2017-04-13 / Front Page

Trump inauguration gives rise to new organization

By Garrick Hoffman
Staff Writer

Claudia Sienko of Saco, left, and Gae Cabroni of Kennebunk are members of Rise For ME, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing topics of concern locally and nationally. Sienko said of the organization, “Anybody is welcome. We just want to take action. We're like cheerleaders to each other.” (Garrick Hoffman photo) Claudia Sienko of Saco, left, and Gae Cabroni of Kennebunk are members of Rise For ME, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing topics of concern locally and nationally. Sienko said of the organization, “Anybody is welcome. We just want to take action. We're like cheerleaders to each other.” (Garrick Hoffman photo) SACO – After the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump in January, a group of locals knew they wanted to keep the political momentum they had going at the Women’s March on Washington, D.C. Thus, Rise For ME spawned.

“We’re a loosely knit group of men and women from all over different ages,” said member and Saco resident Claudia Sienko. “It’s wonderful. We’re young and old, retired, working professionals, organic farmers. It’s a wonderful, wonderful group.”

Rise For ME is a grassroots, nonpartisan organization that meets twice a month to discuss topics of concern. An all-inclusive group unaffiliated to a political party, Rise For ME is composed of about 10 to 20 members of varying ages who meet every other Monday at the Ferry Beach Park Association between 5 and 7 p.m., though the organization is looking to expand its membership.

“Anybody is welcome. We just want to take action,” Sienko said. “We’re like cheerleaders to each other. If someone sees something they want to go to – such as an event – they can come back and report to us. We can support them, (whether it be) health care issues, environmental issues or local concerns.”

“We’re all very different,” said member Gae Carboni of Kennebunk. “Some have a Republican background, a Democratic background, Green Party, more progressive – it’s very inclusive and it felt that way at the march.”

To illustrate its diversity, Carboni said there are members of the group who have always voted Republican. Sienko said although she once labeled herself as Independent, the label has worn away.

“I always thought I was an Independent, and then I realized I was a freaking liberal,” Sienko said with a laugh.

Before the group of friends traveled to Washington, D.C., for the march, Sienko said everyone felt powerless because of the political climate, but found inspiration there.

“What was so remarkable about that was everyone was so accommodating and polite. It was men, women and children and every issue under the sun – clean air, clean water, LGBT rights, human rights, all of that,” she said. “So we came back with that energy and felt inclusive, and we wanted to keep that going and we wanted to have connections with likeminded people. The other place we wanted to go as a group is looking into talking with people who have beliefs different than ours. (We wanted to be) diplomatic and listen to them and start a dialogue that’s back and forth.”

In the wake of the group’s formation about two months ago, Carboni said members looked at what issues are most important to everyone in the group. Health care was among the most important, along with environmental issues and justice.

Rise For ME meetings are impromptu, meaning there is no pre-determined topic of discussion. Members will typically research something in their free time outside of meetings, then report back to other members during the meetings.

“A lot of us have been to events and come back and reported it to the group,” Sienko said. “It seems like once the conversation gets started someone says, oh, I’ll go find out about that, and (they) issue off an email and we email each other. At the end of each meeting it seems like two or three people have an assignment and come back and tell us about an event they went to, and they can report that back to us. We’re trying to really to keep informed on a broad spectrum of issues that affect all of us. We want authentic conversations that produce results.”

Carboni said one way to produce results is to encourage each other to contact legislative representatives to address concerns.

“We’ll say, if this is an issue you care about, you might want to think about calling this representative and tell them how you feel about it, and make sure (to include) where you’re from, and that this is an important issue for you,” she said.

“We really want to support issues and be on the positive side of things. There’s too much negativity,” Sienko said. “We’re trying to stay informed and support each other. We just want to cheer each other on and be informed. And if this is a place where we can make change locally, we’ll put boots on the ground.”

Despite the positivity and focus, Rise For ME has still been on the receiving end of some criticism, Caroni said.

“Some have said, oh, that group doesn’t have any direction – its not just women’s rights, for example – but we’re all working together and talking about not the politics of something, but breaking it down to the issues,” she said. “I think once you start talking about things like, ‘Do you have health care, and how is that for you, and can you afford it?’ I think as human beings we all want what’s best for each other.”

Sienko and Carboni said they saw the organization as an important opportunity not only to stay informed, but to be inspired to take action.

“(It’s important for me so) I wouldn’t feel so isolated and victimized,” Sienko said. “It gives me power and to give back to my community, too. To walk the walk and talk the talk.”

“For me, being part of this is, instead of always ranting about things to like-minded people and not taking any action, this helps me to not feel so overwhelmed and to take some action,” Carboni said.

Although the group doesn’t have any planned events yet, it might in the future, Carboni said. It also might participate in events with other organizations. It will, however, attend the March for Science as part of Earth Day on Saturday, April 22 in Portland.

“(Rise For ME is) a place to learn,” Carboni said. “We don’t have all the answers. It’s welcome to everybody. If you’re curious about these things or feel strongly about these things, everybody’s welcome.”

Next meeting

Rise For ME will meet at 5 p.m. Monday, April 17 at the Ferry Beach Park Association, 5 Morris Ave., Saco. They meet the first and third Monday each month.

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