You won’t be seeing us at your door this summer…

VPIRG Executive Director Paul Burns, here.

Recently, I shared with you some of the immediate changes we’ve made here at VPIRG in response to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 crisis. We’ve already adjusted the way our staff conducts work and shifted our focus to prioritize urgent emerging public interest issues.

Today, I’m reaching out to let you know that we’ve made the painful but necessary decision to cancel our 2020 summer door canvass.   

If you’re like most Vermonters, your first encounter with VPIRG was probably when a young person biked up your driveway or knocked on your door to talk about our work. Our intrepid summer canvassers have been a familiar sight in cities and towns all across Vermont for years – and in 2019 alone, they knocked on more than 90,000 doors around the state.

I have to tell you that I love the canvass. My first job out of college was as a canvasser, and I’ve always appreciated the energy and unbridled optimism of our canvassing crew. Our summer campaigns have been a testament to the power of face-to-face organizing and democratic action.

But given the current health emergency, face-to-face and door-to-door is not the way to go. We cannot risk potentially spreading COVID-19 as we build grassroots support for our collective health and wellbeing.  

Having to forego literally tens of thousands of meaningful face-to-face conversations with our members and supporters at their doorsteps is truly heartbreaking. If you’re as sad as we are to be missing out on a canvass visit this summer, please consider making a gift today to support the critical work we continue to do.

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The summer canvass is about more than building grassroots support for pressing public interest issues. It’s also one of the many ways that VPIRG gives passionate young people a voice and teaches them the skills they need to change the world for the better. Foregoing the progressive leadership development that occurs every summer for nearly a hundred young Vermonters is a short-term and long run loss for all of us.

In this time of uncertainty and isolation, hope and human connection have never been more important. Our staff are working around the clock to develop plans for a “virtual canvass” that will allow us to connect remotely with our supporters, and we’ll keep you in the loop as these plans evolve.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it; this is going to be a tough blow for VPIRG. But we are fortunate to have thousands of members and supporters, like you, who give us our grassroots power to keep fighting the good fight, even – especially – in times of crisis.

If, like so many others, you were planning to wait for your annual canvass visit to renew your membership, I urge you to consider making that gift today.

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To those of you who have already chipped in to support our work this year, especially our monthly sustaining members: thank you. We couldn’t weather these tough times without you. And I can tell you right now, we’re going to need you moving forward.

No doubt our world has already changed forever in just the past month. But we don’t yet know what that really means. Now is the time to come together and fight for the kind of environment, economy, and democracy that we want, not just what the traditional corporate power brokers are willing to give us. 

Thank you for making this work possible, as always, and take care.