Coffee with Your Legislator
Thursday, August 31, 2017
Legislative Coffee with State Representative Deb Lavender
(District 90 – Kirkwood Area)
St. Louis County Library
Oak Bend Branch
842 S. Holmes Branch
St. Louis, MO 63122
Please RSVP to 314-775-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
How would you like to have coffee with your State Representative or State Senator and share your personal story about living with mental illness? NAMI St. Louis has arranged a number of “legislative coffees” over the years. NAMI St. Louis staff work with individuals who wish to host a coffee for their State Representative or Senator. It doesn’t take a lot of work or money to do this and it is extremely helpful to create awareness about mental illness and the needs of those who live with it and sometimes can contribute greatly to NAMI St. Louis’ advocacy efforts to pass legislation to benefit those living with mental illness.
What is a Legislative Coffee/Meeting?
This Legislative Coffee is a gathering of constituents in one legislative district to meet their State Senator or Representative. The primary purpose is to inform elected officials about issues being debated in the public arena that affect people with severe mental illness, their families, and the community at large. A secondary purpose is to demonstrate to the elected official that he/she has constituents in his/her district that care about and support legislation that improves the lives of those with severe mental illness. The legislative coffee is usually held at the home of an individual who lives in the district of an elected official and agrees to be the “host” for the event. However, it can also be held at a location in the district, such as a public library or a private business. The format is somewhat informal. NAMI St. Louis staff will make a brief presentation on current legislative priorities and ask those present (those who so wish) to share personal stories related to people with mental illness, such as struggles to get important public services. The elected official will then be asked to make comments.
Why are Legislative Coffees important?
It is important to develop relationships with local legislators in order to have your issue(s) heard and perhaps, acted on. Unlike corporations or trade associations, non-profits cannot endorse or support political candidates financially. Developing relationships in district are the only thing we can do as an alternative to financially supporting candidates. As individuals we all can vote for the candidate we want in office, but non-profits cannot tell individuals how to vote.
Additionally, legislators often have term limits – this is true particularly for elected officials of the state of Missouri. This means that advocates continually need to re-educate legislators as new ones are elected to office. What better way to educate a legislator than in your home? You and your issue(s) are more likely to be remembered, if you host an event for the legislator in your home or at your place of business.