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Community and ESTHER Connections

Contributed by Kathy Weinhold

When I initially joined Esther it was at the recommendation of someone who attended my church. My initial interest was in the prison justice reform group, and I eventually became aware of the Oshkosh ESTHER group. As I live in Oshkosh, I decided to check it out, and I’m so glad I did!

At the first Oshkosh ESTHER group meeting I attended I was warmly welcomed. Compared to the large prison reform group, this smaller-sized group appealed to me. Each person in the group was able to share their ideas, comments and concerns all along the way in the process of working through issues.  At subsequent meetings I found it’s always that way.  The folks recognize that everyone brings something different to the table.  We all know it’s often who you know, and among them they have great connections.  Everyone’s input is greatly encouraged.

I found out that the folks were from varying faiths and different backgrounds, and all were knowledgeable and up-to-date in regard to the issues and other organizations in our Oshkosh community. It’s a well-rounded collective of people.

The group was in the midst of advocating for free bus transportation for students attending Oshkosh Area Public Schools when I first participated. They saw a legitimate problem in Oshkosh and set out to address it. The group had been working on this goal for years, and I was impressed with their determination to achieve their goal. 

I liked how they dug their heels in, not taking “no” as an answer. There were setbacks and disappointments along the way, but if one approach hit a dead end, they discussed and found other ways that would be effective. I have learned much valuable information from them on how to advocate for a common goal. I had never attended a local common council, county board, school board meeting, any public hearings, or met with the county sheriff face-to-face prior to joining Oshkosh ESTHER. I’d never been involved in grassroots causes before, but I discovered it means so much to take your concerns and wishes for change to the people who have the authority to make a difference. When you’re in front of the decision makers asking questions, it’s difficult for them to ignore you. When you have a group of supporters asking the same questions, it makes all the difference!

The Oshkosh Esther group has made concerted efforts to find people outside the membership, as well as other concerned groups, to be allies. Together Esther’s issues do not go unnoticed. One voice doesn’t make the kind of impact of many voices joined together.

I really appreciate there is no political or partisan drama in the group, only dedicated efforts from all in the group to make change happen. And I like that I have a new group of friends who share my values and discontent with the status quo. We’re not radical, but we get things done!

At this time we are looking for more allies with similar concerns, and we want to know what the Oshkosh community-at-large feels would be the next challenge the Oshkosh ESTHER Task Force should focus on. Please join us, and let your voice be heard!

- Kathy Weinhold

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