I signed up for a 4-hour shift as a volunteer canvasser in the Shiloh Baptist neighborhood on Saturday July 10th. The goal was to learn what is on the hearts and minds of people in the neighborhood.
The GCC volunteers met at noon in the basement of Shiloh Baptist Church and received a warm welcome from their Pastor Rev Dr Lisa Goods. Our first hour consisted of a box lunch and background and training on what we were about to engage in. We were given a script, a list of questions to ask. A starting point for a deeper conversation.
GCC has targeted 5 Cleveland neighborhoods where GCC members have a congregational presence and voter turnout is low. The goal of the canvassing is to learn about the people in the neighborhoods. We want to understand what is on the hearts and minds of people in the neighborhoods. The goal is not transactional. We are not asking the people we met to do something. For example, we are not asking them to vote. We ask: Do they vote, what is their voting experience? We asked about the Covid vaccine. My favorite part of the conversations was to ask, “If YOU are elected mayor of Cleveland, what is the first thing you would do to improve the neighborhood?” The plan is to return to each of the neighborhoods a total of 3 times before the November election.
The volunteers consisted of members of GCC congregations throughout the city, any interested volunteers, and members of the host congregation. Visiting Volunteers are paired with a member of the host congregation. A person who lives in the neighborhood where we were canvassing. I was paired with an amazing woman who belongs to Shiloh, Baptist 10 years my elder, but who was energized by love and joy, and we enjoyed each other’s company very much. (I will be 70 on my next birthday, fyi, so you know how old she is, but you would never guess it!). Over the next 2 and a half hours, we knocked on over 25 doors, had deep conversations with 8 people, 3 of which agreed to be neighborhood captains to support voting efforts. During the last 30 minutes, we returned to make sure our records of our conversations and other data were legible and accurate, and heard the final totals of the efforts of our 7 pairs of volunteers. We each shared a story or 2. One person told of a young Muslim man who was initially disinterested in talking, but after proceeding with our script he became engaged, finally saying,” I will surely support your efforts. To see a people in an organization walking in the neighborhood to learn what is important to people is the kind of work that should be happening everywhere.”
I encourage all my fellow congregants to consider signing up for July 24, 31 or August 7. GCC is offering us a way to contribute to our community in a personal and meaningful way. GCC’s Battle for Democracy is just what it says. Please contact me if you would like to discuss this further. Ljalbright@hotmail.com cell 216 299 3064
Date/Location of Canvassing volunteer opportunities *
July 10th Shiloh Baptist Church, 5500 Scovill Avenue, 12:00pm-4:00pm
July 24th Elizabeth Baptist Church, 6114 Francis Avenue, 9:30am-1:30pm
July 31th Lee Harvard (Location TBD), 9:30am-1:30pm
August 7th Antioch Baptist Church, 8869 Cedar Avenue, 9:30am-1:30pm
sign up here