Relationships are the Key to Success

Cindy Changyit Levin, RESULTS Chicago volunteer
April 20, 2012

Sometimes things just fall into place.

 Late on the afternoon of Monday, April 16, I got an email from Bread for the World asking if I could ask my Congresswoman, Rep. Schakowsky (D-IL-9), to speak on the floor of Congress the following day for a “special order” of the House of Representatives to defend the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, a.k.a. “Food Stamps”). SNAP was in danger of losing $33 billion in cuts over the next 10 years. I regularly work with Bread for the World and they were aware that I am a constituent of Rep. Schakowsky and have a rapport with her through my work RESULTS. With only a 24 hour of turnaround, this was a tall request and I was intimidated because I had no idea what a “special order” was.

I was glad the Bread for the World organizer included a detailed request, which taught me that special orders are floor events wherein members can speak on a certain topic after voting ends. They often generate C-SPAN coverage. Fortunately, because of support from our RESULTS U.S. poverty staff, I felt empowered and informed enough to take RESULTS Domestic (U.S.) actions when needed (I’m primarily a RESULTS Global volunteer).

 Knowing Rep. Schakowsky’s DC staff would not be available that late in the day in the Eastern time zone, I contacted her district office directly and explained the need to coordinate this request quickly. I also sent her staff an email about the request which then they filtered to the right people. At 4PM the following afternoon, Rep. Schakowsky’s DC office called, letting me know to expect the congresswoman on the floor at 6PM or later.

I was elated! Yet the story doesn’t end there. With two hours before the special order appearance, I sent out notices to Bread for the World, to our local RESULTS email action network, through our RESULTS Chicago Facebook, and via the RESULTS Chicago Twitter. By the time the special order came up, I was live-tweeting the event with my family cheering when Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky took the podium.

Below are her full remarks (or watch the video footage of Rep. Schakowsky defending SNAP here):

“This is the richest country in the world and yet one out of five of our children is food insecure/goes hungry. That is such a moral outrage. You know the average food stamp benefit is $1.50 a meal. That’s what you get when you are lucky enough to be part of the SNAP program. And as this map shows, it’s everywhere. I actually live in a district that is considered one of the least-hard-hit by food insecurity, but that’s all relative because in the 9th congressional district in Illinois, more than 11% of the households are experiencing food hardship – the inability to put enough food on the table. And even the least of the hard-hit districts has 7% of its families unable to put enough food on the table in the richest country in the world. It’s intolerable. 

You know the headline today in Politico “Republicans Axe Aid to the Poor” makes me so sad. Who are we as a country? What are we as a country where a Republican candidate denigrates Barack Obama by calling him the Food Stamp President. I’m proud that this president wants to defend, protect, and save a program that feeds so many people. Here’s what the Catholic bishops say, “SNAP – also known as Food Stamps – helps feed millions of households. At this time of economic turmoil and growing poverty, the committee should oppose cuts in this effective and efficient anti-hunger program that helps people live in dignity. I know we’re almost out of time. I just want to say we’re asking for dignity for Americans that are struggling. The average food stamp recipient is only on it fornine months. One of the former recipients called it a “trampoline” that helps you get past it. I’m asking for dignity for Americans and saving the nutrition programs, especially the SNAP program – the food stamp program. Thank you.” 

Fielding this request through a member of Congress’s office in such a short time and seeing the desired result a lawmaker speaking on the House floor about the importance of a benefit program for low-income U.S. families that RESULTS champions every day was a new milestone for me. I’m feeling both empowered and very grateful to everyone who helped build the relationship with Rep. Schakowsky and her staff before I came to RESULTS, and provided support so that I could one day take an action like this. So, let me amend my first statement: sometimes things just fall into place, but, when they do, it’s usually because of the relationship-building we’ve put in ahead of time with members of Congress, congressional staffers, partner organizations, and our global/domestic counterparts within RESULTS! I hope for many more great “wins” like this in the future, and hope you will join us in taking action on behalf of children and families facing poverty worldwide

Note: this was re-published from the RESULTS Chicago blog