Recently there has been a lot of finger pointing and blame going around regarding the state of affairs at Equality Maryland. What has been lost in the discussion, however, is the truly dedicated staff that has worked with myself and other volunteers this past legislative session.
Often working without sleep or food; barely seeing loved ones. Stress. Constant unknowns. Such was the life of Equality Maryland staff during this past tumultuous session. Phone banking, canvassing, stop and dials, lobbying, hearings — there was always something to do. Or rather, there was always too much that needed to be done. Volunteers. Politicians. Members. There were so many personalities and capacities. Many volunteers signed up but did not show up. Some just talked and did not work. Politicians told staff one thing and did another. Plans and actions were constantly thrown out the door and re-worked as politicians delayed hearings, re-scheduled meetings or wavered in their support.
Members were apathetic, couldn’t be bothered, or were so annoyed by calls asking for their advocacy that they threatened to withdraw their support entirely. It was as if the staff couldn’t win. Whatever they did, someone would be upset; something would inevitably go wrong. Yet, they plowed on, through bone-achingly freezing mornings organizing outside; through hours of seemingly endless driving to canvasses, to trainings, to stopping strangers and asking for support; through night after night huddled around phones and computers, subsisting on caffeine and bad food, and stuck with their co-workers, who, no matter how nice, could be draining after 15 hours of having to share a small, tense office space.
Working for a small non-profit is hard. You will be underpaid, overworked, rarely appreciated and expected to meet standards of perfection that people rarely apply to big businesses. Turnover is understandably high. Sustainable funding is scarce. Yet, this is not an excuse for incompetence. With the help of small groups of professional volunteers, the staff of Equality Maryland did their jobs and did them well. I do not know the executive director or the board or the LGBT caucus. What I do know is this: Having been involved with Equality Maryland since 2004, I have never seen the staff as dedicated and hard-working as this past year.
I do not pretend to speak for anyone other than myself but I do believe that others hold similar sentiments: Whatever the fate of Equality Maryland, I am proud to have served alongside the staff, getting ever closer to a more just and equal future for Maryland. You know who you are. Thank you.
Rachel Zipper was a volunteer coordinator for Equality Maryland in Anne Arundel County and has been involved with the organization since 2004.