by James Whitely -
SGN Staff Writer
As Washington United for Marriage's Capitol Hill Action Center gears up for its July 19 grand opening, the soft opening of the center has gone well, according to Maggie Thompson, the campaign's regional field director for West King County. The center has been conducting phone banks since the beginning of this week.
'It's been really successful,' Thompson told SGN. 'People have been committing to come next week.'
The campaign opened the center on July 3 in the new space of Gay City Health Project and Kaladi Brothers Coffee. The idea was that an office in a centralized location - particularly Capitol Hill, Seattle's Gayborhood - would give the campaign high visibility in an area that's very dense with its supporter base.
'We're excited to get a storefront right in the heart of Seattle,' said Zach Silk, Washington United for Marriage campaign manager, about the opening. 'People have been clamoring for us to be on Capitol Hill where voters can get the facts, volunteers can get to work, and those looking to wear their support of marriage for every loving couple can buy a T-shirt or get a bumper sticker.'
Thompson said that the office has been getting heavy foot traffic, something they were hoping for, from passers-by as well as Kaladi patrons and people coming over from Gay City.
The center also serves as a phone-banking location for the campaign. UFCW 21 houses most local phone volunteers in SoDo, but the new center enables those on the Hill to stay on the Hill.
'For people who live and work in this area, it's difficult to get to our SoDo phone banks by 5:30,' Thompson told SGN. 'We're hoping that [it's] really going to get volunteers coming.'
On a typical night at the center, volunteers arrive by 5:30 p.m. and take part in some quick training. They then make calls, take a short break for refreshments, and then make a few more calls. At the end of the night, everyone gets together to reflect and talk about the conversations they've had, sharing both the positive and negative.
Thompson said that even when people get off the phone unconvinced, those conversations are still important.
'People [often] respond with 'I'll think about it,' Thompson told SGN. 'We've really planted a seed.'
After the first week of phone-banking, Thompson has noticed that people are leaving emboldened and motivated, especially people who've never phone-banked before.
One common reservation new volunteers have is not knowing whom they might end up dealing with over the phone. According to Thompson, volunteers at the Capitol Hill center will be talking with neighbors. Volunteers in Spokane call Spokane residents; volunteers in East King County call East King County, and so on.
'We actually have community members talking to their neighbors about marriage equality,' Thompson told SGN.
The Capitol Hill Action Center is located at 517 E. Pike St., alongside Gay City Health Project and Kaladi Brothers Coffee. Phone Banks run Monday through Thursday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Volunteers are still needed, and all are encouraged to sign up or just drop in.
The grand opening will take place on Thursday, July 19, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Representatives from the campaign will give an update and refreshments will be served. There is a suggested donation of $25 to attend. The center also plans to hold an open house during the Capitol Hill Block Party.
'If [people] care about marriage equality, this is the best thing they can do,' said Thompson. 'We have so many volunteers who are doing this for their children or their partners, or for themselves.'
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