Postcard project energizes Leisure World residents in Silver Spring -- Gazette.Net



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Martha Robinson’s hope is 100,000 postcards by Labor Day, each with a hand-written message to a voter in a battleground state urging them to re-elect President Barack Obama.

At Leisure World, the Silver Spring retirement community where she lives, Robinson said it’s not an outlandish goal. The development of 8,500 residents is known as a political hot spot, especially in an election season.

Last Friday, about 100 people filed in to a clubhouse conference room to learn what to write and how to prepare the postcards for Robinson’s Obama Postcard Project.

“I’ve never had a problem saying what I think,” said volunteer Betsy Starks, 69. “All these people are involved and what they say comes from the heart.”

The cards will be sent to the Obama campaign field office in Kensington and then on to senior registered Democrats in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida and other states. Because of the senior connection, Robinson expects many of the cards to focus on senior issues, such as social security and medicare.

A 2011 Pew Research Center study identified Americans age 65 to 83 as the most politically energized generation, demonstrated by the 2010 midterms. The same study showed people in the so-called “Silent” generation were increasingly conservative in their views.

At Leisure World, where U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington has been a frequent guest and Vice President Joe Biden visited in 2009 to talk about the administration’s health care reform plans, that’s not the case. Most residents are backing Obama, Robinson said.

Only two male volunteers came Friday, and some women in attendance said they felt more comfortable with Obama on women’s issues than likely Republican challenger Mitt Romney. The Democratic Club of Leisure World helped her fund the design and printing of the postcards.

Robinson pushed for volunteers to expand their message.

“I don’t think we’re any different than most people,” Robinson said. “Seniors aren’t limited to senior issues. I have two grandchildren through college without jobs. I care about college affordability. I think our own family experiences make us fairly typical.”

The campaign netted 30,000 postcards before the 2008 election. This year, Robinson has the help of other senior groups from the Riderwood Community in Silver Spring, the Promenade at Pooks Hill in Bethesda and groups in Chevy Chase and Potomac. Starks plans to take postcards to Colorado and Arizona, where she spends the summer, to expand the program.

State Sen. Joanne Benson (D-Dist. 24, Prince George’s County) gave a pep talk to the new participants. Rosie Engman, a volunteer with the Obama Kensington office, said the postcard concept works because it is personal and convenient.

“It’s not phoning people where sometimes you feel you are interrupting. It’s something people can do on their own time,” Engman said. “It excites people.”

The group will hold writing sessions each Friday at Leisure World. Last Friday, volunteers wrote messages such as, “Change takes more than one term,” and “Help restore America’s middle class.” One resident suggested the messages should be kept brief, to hold people’s attention.

“Something happened at my house. I got a phone call and I said, ‘Yes,’” announced Leisure World resident Shirley Bieri, who handed Robinson 30 stamped postcards before the event. “If I can do five postcards in 10 minutes, everyone can do a postcard. At the end of the day, writing checks just didn’t feel as good.”

akraut@gazette.net