Cat Sullivan has been a low-income worker for over 30 years. She has also been a welfare recipient. As an older woman who straddled the advent of more women in the workforce from a time when many women stayed home and raised their children, Cat knew of those two worlds, their differences and what was good and bad about both. She can testify from personal experience as a low-income worker, as a parent, and welfare recipient because she has lived them all well as being an organizer and an activist.
For over 18 year Cat has known and worked with the community of organizers who have worked to eradicate poverty. She successfully fought for, got an education ,and earned two degrees through the WorkFirst Program. She is passionately supportive of allowing all low income women (and men) to obtain a higher education or skill according to their abilities and desires and to eradicate the rampant racism and sexism that prevents such education that she has witnessed with her own eyes.
Cat is also a passionate support for raising our society’s consciousness around the sexist and racist attitudes in our society, especially for the lack of support for raising children. She tries to live her life as well as speak to changing things so that no matter who you are and your circumstances, parenting and care giving is considered work that contributes to and is worthy of our community’s and government’s support. She has worked for years on raising the conscience of legislators, policy makers, citizens, and other organizers to promote these things by writing and speaking to them.
Cat lives in the Seattle area and has served on the following organizations as board member. Lake City Christian Church Elder, Diaconate and Board member, Welfare Rights Organizing Coalition Board Member, Headstart Parent Board, part founder of POWER and part of the Lake City Homeless Coalition. Cat wants to serve on POWER’s board because she is a passionate supporter and believes in the people and policies around POWER’s mission and work, which coincide with her own work. It means more to her than any other work she has done except perhaps parenting her kids. This is why POWER is so important and a strong voice to speak for those who have few to speak for them.
Mischa Gilraen has been involved in grassroots social movements for many years. From the time she was quite young, her mother instilled in her a strong sense of social justice. She has experience working in both legislative and direct action campaigns and holds a BA/BS degree from The Evergreen State College in grassroots social movements. She is passionate about organizing with low-income people to work in solidarity for a just and poverty-free world.
Mischa believes that the work that POWER is doing is crucial and vital to so many people and really to the heart of our community. She has been involved with POWER in different capacities and is excited about continuing as a Board member. She was born to parents who grew up in poverty and has seen firsthand the cruel hand of poverty in our community. She has seen the problems caused by the dismantling of the social safety net and strongly believes that, as a community, we need to band together and demand the restoration of our social safety net. She lives with her partner and her two children, Kaia and Liam, who are a daily inspiration. She believes we need to work hard so that they, and all other kids, are never in poverty again.
Mischa is an avid cyclist and you can often find her bright yellow bicycle snuggling in the back of the POWER office. She plays a lot of old-time music, mostly the fiddle and banjo, although she has been known to pick up almost anything with strings! She handles a lot of the technical / computer needs for the POWER office and works for a small business that makes software for labor unions.
Kate Tossey. I want to be on the POWER Board because of current politics a lot of us are feeling despair. I’m looking for things to do to counteract that and provide concrete support to my community. What happens at POWER is unique and I don’t want to see it disappear and hopefully as a Board member I can help POWER be stronger.
I’m a veteran political activist. I started in my early 20’s when I was living in Seattle. I’ve participated in queer rights, including Seatltle’s Pride parade, for which I was the co-chair twice. I’ve participated in pickets, boycotts, and consciousness raising. I’ve worked to end violence toward women. I’ve participated in several Take Back the Night marches and was a member of the Women’s Coalition to stop the Green River murders.
I lived with a single mother who received food stamps and am familiar with not having enough money to eat healthy food all the time. I’m interested in food access and ending food deserts. I’m good at communicating, delegating and listening. I’m interested in learning how I can contribute.
Shelly Robbins is a former AFDC recipient. Shelly earned their B.A. as a participant in WA State Family Independence Program, a program that encouraged self-determination and education for AFDC recipients. After graduating from college Shelly was hired by Solo Parenting Alliance to develop a program to create Mutual Support Groups for single, custodial parents. Shelly created 8 groups in the Greater Seattle Area that supported 200 parents. Shelly went on to create their own company, The QuickSource Inc, which employed 8 people in a flexible working environment that allowed parents to schedule their work around school breaks so their employees could be more available to their children. Shelly continues to work in their company part-time, and volunteers at POWER to affect legislation that impacts single custodial parents with limited incomes.
Monica Peabody is the proud mother of an incredible daughter born in 1990. A single mother shortly after her daughter’s birth, she got to experience our society’s lack of support and disrespect for single mothers first hand. A committed breast-feeder, Monica was often made to feel that even that was an act of defiance. Raising a child during the passage of welfare reform made an avid activist of Monica. She joined the policy committee of the Welfare Rights Organizing Coalition (WROC) when her daughter was a preschooler and they began to protest and lobby to end poverty. When she moved to Olympia from Seattle in 1995, she was shocked to discover there was no welfare rights organization. After multiple conversations with parents who were being told they had to quit college and go find low-wage work, they started organizing and held their first welfare rights meeting in Olympia in 1997. Monica accepted a VISTA position with WROC in 1998 so she could quit cleaning houses and organize full time. Although the VISTA stipend is considered poverty wages, it was more than twice her welfare grant. What’s unbelievable is that a welfare grant is smaller today than hers was 20 years ago. Watching more and more families falling into poverty and being disregarded by our society is heartbreaking, yet makes the work toward building resistance all the more crucial. Monica also works at the Olympia Food Cooperative. She plays and teaches old-time banjo.
Jennifer Roberts volunteered with WROC and POWER for a long time. She loved the work of POWER. She knew that poverty is not a choice, it happens to you. She gained an incredible amount of knowledge volunteering. She wanted to help in the fight to eradicate poverty.
Jennifer started volunteering sometime around 2000 when we were WROC (the Welfare Rights Organizing Coalition) and had an office in the First Christian Church. She was around 20 years old.
Jennifer developed some lifelong friends while working with WROC and POWER. She was a passionate advocate for low-income families and learned a great deal about the economics of poverty. She would talk to anyone and everyone about these issues. People learned about POWER from Jennifer in the locker room, on the bus, everywhere.
Jennifer died unexpectedly on April 18th, 2014 and her 14 years with WROC and POWER touched many of us and we miss her.
Jennifer Jo Roberts Jennifer Jo Roberts, 33, passed away at home on April 18, 2014. She was born on June 22, 1980, in Portland, Oregon, and lived in Olympia since 1984. Jennifer attended schools in Olympia and graduated from Capital High School in 1999.
Jennifer was a strong advocate for those who were less fortunate. She was passionate about economic justice for the poor. She volunteered for many years with POWER, Parents Organizing for Welfare and Economic Rights, and was a member of their Board. She also participated in SAIL, Self Advocates in Leadership, an organization which legislated advocacy for people with developmental disabilities. Jennifer occasionally participated in demonstrations for the causes in which she believed. She had many friends at the Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation and the Olympia First Christian Church.
Jennifer is survived by her parents, Fred and Jean Roberts; her sister, brother-in-law and nephew, Sarah, Jonathan, and Warren Alexander; and aunts, uncles and cousins, and by her dear friend, Carl Bond. A celebration of Jennifer’s life will be held at the First Christian Church in Olympia on Saturday, April 26, 2014, at 11:00 a.m. Donations in Jennifer’s memory may be made to POWER at 309 5th Avenue SE, Olympia, 98501, or at www.mamapower.org.
On May 31st former POWER member Aaron Scott organized Honoring A Fallen Fighter: Community Vigil For Jennifer Roberts at the Olympia Unitarian Church.
We invite all who were touched by Jennifer Jo Roberts‘ work as a community leader to join us in remembering her witness for justice. As a fighter in anti-poverty struggles, a disability rights activist, an environmental justice advocate, and a vital presence in multiple faith communities, Jennifer’s legacy runs deep and wide. Come help us celebrate the incredible life of an incredible friend– and recommit ourselves to carrying on her freedom-fighting spirit in this world.
We’ll gather to sing, share memories, listen to readings, present art, and stay for as long as it takes us to say goodbye to Jennifer. Kids and babies 100% welcome. Don’t be shy about turning out: even if you never met Jennifer personally, chances are she was fighting for your rights anyway!
Aaron recorded the event. You can listen or read her sermon at: