Turnout triples for local women’s group dinner

BY CALLEY HAIR   Of the News-Times, November 26, 2016

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Nancy Campbell Mead (left) and Sheila Swinford smile at the Central Oregon Coast National Organization for Women annual dinner Thursday, Nov. 18 at the Deep Sea Café in Nye Beach. Turnout was three times higher than expected, a surprise the women attribute to concern over the recent election. (Photo by Calley Hair)

NEWPORT — Every year, the Central Oregon Coast chapter of the National Organization of Women (NOW) holds an annual dinner. And every year, the event draws around 30 people, said Oregon NOW board member Nancy Campbell Mead.  

But this year, about 90 people showed up to the Nov. 18 gathering — just 10 days after President-elect Donald Trump earned 290 Electoral College votes to Hillary Clinton’s 232 in an upset unforeseen in virtually every poll leading up to Election Day.   It’s not a coincidence, Mead said.  

“It was the first woman to be on a ticket, and everyone thought she was going to win,” she said. “You wake up the next morning, and it’s Donald Trump.”  

For the 42 percent of female voters across the nation who voted to “Make America Great Again,” that was good news. But for many of NOW’s newcomers, it was a blow — if a wakeup call to get involved at the community level.  

“Like many, I was really disheartened by the rhetoric during his campaign. Especially the sexism and the racism ,” said Cheryl Brown, a NOW newcomer and oceanographer at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in South Beach. ”I decided I needed to be involved more locally.”  

The mother of an 11-year old girl, Brown said she knew her daughter had been following the election closely and was discouraged at the results. But she also knew her daughter would watch at how Brown responded in the aftermath of the news.  

“She’s definitely been paying attention,” Brown said. “It’s just clear that we still have work to do.”  

After sharing a post about the Nov. 18 gathering on Facebook, Brown ended up attending with 12 other local women.  

“There’s someone who works at the community college, someone who works at the school district, there’s some Hatfield folks, a writer … someone who owns a small business,” Brown said. “All walks of life.”  

National headlines might have spurred triple the usual turnout at the dinner, but most of what NOW does is geared locally, said Sheila Swinford, the chapter’s president.  

“One of the most powerful things I think can happen is this community building, where we’re able to talk to each other and decide to get some things done.”  

The unexpected turnout at the Nov. 18 dinner was inspiring, if a little inconvenient — with almost 100 people packed into Nye Beach’s Deep Sea Café, it was hard to hold a constructive conversation, Swinford said.  

As a result, the group will hold another meeting Tuesday, Nov. 29, a potluck at the Newport High School Library where they’ll incorporate the new faces into the group and reassess their goals looking toward 2017.  

She’s expecting between 90 and 100 people.  

“It was a response. We normally don’t have a regular meeting in the same month a regular dinner,” Swinford said. “We were taken by surprise at the annual dinner, but it was wonderful, and we were very happy.”  

The typical group meeting usually involves a speaker with expertise in some specific topic, like immigration, reproductive health, homelessness , sexual assault, gun legislation — anything members want more information on the issues.  

“We’re really focused on issues that may be important to everybody,” Mead said, “but especially interesting to women.”  

In the future, the group plans to send a couple members to the “Women’s March on Washington” at the nation’s capital Jan. 21, 2017, and to the coordinating event in Portland.  

Central Oregon Coast NOW members pay $35 in annual dues, Mead said. Individuals don’t have to be card-carrying members to get involved with the group’s projects.  

“It’s really important to think, as citizens, what do you want?” Swinford said. “It isn’t some sort of formal, disciplined kind of thing. Let’s work together.”  

Contact reporter Calley Hair at 541-265-857 1 ext. 211 or chair@newportnewstimes.com.

 

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