I got involved with H-CAN about a month after it formed. I was intimidated by the idea of becoming part of a group of (mostly) women that seemed to already be friends, and I felt like an outsider, a stranger. However, I had heard of this new group of progressive community activists, which organized in response to the outcome of the result of the November 2016 election, and I wanted to assist where I could. I felt that I could be of some help, because I had experience as an organizer: my husband Marc and I ran Havertown canvassing for the Hillary Clinton Presidential campaign out of our home. Although before the Clinton campaign, we were political novices, we learned a lot about political organizing during this time. I learned the importance of encouraging people to do their best by helping them tap into their own skill set. And most of all, I learned the importance in making friends and building trust when driving community activism. It was these lessons learned and skills that I offered to H-CAN. I have engaged in many hours helping H-CAN since then. And as for those women whom I was intimidated by when I first joined: I got to know them. They were kind and welcoming, and open to my suggestions and participation. Furthermore, several HUNDRED people have joined H-CAN since then; now I can call many of these men and women my friends.
H-CAN is not only a place for activism, it is a community of friends and neighbors, and we emphasize doing things together in person, rather than just online or over email. We are bonded by our progressive values. If you have been on the outskirts of H-CAN, intimidated to participate with a group of persons who seem to already know each other, or if you have only participated online thus far, I would highly encourage you to participate in person, at a meeting, action, social event or rally. We are a friendly and welcoming community. Everyone has something unique to offer, and we thrive because we ask members to use their own unique skill sets to help H-CAN and our causes.
You may see me at meetings, rallies, and events. I am H-CAN’s Director of Operations and de facto attorney, so I am usually around. You may hear me speaking in front of an audience at an H-CAN meeting. You may see me get to meetings early, and I usually leave late.
It may look like doing these things is easy for me, like it just comes naturally. Some may be surprised to learn that it does not come easy to me at all. I would like to share, for the sake of encouraging others, the fact that I have the illness of depression. Depression tells me to stay home, feel sorry for myself, and not engage with other people. Depression tells me that I am not wise, not worthy, and not likeable. Depression scares me, tells me to “hide” and do nothing. So, when people tell me similar things - that they are progressive and concerned about our Country, BUT they do not know what to do, that they feel like they are not smart enough, or they are concerned about what others may think, or they simply can’t motivate themselves to do anything, or they are afraid, I understand how they feel because due to my illness, I feel this way about almost everything in my life. However, I would encourage people who feel this way as well to find something to do within H-CAN (or another activist group) and try - despite their negative feelings - to get engaged. I understand that many of us don’t want to put ourselves out there and engage in activism. I GET IT. But I force myself to help out and attend as much as I can. And I will tell you this plainly–even though I am usually hesitant and anxious about getting involved in H-CAN activities, after my participation I feel uplifted, encouraged and better overall. I strongly suspect that if you get involved in H-CAN, you will experience these positive feelings, too.
Being part of a progressive community is a wonderful blessing. I have made great new friends who share my values. I feel comfortable in Havertown for the first time, knowing there are other people like me here. And I feel proud to be a part of H-CAN because we have actually gotten stuff done! We lobby local elected officials to pass progressive policies, we register voters and Get Out the Vote for progressive voters, thereby changing the leadership dynamic in our community; we lobby our Senators and lobbied our Congressperson (until he took an early retirement); we lobby in Harrisburg, we have helped educate our community about all sorts of topics (most that I myself knew very little about before we engaged some great speakers) including: racial justice, prison reform, immigration policy, women's rights, money in politics and much more. All this has been so rewarding and has helped enrich our town.
I get back more from H-CAN than I put in. I highly encourage any of you who have been on the peripheries of H-CAN to find a way to get involved. We can find a way to utilize your specific skill set. We need you! You can reach out to us at and we will respond as swiftly as we can.
Thanks for reading,
Elysia Mancini Duerr Esq.