YAKIMA, Wash. -- What started a little more than a year ago with a meeting between two local women has blossomed into a movement that’s just hitting its stride.On the heels of Yakima’s first Women’s March, Rochelle Dunmore and Molly Jansen wanted to bring together like-minded people.That desire led to the creation of a Facebook group. The following day — Jan. 30, 2017 — members of ACT Yakima met for the first time at North Town Coffeehouse.

The group has been the driving force behind numerous local marches, protests and rallies. Those efforts included protesting against President Donald Trump’s immigration ban, supporting efforts to make Yakima a “welcoming city,” and participating in the Pride Festival and March for Science. With more than 300 members, the group also has worked to advocate for the homeless, immigrants and other people in the Valley.

“ACT Yakima is a community services organization,” said Dunmore, who moved to Yakima in 2016 to help care for her grandson while her daughter attended medical school. “We try to address needs in the community.”

Addressing those needs includes a multitude of efforts such as helping with homelessness — the group put together care packages with gloves, socks, women’s hygiene products, nonperishable food and more. They’ve also worked to help residents with civic education —  an effort that included canvass training with the Yakima County Democrats. The training helps people interested in civic participation learn how to talk to others about voting, candidates and other issues in the community.

“We want people to talk to their neighbors and to find out what’s important to them,” Dunmore said.
Women involved with Act Yakima talk about what worked and didn't work at this year's Women's March in Yakima at a meeting at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Yakima, Wash. on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. (JAKE PARRISH/Yakima Herald-Republic)

A vital part of those conversations, Dunmore believes, is people listening to each other, setting aside political agendas and being polite. Dialogue should be based on working to understand another’s viewpoint, she said. It’s only then people can have meaningful discussions and make progress.

“Look at the underlying reasons people think the way they do,” Dunmore said. “The right needs to listen to the left and we all need to start working together a lot more than we’re doing right now. We don’t want Republicans to become Democrats — we want better Republicans.”

ACT Yakima also has canvassed — asking for votes or support — for candidates such as city council member Kay Funk and others who share common progressive ideologies. Despite those efforts and successes, Dunmore wants more. Involvement from all sides of the political spectrum — conservative, liberal, etc. — is needed in helping ACT Yakima address issues, such as homelessness and immigration, that the entire community faces. Over the coming year, Dunmore said, ACT Yakima plans to focus more on the homeless by working with the City Council and community service providers to come up with workable solutions.

“We want to see every person that’s homeless housed and get them the resources they need,” Dunmore said.
People march on Yakima Avenue during the Women's March in downtown Yakima, Wash. on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. The march was organized by Act Yakima. (JAKE PARRISH/Yakima Herald-Republic file)

In addition to marches, Dunmore said ACT Yakima wants to delve deeper into racial justice issues, gang violence, community safety and criminal justice issues by working with city and county leaders — as well as law enforcement — to develop more community-oriented strategies. Looking toward the year ahead, Dunmore believes increasing awareness and promoting dialogue between everyone is more important than ever.

“It helps the community, building it to make everyone feel safer — if you know your neighbors, they’re more likely to help you and we all might be able to influence a child’s life,” Dunmore said.

Source: https://www.yakimaherald.com/news/local/members-of-year-old-act-yakima-hope-to-keep-pushing/article_428ad70e-08b5-11e8-9583-13b60bf57205.html