For many years, POWER (Parents Organizing for Welfare and Economic Rights), an Olympia Welfare Rights non-profit organization has worked tirelessly to educate our community on the struggles and strengths of low-income parents in our community, and to fight the stigma tied to parents on welfare.
Monica Peabody, former Executive Director of POWER, has led many workshops at various venues around town for decades, dispelling myths about who is poor and why.
The mission of POWER is more than education and fighting the stigma against poor families. We aim to provide a place where low-income parents can build community and increase their assets by relating to one another, fighting self-stigma and realizing that they are not alone.
It hasn’t been easy over the years to keep POWER running as an organization. Many members, allies, businesses and donors in our community have stepped up to offer various forms of support: volunteer work, free pastries to take to Outreach at the DSHS office, money and food donations, tech help and not the least of these: childcare.
We live in a culture that claims that poor people should lift themselves up by their bootstraps. We have had to fight to dispel the stubborn myth that families and community members should do it all on their own. We have had to fight for the now radical idea of an interdependent community.
One of POWER’s most instrumental and helpful supporters, from the beginning, has been Works In Progress. I recently perused the archives of WIP and found many poverty articles and announcements about POWER events.
“We have promoted our events in WIP, using it as an organizing tool. We wrote recaps from actions and generally used it as a tool to educate the larger community about the realities of poverty, “ Peabody recalled. “When big changes happened internally in our organization, we used WIP as a platform to announce these changes.”
One example of this occurred in 2005 when our former organization Welfare Rights Organizing Coalition underwent a takeover by some board members in Seattle, firing staff without consulting the members. WROC members formed a new organization, POWER, to continue WROC’s important work.
We submitted an article called ‘What’s up With WROC’ that was super helpful in letting our community hear our story as they had valued and supported our work for so many years. “It also saved me from having to tell the awful story time and again because it was emotionally painful,” Peabody remembers.
Frank Hoffman, a local union member and activist, used to write informative and moving articles about WROC for WIP. Frank always came to WROC events as a representative from the Union until one day he declared, “Oh heck, I’m a WROC member.”
Peabody said, “But that is the great thing about WIP, anyone can submit articles to them. And Frank loved WROC, loved our message and wanted to help us educate the community and WIP was a great vehicle.”
The long-standing relationship of solidarity between POWER and WIP continued into current times. We have used WIP to announce our events and changes, most recently our new decision to reinvigorate the Olympia Childcare Collective.
For POWER and many local non-profit organizations, WIP’s coverage has been important, especially in our early years.
For more information about POWER and how to get involved, or for information about your rights at DSHS, please call (360) 352-9716.
Laura Downing is a current POWER board member. She has worn many hats at POWER and before that WROC since 2003.