Standing up for caregivers

by Guest Blogger | April 2, 2014 1:15 pm

By: Jeannie Brown

Virjeana “Jeannie” Brown is an organizer with the Montana Organizing Project working to protect and expand Social Security. She is also running for Montana’s 67th House District.

For years, I had a great job with Gallatin County that had good pay, benefits, a retirement plan, sick leave and vacation time. Then in 2009, I adopted my granddaughter and my mother took care of her while I worked.

But in 2010, my mother suffered a stroke and could no longer care for my granddaughter, who requires significant medical care herself. I could not afford a full-time nurse and no daycare center would take a medically fragile child. So I quit my job and cashed out my retirement savings plan, which was worth about $30,000. With that money, I bought my house and a van with a wheelchair lift.

We get financial assistance from an adoption subsidy and we need food stamps. This life experience has motivated me to learn how to help myself better my situation. I started getting involved in my community, and I met Elizabeth Marum, an organizer who took me under her wing.

Jeannie image 1I started working with the Montana Organizing Project. I went through the Grassroots Ambassadors trainings and went from feeling hopeless to feeling empowered and trying to empower others. The training taught me to tell my story in a way that had incredible power. As I educated myself, I began to see that our country is in dire straits because people aren’t fighting back.

My training gave me a voice that others respected. I was appointed to the Montana Council on Developmental Disability, a federally mandated council that works to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities. My work on the council inspired me to create a newsletter specifically dedicated to families that use Medicaid Waiver Services. This is a newsletter that is about educating and networking families to share information that is beneficial and can save a lot of time and money for those families receiving waiver services.

On the federal level, I’m proud that my work helped convince President Obama to drop the chained CPI provision from his budget, but Congress is still looking for ways to cut Social Security.

So, now I’m running for Montana’s 67th District House seat. I thought that if maybe I ran for office, I could inspire more people like me to run and together we can really change things. I know that will take a lot of time, but I’m in it for the long haul.

My work has also given me a new appreciation for what a lot of people have to struggle through.  I want to protect my future, and help others learn to protect theirs.

Click here to learn more about other female organizer heroes and the Women Fight Poverty NOW campaign.

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