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February Common Ground E-Newsletter

13 February 2015

Vote Smart’s New Key Votes Team
Left to right:

Esther Mandelbaum (Director of Key Votes Program)
Age: 28; Hometown: Wellington, Florida; B.A. in Linguistics, University of Texas.
Esther says, “I was thrilled to be able to join Vote Smart as a staffer and empower voters by giving them the clear and nonpartisan data they need to make informed decisions about their lives."

Sofia Morales (Legislative Research Associate)
Age: 22; Hometown: Monterrey, Mexico; Degrees in Anthropology and Latin American Studies, University of Texas.
Interned at Vote Smart, loved it, and has now joined staff.
Andrew Bryant (Legislative Research Associate)
Age: 23; Hometown: New Braunfels, TX; B.A. in German, University of Texas.
Vote Smart “is a great way to gain insight on the legislative process and familiarize myself with legislative writing.”
Jace Sternadel (Legislative Research Associate, Not Pictured)
Age: 24; Hometown: Corpus Christi, Texas; Political Communications, University of Texas.
Has a “passion for making a positive difference in the world by better informing citizens about legislation and the decisions their elected representatives make.”
NOT IN PICTURE: 21 Interns and 172 Key Vote Academic Advisors.

2015 Member Volunteers Signing Up!

We are delighted to report that one of the "perks" of Vote Smart membership is still one of our most popular and valuable programs:  our two-week volunteer program.

More than a perk for members, of course, is the reality that Vote Smart gets much more out of our volunteers' help in our Montana Great Divide Ranch offices than they do.  It is no relaxing dude ranch vacation.  They work 40-hour weeks, along side our staff and college interns, doing the same things:  typing, data entering, proofing, surfing (researching!) on the Internet. . . and maybe watering trees, staining porches, cooking. . . .! But it seems to be a wonderful, rewarding experience for them--so many keep coming back!

Every year we have a great mix of returning members and new volunteers.  Already this year, three couples who volunteered last summer and fall have signed up to return:  Jan and Gerry Leckrone from Michigan, Steve Schuck and Judy Mullinex (who have all volunteered almost every year for more than a decade), and Beverly and Jack Pfister from Wisconsin (who came for the first time last fall and may bring friends with them this fall)! 

Volunteers tell us one of the best parts about volunteering, besides the beautiful setting and outdoor activities at the Ranch, is meeting  and making friends with like-minded volunteers, and working along side our young staff and interns, who are very impressive future leaders.
If you can spare a couple of weeks to help Vote Smart this year as we get into the presidential election cycle, we could really use your help! Contact us at soon!


David Dean was one of our great staff members a dozen years ago. While visiting the ranch with his father last summer, he suggested that we have a reunion of former staff and we have been thinking about it. Last month we suggested a few dates that might work and about 50 people quickly signed up, most choosing a two night three day stay on August 21, 22 and 23.

So it could be on.

We say “could be” because we are just not sure yet how many people want to do this.

Vote Smart would provide pick-ups at the airports, lots of food and lodging. Beds would be provided on a first-come-first-serve basis, all coordinated by Melanie Magnotto, our fabulously talented office manager, with the help of those willing to serve on an organizing committee.

Partners and children would be welcome.

We hope to decide in the next few weeks. If you are a former staff member or intern at Vote Smart and have not yet responded, please email the following information:
Year/s worked or interned at Vote Smart
Email address
Phone number
Snail mail address
Your spouses (or partners) name and any of your children's names that would be coming with you.

We have beds for about 60 people in various combinations and of course we have beautiful grounds along the lakes and streams to house a good many more willing to bring tents. For those of you who might remember, we still have the huge Capitol tent. We just hope that someone can remember how to put it up!
Former Staff Members Brian and Jenny Smith visited and wrote:

Puppy paradise. Otherwise known to most of you as Project Vote Smart's Great Divide Ranch, but to any dog who has run free there, it is simply paradise.  All the room in the world to roam free, creeks to romp in, animals to chase, mud (and who knows what else) to roll in, Moose Lake for a swim, and so many new smells to sniff!  That's why, after our dog Bailey was diagnosed with lymphoma last year, we knew we wanted to get him back to the ranch one last time.  It didn't matter that it had been almost ten years since we had lived and worked at the PVS ranch during the 2004 election, as soon as we arrived, he was right back at home again. Memories of him following Jefferson down a trail and running with Madison after a ball that had found its way into the frigid lake waters came rushing back. He was happy, and so were we. Much thanks is owed to PVS for giving us an opportunity, over a decade ago, to help make a difference through such a meaningful organization. We made memories that will last a lifetime. Our gratitude is specifically owed to Richard and Adelaide for allowing us to relive some of these great memories and for welcoming us into their home. For Bailey it was paradise found again. For us it was a trip we'll never forget. 
Brian and Jenny
Member’s Newsletter reporting on finances and programs will be mailed out in two weeks. If you are not sure we have your proper snail mail address please let us know ASAP.

Related tags: blog, e-newsletter, key-votes, staff-members, volunteers

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