Grunt Work

I was in Philadelphia last April, helping out at the offices of the Adult Congenital Heart Association (ACHA) as they prepared for Lobby Day 2010.  On Lobby Day ACHA members – joined by members of the Children’s Heart Foundation and Mended Little Hearts – gathered in Washington, DC to visit the US Capitol. Our goal was not a sight-seeing trip, but to visit our legislators and convince them to fund Congenital Heart Defect provisions of the new healthcare law.

Knowing the ACHA office would be swamped with work (we had a total of four people in the office at that time) I volunteered to come to Philadelphia a few days early and help out any way I could. Unusually enough, “any way I could” turned out to be…

…. copying, sorting, and stapling.

Wow – that was a classy assignment there, Steve. They must not have needed that much help, after all!

Hardly. The ACHA staff was still setting up appointments with the legislators or their staff when I arrived. 48 hours until we left for DC; 72 hours to Lobby Day, and things hadn’t fallen into place yet. When we weren’t making appointments we were on the phone with our Advocacy Director working out final details. There was also a small crisis with the host hotel that wasn’t resolved until the last moment.

Making legislative appointments for 100+ attendees, smoothing things out with the hotel, working with the Advocacy Director to make sure things were just right… I don’t know how to do any of those things. So I was copying, and folding, and sorting, and stapling – so that the people who do know how to do those things didn’t have to worry about it. Or stop what they are doing to do it.

It’s “grunt work” – the repetitious, mindless type of job that no one wants to do. Everyone there could have done it, but they had skills that I don’t have, so I did the job. My best guess is that I handled 500+ separate sheets of paper. If you attended Lobby Day 2010, your informational sheets were assembled by me. (Don’t worry, I washed my hands!)

This is what advocacy for any worthwhile cause is – the willingness to do the little tasks, the grunt work, the behind the scenes activities that makes everything flow smoothly.

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One Response to “Grunt Work”

  1. Amanda Says:

    I can’t agree more. In my work with HRH and now the Children’s Heart Foundation, it’s more about telling every person who crosses my path about CHD than bending the ear of anyone with influence.

    I launched HRH with the sweat and tears of a massive garage sale. Hard work, hard work, hard work, that led to our first ever conference in MN and had the snow ball effect of inspiring Valerie to run a much classier and more successful fundraiser than the church basement garage sale.

    We all have to start somewhere, and I’m so grateful to every grunt who heaved and helped get that first one going. With over 700 members and now two conferences to count, we’ve made a difference. Sweat isn’t the small stuff – it’s the perspiration that makes aspiration possible.

    Also, we just tapped the HRH constituency to help CHF with their advocacy in the DC area this coming week. It all adds up, and it’s all connected. Without the grunt work, we’d get no where.

    Yay for you!!!

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