Are you young?
Are you a Democrat?
Do you live in Southwest Missouri?
If you can answer yes to all three of those questions, don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you’re a freak. (Well, it kind of does, but there’s good news…)
It means there’s a special club for people just like you!
“Who?” you ask.
The Southwest Missouri Young Democrats, that’s who!
“When we get a new member, they always kind of express this sigh of relief that they’ve found people in the community who think like them,” laughed President Josh Lockwood.
Even Vice President Sarah Hinkle said she hadn’t met other local Democrats until being invited by a friend to a Pro-Bernie Sanders watch party during the Presidential Primaries last Spring.
Today, Lockwood and Hinkle are the brains behind the growing organization, working hard to take the group to the next level and make a difference in the community and beyond.
“We want to get young people involved in politics and involved in their civic duties,” Hinkle said. “We want to foster outreach and educate local young people on what it means to vote, what it means to take part in the conventions and be a delegate, and educate them on other any part of the political process. We want people to know how to get involved and know how important it is.”
While the technical party guidelines for a young Democrat are ages 18-37, Hinkle said the SWMO Young Democrats allows anyone to come to meetings and participate. She added that you don’t necessarily have to be a Democrat to attend, either.
“I would encourage anybody, even if they don’t necessary identify as a Democrat right now, or they’re on the fence, or even if they don’t like Democrats, to be open-minded and come to our meetings,” she said. “And just know that it’s going to take all of us, no matter what you think politically, to make a better country and make a better world.”
Lockwood said meetings typically involve open discussion of current events in national, state, and local politics, as well as planning for community outreach and fundraisers. Most recently, the group collected donations for The Lafayette House.
A relatively new group, the SWMO Young Democrats was spearheaded by Lockwood in June 2016 after a similar organization had dissolved when the leader moved away from the area.
Lockwood had first become known in Joplin’s progressive community as the cofounder of Joplin For Bernie which was instrumental in leading Jasper County to a 63 percent vote for Bernie Sanders in the primaries.
“After everything was said and done and Hillary had won the nomination, a lot of progressives and populists, myself included, didn’t know where to turn,” he said. “I originally had wanted to start a Progressive Millennials group, but Krista Stark, the executive director for the SMWO Democrats, informed me of the need for a young Democrats group. That’s when I kind of changed gears, but the goals of the group align with that of all progressives, so it’s important to us that we work with other groups in the community that have progressive goals such as the Emily Newell Blair Women’s Democratic Club and JOMOEQ toward common interests.”
Meetings are the first Wednesday of each month. The next meeting will be held on February 1 at 7 p.m. at Joplin Avenue Coffee Company, 506 S. Joplin Ave.
Check out their Facebook page for information about upcoming meetings and events.
Regular SWMO Democrat Meetings are held the third Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. at 2001 S. Empire Avenue.