Patty Dolaway: Coming Together May Be Easier Than You Think

The Like Minded People Facebook group started with a simple conversation between two friends. We hadn’t seen one another for months due to the pandemic, but decided it was time for a socially distant visit after sharing lots of texts and emails. Connie and I had a lot to catch up on.

Written by Patty Dolaway

We had known one another for about four years. I can’t remember how we met, but I remember that when we did, we connected immediately. Connie is the kind of friend that you can enjoy spending time with every day, or go weeks or even months without talking and just jump right back in as though there was never a break in communication. Over the years, we have worked together, attended the same church, and supported P.E.O. Chapter AG, a women’s Philanthropic Educational Organization.

After initially updating one another on our families, we quickly turned to current events—COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, and our mutual support for Joe Biden in the upcoming presidential election.

Connie shared that she had put two Biden signs in her front yard and that a few days earlier a man pulled over in his truck outside her home to tell her that he liked her signs. He asked Connie where he could find one. She said he could have one of her signs and gave it to him.

While Connie appreciated this moment, she felt that she did not know many Biden supporters in the area. She struggled when her neighbors voiced their opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement or their admiration for the current president. She did not know what to say when people told her, “All Lives Matter” or “Trump is a great president.” I told her that actually, there are many progressives in our P.E.O. chapter and she was pleasantly surprised. P.E.O. is not political and we do our best to keep it that way. I suggested that I invite a few of our mutual friends to a mask-wearing, socially distant meetup in my backyard the next week. And so, we did.

Five days later, ten friends gathered for a supportive and encouraging meeting. We shared our struggles and frustrations with our neighbors that supported Trump and the hate that he spread in our country. We also shared our concerns for the nation’s poor and marginalized and our desires to do something to alleviate their pain.

“Connie shared that she had put two Biden signs in her front yard and that a few days earlier a man pulled over in his truck outside her home to tell her that he liked her signs. He asked Connie where he could find one. She said he could have one of her signs and gave it to him.”

Together we agreed that problems such as the treatment of people in immigration detention centers, the tolerance and inciting of racist behavior, and the irresponsible handling of the COVID-19 pandemic by leaders in our government (including, but not limited to, Donald Trump) were unsettling to all of us.

At the end of our meeting, we all agreed that each of us knew a few more people who could use the encouragement and camaraderie of our group, and decided we should meet again soon.

I suggested that we meet next at Memorial Park so we would have a bigger outdoor space. I promised to send details by email and text, which everyone could then share with others.

In the coming days, I realized that it would make my life easier to set up a private Facebook group to share meeting details and give us a forum for discussion and sharing facts and stories. So that evening in late September, I sat down and created “Like Minded Ladies, Franklin County PA.” The group had six members. Two days later I was surprised to see we had 241 members. 

It quickly became obvious that this group was not just about getting Joe Biden and Kamala Harris elected (which we did). It is about promoting progressive ideas in Franklin County. It is about finding our voices and identifying where change needs to happen. It is about recognizing that there is systemic racism, poverty, and food insecurity in Franklin County.

We had our first meeting at the park the following Sunday, with over 60 women attending, including Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Representatives of the Women’s Democratic Club of Franklin County and the Franklin County Democratic Committee came with campaign signs and literature.

Darcie Grunblatt, a field organizer for the Biden campaign, drove over from her base in Huntingdon to speak to us. That evening when I opened our Facebook group, I could not believe that we now had 360 members! Something was ready to happen.

We shared stories on Facebook and invited members. We scheduled more Sunday afternoon meetings and grew our membership. Over the next few weeks we had speakers, including local attorney, Theresa Yaukey who spoke about election law,  Alice Elia, Chambersburg Borough Council President, who spoke about running for local office, Dr. Alison Dagnes, Susan Spicka, Caroline Dagne, Youth Representative on Chambersburg Borough Council,  and Bob Ziobrowski, Franklin County Minority Commissioner. We changed the name of our group to “Like Minded People” to be inclusive of all progressives. Our group grew to 808 by election day.

An additional 100 members joined between election day and November 20th. It is now the end of January and our group is 1,064 strong. And STRONG we are! It quickly became obvious that this group was not just about getting Joe Biden and Kamala Harris elected (which we did). It is about promoting progressive ideas in Franklin County. It is about finding our voices and identifying where change needs to happen. It is about recognizing that there is systemic racism, poverty, and food insecurity in Franklin County. It is about helping each other find our voice and knowing there are Like Minded People closer than you may think.

For more information about  “Like Minded People, Franklin County PA” on Facebook, send an email to LMPFranklinCounty@gmail.com.

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