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From homemaker to activist

Saugus woman gets inspired to change America, one mall shopper at a time

Posted: August 24, 2009 10:37 p.m.
Updated: August 25, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Sherryan Lima, of Saugus, participated in a summer internship with Organizing for America, a grassroots political group. Lima collected signatures in support of President Barack Obama's health care reform.

At first glance, Sherryan Lima doesn’t look the part of grass-roots political organizer.

The 49-year-old from Saugus is a mother of six and a grandmother of three whose civic involvement never extended beyond the ballot box.

But after hearing Barack Obama’s inaugural address, the former homemaker and accountant began her own quest for change. She often sits at a table at the Westfield Valencia Town Center and tries to rally shoppers to support health care reform.

“This is our country. We’ve been fooled into thinking we can elect a president and the Congress and they do the job for us,” she said. “It’s our job to save our country.”

Lima was awarded one of 40 internship spots in California with Organizing for America, the Democratic Party’s grassroots political activist group.

Obama’s inaugural address sparked something in Lima. She applied for an internship that she initially felt unlikely to get.

“I was going up against people fresh out of college, or with master’s degrees, who were half my age,” Lima said. “I thought I didn’t have a chance.”

Ricardo Ramirez, national press secretary for Organizing for America, said the movement isn’t searching for certain types but for hard workers.

“We’re just looking for people who are motivated to help the president make change,” he said.

Lima got her marching order from Organizing for America in June.

She would become a community organizer, trained in organizing tactics like phone banking and holding community events.

Lima clocked as much as 40 hours per week as a community organizer for Organizing for America, said Emily Dulcan, Organizing for America’s California Communication Director.

Lima collected signatures in support of health care reforms during the two-month internship, Dulcan said.

And for five consecutive Sundays between July and August Lima, gave out information on health care reform to anyone who would listen. 

“We want health care reform. We want quality, we want choice and we want it to be affordable,” Lima told a shopper who walked by her table. “We don’t want to wait. We’ve been waiting for 60 years.”

Lima’s passion was contagious. Shoppers young and old filled up her petition in support of health care reform.

“I think we need care for everyone,” said Erik Bozman, 25, of Valencia.

What Bozman said the health care debate doesn’t need is unruly protesters showing up with guns, as they have in other places throughout the nation.

“It’s got to be a peaceful process,” he said.

She does get her share of critics who shout out negative and sometimes threatening comments as they pass by her table.

“You must be kidding,” one man said as he passed Lima. She said another man had told her she ought to be hanged.

But the comments bounce off Lima.

“I don’t argue with them,” she said. “They are entitled to their opinion. We are here to inform people not make up their minds.”

Organizing for America charges its interns with recruiting more volunteers for the movement.

Karen Bunn, 49, of Stevenson Ranch, is the most recent volunteer to join Lima at her Organizing for America booth in the mall.

Frustration fueled Bunn’s decision to join the movement. 

“I couldn’t sleep at night over this,” Bunn said about the health care reform debate. “I listen to the television and the news and became aggravated.”

Bunn was frustrated by the misinformation spreading about health-care reform like the rumors about death panels. For Bunn the health care battle is personal.

“I know what it’s like to take care of someone ill,” she said.

Bunn’s father was chronically ill when she was a child. Bunn’s mother had insurance through her union, which kept Bunn’s father alive.

Her father’s struggle motivated Bunn to join the fight as did what she called a pivotal point in American history.

“This is our moment. We have the majority in Washington,” she said. “We have the greatest president in my lifetime. We should have health care reform.”


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