When Elkhart Community Schools needed to gain voters’ support for a multi-million dollar project, the district relied heavily on a political action committee led in part by two moms.
Yes4Elkhart launched its website officially in February, but even before then the group encouraged voters to say “yes” to the school corporation’s referendum on its Facebook page.
Now that the referendum is over, Yes4Elkhart organizers Julie Bird and Tanzie Nielsen don’t want to lose the audience they say is extremely engaged and interested in what’s happening around Elkhart.
“We have this Facebook page with 1,700 friends...it would be silly not to take advantage of that and use that platform for good,” Bird said.
So, the women re-branded Yes4Elkhart into Good4Elkhart.
Disbanding a political action committee
Since Yes4Elkhart was a political action committee formed to encourage residents to vote for Elkhart Community Schools’ referendum, the group has to go through official steps to disband.
The group’s final report, once submitted to the county elections division, will include details about how much money Yes4Elkhart raised and how much it spent.
Bird and Nielsen said any extra money Yes4Elkhart collected during the referendum campaign (they estimated the extra would amount to between $1,500 to $2,000) will be donated to the Elkhart Education Foundation
Their goal is to spread the word about good things happening in Elkhart, engage the community in respectful conversation about issues of interest to residents and promote nonprofits that are working to improve the city.
That, and help people find their lost pets.
“Right now we are a communication vehicle,“ Bird said ”We don’t want this to be the liberal page or the conservative page or the Democrat page…we want it to be the Elkhart page.“
She admits that goal might be naive, but Bird and Nielsen say they will do their best to make sure everyone has an equal voice on the online forum.
Specifically, they hope to involve residents of every race, culture and financial status.
”We want anyone to feel like they can approach us to shine a light on something happening,“ Nielsen said.
These positive stories or pleas for help don’t need to be school-related.
Good4Elkhart has an informal relationship of mutual trust and respect with Elkhart Community Schools, but Bird and Nielsen added they are still willing to help parents deal with school-related issues.
”We are still advocates for the school system, but on the other hand if parents need assistance communicating with the school, I would go to bat for the parents too,“ Nielsen clarified.
She said that through working on the Yes4Elkhart campaign, she’s learned more about how Elkhart school officials make decisions, and she now realizes that those decisions aren't made flippantly.
”We've all been guilty of being mad at the schools for one thing or another,“ Bird said.
”But I no longer assume that it was an easily made decision,“ Nielsen added. ”There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes, and (school officials) are not out to get parents or out to get students.“
If you have good news to share about Elkhart, send a private message to Bird and Nielsen through the Good4Elkhart page.