Last Saturday, five friends and I laced up our sneakers and headed to First Ward Park for the Women’s March on Charlotte. According to Calla Hales, one of the march organizers, we were part of a group of about 20,000 — a staggering figure considering they originally anticipated between 500 and 1,000 attendees. (CMPD estimated “at least 10,000” people showed up Saturday.)
Normally I would avoid any event that draws a crowd that large. Amusement parks? No thanks. Sporting events? Depends on what kind of seats we’re talking about. I value personal space and I don’t want to have to deal with a bad parking situation.
But this was different. Seeing thousands of women, plus a sizable men and children contingent, marching together with plenty of enthusiasm (and clever signs) brought healing after a nasty election cycle.
Marching felt like a positive, productive way to express concern about issues like reproductive rights, racism, the environment, discrimination against members of the LGTBQ community or differently abled individuals, and a number of other topics. I’m glad I was part of it, and I’m glad Charlotte was one of the many cities in the U.S. that organized such a march.
However, continuing this momentum and taking real action in the months to come is crucial. Hales said there will be future events to look forward to, and has some advice for those looking to stay involved.
“I highly encourage people to connect with local organizations to further their community work,” she said. “I also want to remind people that as a citizen, our elected officials are in office to represent us. If any bill or ordinance is announced that you don’t agree with, let them know! Call, email, or carrier pigeon. However it gets there, let your opinion be known.”
Volunteer work is another effective way to continue to remain engaged post-march. If you’re ready to use your after-work or weekend time for something more than catching up on a Netflix show, there are plenty of groups worthy of your energy. Here are just a few of the many charitable organizations that are committed to the issues at the center of the march:
EmpowHERment pairs girls in grades 6-12 with female mentors in our community. Through this relationship, plus regular events where they get to socialize with other mentor-mentee duos, the girls foster the skills and confidence essential to healthy adult development.
Time Out Youth
The Time Out Youth Center is a safe space for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning teens, as well as their straight allies. Time Out Youth is home to a number of valuable programs, including discussion groups and social events. Parents are also able to come to the center for guidance on offering the most effective support for their kids.
Types of opportunities available: Volunteers can represent Time Out at community events, facilitate discussion groups, greet visitors and assist displaced youth. Those working directly with young people go through a careful screening process, and will need to make a six-month commitment. For more details, visit their site or contact Director of Youth Programs O’Neale Atkinson at Oatkinson@timeoutyouth.org.
Reedy Creek, Latta Plantation or McDowell Nature Centers
If you spend most of the workday staring wistfully out the window wishing you could flee your cubicle and do something outside, becoming a park volunteer is the perfect pick when you’re looking to give back. Help out with gardening, pick up garbage, assist with animal care and lend a hand during events and educational programs. No experience or equipment is necessary. To get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Boys & Girls Clubs of North Carolina
The Boys & Girls Clubs provide a positive, productive place where young people who might not otherwise have somewhere safe to go after school or on the weekends can spend their time. Kids develop important life and leadership skills through programs focused on the arts, sports and other areas of interest. Click here for details on volunteering.
Dress for Success
Dress for Success is committed to helping women in Charlotte obtain financial independence. The organization provides proper business attire so participants look and feel prepared as they head out on interviews. Clients also get access to a job center to locate available employment opportunities. Additionally, the women take seminars on crucial skills like basic computer programs, which make them viable candidates for the jobs they’re seeking.
Volunteer opportunities: Dressed for Success volunteers assist in the office, sort through clothing donations, organize events, serve as expert speakers, and provide makeup and wardrobe consultations for clients. The next volunteer orientation is Feb. 15 from 12:30-1:30pm. Click here to fill out a volunteer application.
Safe Alliance offers critical resources to more than 12,000 individuals in Mecklenburg County and Lake Norman who are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault or rape. The organization offers a domestic violence shelter, a sexual trauma resources center, and legal representation for those seeking Domestic Violence Protective Orders.
Volunteer opportunities available include: Assisting at the Clyde and Ethel Dickson Domestic Violence Shelter greeting guests, planning activities or helping out in the kitchen. You may also donate your time to the court advocacy program or in the Sexual Trauma Resource Center. Time commitments vary depending on specific volunteer duties. Click here to fill out an application.
Help create a positive experience for kids and their families who come to Discovery Place to learn and grow. Volunteers serve as room monitors, attend to office tasks, assist during special events and even present during live animal encounters. Fill out a volunteer application here.
Photo: Diedra Laird/Charlotte Observer