Charlottesville is the statewide headquarters of Virginia Organizing and also has an active local chapter.
Local residents work on a variety of issues including immigration reform, budget and tax reform, health care reform, strengthening Social Security and Medicare, and ending predatory lending — by civic engagement activities, constituent meetings with elected officials, public events, lobby days, phone banking and canvassing.
The Charlottesville/Albemarle Chapter famously fought for a living wage for city, county and UVA workers and continues to fight for local workers’ rights and social and economic justice issues, including the recently established Human Rights Commission in Charlottesville.
Since January 2017, our chapter has been active in a number of different arenas, including:
- Presenting a community workshop, Democracy 101, to teach basics of organizing.
- Providing a trip to the General Assembly involving young African Americans.
- Helping people write letters to the editor, both through regular meetings and individual tutoring.
- Attending a meeting with Congressman Garrett’s aide to urge him to protect health care through the ACA and Medicaid. (Although he promised to meet personally with us, he failed to show up.)
- Making a presentation at a local church to tell about Virginia Organizing.
- Presenting a workshop about community organizing to international students at UVa.
- Facilitating a forum featuring candidates for Charlottesville’s Commonwealth’s
- Attorney focusing on mass incarceration.
- Conducting a round-table to discuss women’s issues that largely impact African-American women.
- Hosting a workshop to assist ex-felons in finding jobs.
- Conducting voter registration at Eco Fair.
- Having a Black Caucus meeting to surface matters of concern to our African-American community.
We are now conducting voter registration at four sites on Saturdays and Sundays until the election, focusing in areas likely to have a large percentage of returning citizens who need to get their rights restored so they can vote.
We meet the first Tuesday of the month, 6:00 pm, at 1000 Preston in the Legal Aid Library. We invite you to be a part of our great chapter!
Virginia Organizing runs a major phone banking operation out of the Charlottesville office and welcomes volunteer phone bankers. Please contact Harold Folley at (434) 984-4655 x231 if you are interested in helping.
Since the office in Charlottesville also supports the growing field organizing staff across the state, we are looking for volunteers who want to provide additional support with database management, copying, mailings, and other tasks. Retirees are welcome, as are interns, community service volunteers (through the Offender Aid Restoration program) and the the Department of Social Services job training programs. Please contact Michele Mattioli at (434) 984-4655 x223.
Virginia Organizing also supports dozens of smaller organizations through its “Joint Plan of Work” program; we accept grants and donations on their behalf and provide administrative, bookkeeping and support services. Many organizations from Charlottesville take advantage of this program including Camping for All, Community Bikes, Community Action on Obesity, HYPE, and Open Source Computer Recycling, to name some.
- In 2010, the Danville Chapter of Virginia Organizing fought for federal money to be spent on the creation of a community jobs program. Congress included funding for teachers and first responders in a bill later that year.
- In 2011, the Danville Chapter organized a “North Main Hill Week of Action,” during which members and student volunteers knocked on over 1,100 doors in the neighborhood, hosted a community meeting at the end of the week, and made next steps to address problems identified during the week.
- In 2012, Virginia Organizing promoted a rental weatherization program that created jobs and lowered utility bills for renters.
- In 2014, the Danville Chapter of Virginia Organizing pushed Danville City Council to “ban the box,” removing questions about criminal history from city job applications.
- In 2014, Virginia Organizing worked with tenants on Jefferson Ave. to hold their landlord accountable for unlivable housing and financial mismanagement.
- In 2015, the Danville Chapter of Virginia Organizing worked with the Danville Police Department to publicize the citizen complaint process and availability of complaint forms.
In 2016, we started a new campaign to address the lack of students of color in advanced and Advanced Placement classes at George Washington High School. The Danville Chapter has also worked on statewide campaigns around voter registration, restoration of rights, health care, budget reform, Social Security, and more.
Through regular strategy sessions, in-depth research, and community outreach, members are engaging new people and building a strong local Chapter. If you live in the area, we’d love to have you join us!
The Fredericksburg Chapter of Virginia Organizing has been active since 2009 and has won several local victories. Early on the chapter organized with residents of a local neighborhood to get railroad cars carrying hazardous material parked outside of residential areas. The chapter also won a campaign to get people of color included in the mural of the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors meeting room to more accurately represent the population of the county. Recently, in the fall of 2016, the Fredericksburg Chapter wrapped up a campaign on the school-to-prison pipeline by changing the Memorandum of Understanding between the Spotsylvania School Board and the Sheriff’s Department to outline more specific responsibilities of school resource officers in order to ensure sure more accountability towards treatment of students of color. Right now, the chapter is working to involve more community members in our new campaign to push for solutions to the housing shortage in our area.
The chapter also has a history of working on statewide issues. Over the years we have held a funeral march for Medicaid expansion, met with Speaker of the House of Delegates Bill Howell, and even delivered a wreath to Speaker Howell’s office in order to push him towards Medicaid expansion for all Virginians. In February 2017, the chapter held a 70-person march and rally in downtown Fredericksburg where community leaders spoke about the importance of the Affordable Care Act for their city and marched to urge Congressman Rob Wittman to not repeal it. Leaders rose up to show that government sponsored health care has had a positive impact on our communities and has provided coverage for many who otherwise can’t afford a health care plan. The chapter also has a strong history of working on immigration. Latino community leaders worked with other chapters across the state to pressure the Attorney General to issue a statement discouraging local police departments from working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In the early months of 2017, the chapter partnered with other Latino community organizations to hold Know Your Rights workshops for undocumented immigrants who fear potential deportation. These workshops gave information on their rights and protective ways to interact with police or ICE agents.
The Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Virginia Organizing Chapter has been working on immigration reform issues including opposing anti-immigrant policies in the Virginia General Assembly and at a federal level, supporting comprehensive federal immigration reform and supporting families in deportation.
In 2012, the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Chapter completed a listening campaign to hear the stories of local residents affected by immigration policies and after a year of hard work, the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Virginia Organizing Chapter and other grassroots organizations urged the local Rockingham County Board of Supervisors to terminate the 287(g) contract with the Sheriff’s office and ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) and were successful. On October 24, 2012, the Board of Supervisors elected not to extend the local government’s 287(g) contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Currently, the chapter is working on a Free From Fear anti-criminalization campaign in coalition with other community groups. The Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Chapter meets every fourth Wednesday of the month at 6:30pm at the Lucy Simms Center.
The Lynchburg Chapter won our first local victory in years in early 2016 when we successfully petitioned the Board of Supervisors in Amherst County to remove discriminatory language from a county ordinance. This ordinance limited returning citizens’ ability to obtain jobs and apply for business licenses. During this campaign our leaders learned how to call elected officials, knock on doors, and make comments at public meetings.
We celebrated becoming an official Virginia Organizing chapter in April of 2017 and have begun focusing on the school-to-prison pipeline. Our chapter organized a public forum that brought more than 70 concerned community members together to discuss the high suspension rate for students of color in Lynchburg. We have had three meetings with our local superintendent and are working toward meeting with School Board members to discuss potential changes to the Code of Conduct.
In early 2012, the Martinsville/Henry County grew out of opposition to the voter suppression bills in the General Assembly. After celebrating the defeats of the worst of the proposals, the Chapter committed itself to register new voters and make sure that everyone was aware of the new voter ID requirements by reaching out to schools, churches, and neighborhoods in the region.
Since then, the Martinsville/Henry County Chapter has won Ban the Box campaigns in both the city and county. Our local governments have removed barriers to employment for returning citizens! In 2016, Chapter leaders successfully moved Martinsville City Council to pass a resolution in support of non-partisan redistricting.
The Martinsville/Henry County Chapter currently works on issues of health care reform at the national level and education issues at the local level. We’d love to see you at our next local meeting!
New River Valley
The New River Valley Chapter has been focused on chapter planning meetings and developing the first Virginia Organizing Chapter in the area. We’ve held workshops for leaders to develop community organizing skills, voter registration and community outreach opportunities, and monthly meetings to bring neighbors together to discuss what we want to see changed in our communities.
The chapter meets on the fourth Tuesday of every month at Asbury United Methodist Church (500 Stuart St.) in Christiansburg. Join us as we explore ideas for our first local campaign.
The Portsmouth Chapter began in January 2016 and is one of the newest chapters of Virginia Organizing. Their first campaign was to reduce suspensions as a part of the school-to-prison pipeline.Suspensions in Portsmouth public schools have since been cut in half, and the Portsmouth Chapter is working with the superintendent and school board to make the changes permanent through the Code of Conduct. The chapter is also working on building a new campaign around transparency and accessibility for local government.
South Hampton Roads
The South Hampton Roads Chapter of Virginia Organizing meets every other month at 7 p.m. at Thalia United Methodist Church, 4321 Virginia Beach Boulevard in Virginia Beach. We have an organizing model which focuses on training and educating people through a leadership process that develops democratic skills and builds a sense of self-empowerment to help others in their communities, the state of Virginia and nationwide. We have created issue teams so that folks can address their specific passions while standing in solidarity together in supporting each other on all issues of social justice that have been agreed upon by the chapter supporters. We are currently working collaboratively with like-minded allies on the issues of Health Care, Economic Justice and Tax Equity, Immigration Reform, Affordable Housing, Jobs, Predatory Lending, Keeping the Ban on Uranium Mining, Transportation and Voter Protection/ Suppression Issues in the cities of Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach. What’s the greatest need in your community? Please join us and find out how you can make a difference!
Our Washington County Chapter is one of our oldest! Over the years the Chapter has worked locally on literacy, anti-bullying, predatory lending, health care reform and has coordinated with the Appalachia Peace Education Center on things like anti-racism workshops. We have also organized around the Clean Power Plan, a 5-year campaign to keep hydrofracking out of the county, stopping a truck stop, and other environmental justice issues.
Recently, our Chapter has organized around economic development. We organized forums all over the county late last year to gather ideas from local people about what kind of economic development they would like to see. We also have a smaller group researching actual proposals to bring to the Board of Supervisors. These proposals would value small businesses and living wages and be an alternative to giving millions of dollars to big box stores. Finally, we have worked in the last year to organize a meeting on Immigrant Rights and a forum to hold our local law enforcement accountable to making sure all of our residents feel safe and valued.
Our oldest Chapter in the state is in Lee County, VA—where Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee meet. We won our first local campaign in Virginia Organizing’s history when we addressed the jury selection process back in the late 1990s and made sure every group—not only white residents—was called for jury duty. This has set an empowering tone for organizing in the county and all over the state since then. Our Chapter has organized around school bullying and keeping a waste incinerator from being built. We also had a major campaign in response to the opioid crisis hitting Lee County in the early 2000s, earlier than most other parts of the state. We organized and won a drug court, along with other local counties. We also organized a rally and had people in the courtroom when Purdue Pharma—the makers of Oxycontin—settled for millions of dollars.
Our Chapter has worked to hold several candidate forums with the Lee County Education Association around school issues over the years. We have also worked with our guidance departments to help prepare all students for life after graduation. We have led dismantling racism workshops all over Southwest Virginia and have fought for the last three years to get our local hospital reopened. This is tied to Medicaid Expansion, the lack of which led in large part to the closure.
The Staunton/Augusta/Waynesboro Chapter has been active in promoting the Affordable Care Act and towards the Expansion of Medicaid and closing the coverage gap. The chapter has organized vigils, rallies, and community forums to inform individuals about the ACA.
The SAW Chapter also worked to successfully “ban the box” in Staunton to support the efforts of returning citizens to contribute to society and their families by removing the question about a person’s criminal history from city job applications.
Currently, the SAW Chapter of Virginia Organizing has been actively working to encourage local hospitals to provide better communication services and access to care for deaf and hard of hearing patients and families. The SAW Chapter meets every third Tuesday of the month at 6pm at the Fishersville Library.