I cried in the office when things didn’t go my way, I was scared of the media and even more scared of talking to strangers. Today,  my Spanish is better than ever, I adore driving anywhere in San Antonio, cry outside, kind of am obsessed with PR and even though am still pretty introverted am not afraid of strangers.

I have ACORN to thank for this. All because I didn’t know what a community organizer was, needed to get away from my telemarketing gig and my boss thought she needed “someone nice” in the office. So, thank you ACORN for giving me a chance. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me, for the people and for the impact that you’ve made.

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Why I Lost My Job and (seriously) Who I Blame

This is a ballsy post. I may regret it once I hit publish. However, it’s been on my mind for some five months now and only a select few who know exactly why I am jobless know my feeling about the subject. This may not be a pretty color on me. – so, please forgive me.  The subject is one, James O’Keefe and Biggovernment.com.

I chose, in the beginning of this blog to keep tight-lipped on the topic of ACORN and the issues at hand. As the topic has died down some, except for those few at BigGovernment.com and all far right winged websites and a handful of Fox News Channel reports every few weeks, I feel a bit more comfortable approaching the topic and how I feel about the organization and the “scandal.” I will not rant or rave about their coverage. This is neither the time nor the place. And I am not the person to do that.

For a quick background on why I joined the organization you can read the Non-Profit Passion.

In early September James O’Keefe and his friend, Hannah Giles, released some pretty damning footage of some of my former co-workers. I take full ownership of the subsequent videos, and will even admit to speaking and working on several projects with a few of them. It shocks and appalls me. I hate it. But, that’s not this blog entry is about. Soon after these videos were released several members of Congress announced their support in the backing of the Defund ACORN Act. This did not directly affect my position, or my grant. However, it did affect people I knew and we ran in crisis mode for some time.

This was in mid September. By mid October ACORN Housing was tangled in a web. Were they or were they not affiliated with ACORN? I still don’t officially know the answer, nor do I really care. For this reasons all relations were cut with ACORN.  Shared spaces were not shared anymore – copiers were moved, coffeemakers weren’t shared, and even hellos were a bit strained. It was a sad time, as my location was particularly friendly. Others have strained relations and do not share spaces, so no sharing spaces was not an issue.

Now, this sharing of spaces is where my position comes in. My position was a shared position. I was the contact person for ACORN but I worked for ACORN Housing. If we didn’t communicate with ACORN why was I around? Yeah. Great. Awesome. Fabulous. Stellar. What the hell am I going to do now? I did busy work for a few weeks while I started to apply for other positions. However, at some point, there wasn’t anymore busy work. I guess I rock at busy work. Is that a transferable skill?

At this point, I would like to take some time to thank James O’Keefe and all the other contributors of my misery, my heartbreak, my sleepless nights, and my new found ability to call people on their bs for this opportunity. It’s quite an honor. You have no idea how much this means to me.  Some people lose their great temporary grant funded position due to the end of their grant terms, loss of donations, or even downsizing. But, I, on the other hand can point to one 25 year old man who I have never met in my life, but has actually had the audacity to call me soulless. So, Mr. O’Keefe, or Ms. Giles if you happen upon this entry I’d greatly appreciate your help in finding a new job. Thanks 5317.44 times because that’s how much money you’ve cost me.

The Non-Profit Passion

When originally choosing to attend college my top three reasons for attending the school I did were the following:

  • 1. Size
  • 2. Distance from home
  • 3. Food

That was pretty much it. I visited Texas Lutheran University once, had an amazing meal and said, “Sign me up!” As I look back, two years after graduation and a year and a half into a non-profit career there probably were other reasons (and other forces) which guided me towards this choice. Whatever those forces and reasons were, it got me to where I am today.

As a sophomore in college I found the Wesley Foundation. It was pretty much the perfect time for me to find the United Methodist group. It started out large, but by the time I was a senior it was a core group of 5-6 people who could count on each other for thoughts, prayers, fellowship. and weekend outings. I also counted on them to find what to do after graduation.

And that’s where the non-profit journey began. With two degrees in hand (Psychology and Spanish) but no direction (much like this blog) I headed to Project Transformation where I would search for what I would do next. Of course, much like all Psychology majors, my idea of post-graduation was, “Well I’ll help people for a little bit and then go to Grad school for something…” but what would I do for that time in between? Would I be a social worker? Would I be a counselor? Would I work in HR? Project Transformation showed us how we could serve the world according to our purposes.

There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. – 1 Corithians 12:5

pt_logoThroughout the summer, this verse was explained through various “experiences.” By visiting people who were “serving” in different ways I saw that serving wasn’t just being a “social worker” or a “minister” or a “teacher.” It was very powerful, and life changing.  With the explosion of service and the increased funding for Service I recomend every college student spend at least a quarter of a term with AmeriCorps; whether it be with PT or with another organization that better suites you.

Taking these findings back home, I set out to find my way to serve according to my purpose. Oh my, did that take a long time. Student loans started to come, cell phone bills came and went and I was desperate. It wasn’t long until serving with a purpose took the backseat to making some type of money. I wasn’t going to be strong enough to play the Emerging Church enlightened follower yet. No ma’am. No sir. So, I set off to find myself, not, the job, but a job.  And I found it. I found one. As the deeded telemarketer. And I wasn’t the only college graduate who couldn’t find a job there. We all dreaded the days in and out of the cubicles, “smiling and dialing.” But it paid the bills.

I let my bosses know that I was looking for “the one.” It was like the telemarketing job and I were friends with benefits but nothing would ever come of what we were doing together. Sad, because there were ways to move up in the company. I went on several interviews, including “social worker” and “case manager” but none panned out until March of 2008. It was a dreary day in South Texas. I trekked my way downtown to an area I would never have gone before to an office building that I got lost in. And I got hired!

I got hired for “the job.” It was as a “community organizer.” I had never heard the term before and this was just before Barack Obama burst on to the national scene to tell everyone what a community organizer was. Hearing some of the things an organizer did scared me. But, it was an excited scared, not a scared scared like telemarketing did to me.  I was going to be helping people, I was going to be fighting for rights and justice and the people I wanted to help from the time I was young. I was going to be working for ACORN.

And then came elections. And I didn’t register a single person to vote. San Antonio registered a handful of people to vote, all friends of friends. But, Ohio, Nevada, and Missouri sure did register a lot more people to vote then I did. So many that the people that were funding my paycheck didn’t want to pay it anymore. And that’s when “the job” was gone.

Back to square one, back to the internet and back to prayer. And Oh my. What to do? What to do? Well. Five to ten interviews came and went with no luck. The funding still hadn’t come back…but then came the phone call. It was ACORN Housing, “NeighborWorks is going on its second year and we need someone for Quality Control. Will you do it? It’s full time. And even though it says temporary in the description, I can say it’ll last at least two year.” Score one for me! And here I am. Fully employed, serving according to my purpose, saving the world, one house at a time, and I love it. And everyone has their story. And this is mine.

Both Worlds

Today’s Topic: How amazing I am. 

Not to brag or anything. But, I pretty much am. Haha. Wait. I am. 

boratSo, I’m talking to one of my many co-workers, colleagues, cohorts, whatever at ACORN and she starts name dropping. She says, “Ashley, I’m on National Conference calls all the time. And so and so and this and that always talk about you. They say that Texas is doing so much better now that they have you. I’m so afraid that they’re going to take you away from us. It’s nice to have someone who understands both worlds.” 

Understands both worlds? I understand the world of non-profits and the world of fashion. Or at least I try to. Lo que sea amigos. I just try my best.  I go to work everyday, I turn on the computer, turn up the volumn on my music, and start answering e-mails. And I tweet. And I facebook, and I check message boards. When i get home I write one or two blog entries. And I repeat. That’s all there is to it. Nothing too serious.

So, here’s the deal. Just be yourself.  Just do what you think is the best. Whether it’s helping people, or just letting things happen, things will be alright. In the immortal words of Mylie Cyrus: 

 

There’s always going to be another mountain.

I’m always gonna want to make it move.

There’s always going to be an uphill battle.

There’s always going to be another battle.

Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose.  

 

And that’s how I see it. I may have not gotten to this point as quickly as I wanted to, I may still be living with my parents, I may have to defer my student loans until I’m 50, but you know what? I’m happy. 

Until the next time I write…hopefully soon….

 

–Ashley