This is a new feature. Each month we will be featuring a different local League.
This article was submitted byJudy Bradford, Director of Administration of the South Bend League.
Recently, while volunteering at a voter registration table, another local Leaguer told me why she became a member: “When I retired, I took care of myself. Now, I know that’s important, but it seemed like that was all I was doing. Being in the League gives me something very important to do for others.”
If you asked me what I like most about the LWV of the South Bend Area, my answer would be that its members feel the organization adds special meaning and purpose to their lives.We are a diverse group of about 130 that includes people of various faiths, racial groups, gender orientation, men, retired folk as well as working people, and people of all ages -- with our oldest member being 98.They maintain their membership because they prioritize voting and voting rights, and feel strongly that their participation in democracy adds value to their own lives as well as to their community.
The seven words “I am a member of the League” packs weight in the South Bend area.Those words stand for integrity, fairness and truth, and they draw attention in any casual conversation. Our presence is felt through voter registration efforts, election-time forums and debates, and voter education through events like Lunch With the League, just to name a few things.
"I am a member of the League” also means that we are learning new things together. Last fall, for example, our voter registration teams participated in 17 different community events and took us to places in the city where we have never gone before. Places like the Kennedy Park area, where we were able to see for ourselves the numerous vacant lots left when deteriorated homes were torn down. These vacant lots remain a sore spot for our city. We also registered new or newly-franchised voters at expungement clinics which offer people a fresh start in so many aspects of life.
And at election forums and debates, questions are asked not just by sponsoring organizations, such as us, but also by individual voters who attend the events. Our town-hall style attracts people, I believe, who might otherwise stay home because they think the election has nothing to do with them. (We screen questions -- but only for readability, respectfulness and relevance.)Regular events like our monthly Lunch With the League bring local and state issues to the forefront; these presentations, with guest speakers, are open to the public and we do not turn away from controversial subjects or ones for which answers are very complex – such as homelessness, racism, or poverty.
The year 2020, and the first month of 2021, challenged us. We learned how to do League business and events in new ways, due to the pandemic, and how to keep our friendships alive online. We learned how hard it can be to remain nonpartisan. And learning is so important – because when learning stops, listening stops.“We’re here for a reason,” says Whoopi Goldberg, award-winning actress, comedian and author. “I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark.”