A grassroots group has formed in Winter Park to provide a hub for progressives to stay politically engaged and active.
Central Florida Grassroots Progressives Resource Center has opened in the former canvassing office used by U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy. They held their kickoff event Feb. 2 and 130 people showed up at St. Richard’s Episcopal Church in Winter Park to watch Bernie Sanders’ live stream keynote address at the Sister Giant Conference in Washington D.C.
Janan Smither, a psychology professor at the University of Central Florida, said the group has evolved from people who worked together on political campaigns since 2004.
“We got together every two and four years and usually went home afterwards,” said Smither, who is one of three organizers. “This time around we can’t go home and felt we need to do something. It’s a very upsetting and trying time we decided to get involved in resistance in a war on our values and the things we care about.”
The group has 350 people on its mailing list and is planning its next meeting in early March. Their office at 861 W. Morse Blvd in Winter Park was also used as the campaign headquarters for former President Barack Obama.
They are planning to expand the office space and use it for meetings, events, inspirational speakers and a place where people can gather to share coffee and their thoughts, Smither said.
“A lot of families aren’t talking these days,” she said. “We’re providing a safe space for people to come and talk and plug in to put their efforts into causes they are care about.
Marie Ciaravino, a group leader and water aerobics teacher at the Central Florida YMCA, said they’ve started 10 small groups so people can sign up for an issue they are passionate about.
“Everybody is into this for different reasons,” Ciaravino said. “During the Women’s March, every person I spoke to had a different issue. We’re coming together in one place to maintain our energy from the last presidential election.”
Central Florida Grassroots Progressives Resource Center has joined with the Indivisible, a political group that put together a guide for resistance.