The local affiliation of Not In Our Town started to take shape Wednesday with a new name, leader and committee at the Community Congregational United Church of Christ in Pullman.
The meeting was the first under the chairmanship of Pullman resident Charla Chaudhry, who volunteered to take over last month after the original organizers, Bertie Weddell and former Pullman Mayor Karen Kiessling, announced they would be stepping down to allow others to lead.
The group formed in January to combat bullying and cultivate acceptance in the Pullman community.
Chaudhry announced the organization would officially be called NIOT on the Palouse to be inclusive of various small towns in the area besides Pullman.
“There are all these little towns around us that are really kind of out there sort of on their own, so I’m hoping to get the word out to those communities that we all are here and that we’re here not just for Pullman,” Chaudhry said.
The group discussed actions and events they would like to hold in the future, including reaching out to high schools to show videos that could fit into civics or history lessons, forming a rapid response committee and providing resources to other anti-bullying groups in the area.
The committee also commented on recent reports of fliers being passed out on the Washington State University campus urging people to “report any and all illegal aliens.” The Spokesman-Review reported last month the fliers were almost identical to ones found earlier at the University of Texas, of which a Texas branch of a racist group called American Vanguard took credit for.
“It’s very interesting to me that so many of these people that are out there doing these things, they don’t want to be known,” Chaudhry said of the fliers at WSU.
Chaudhry said she volunteered last month to serve on the organization’s committee but when the dust had settled, she found out she was a committee of one.
She then took to assembling a committee herself. That committee includes Cassie Geraghty and Beth Waddel, who took minutes Wednesday at the meeting, though she said she was trying to pass her position to someone else, as she will be graduating soon.
Geraghty, a student at WSU and the youngest member of the committee, represents a demographic often missing from NIOT’s meetings. She attributes that absence to the busy lives college students tend to live.
Despite her own busy schedule, Geraghty volunteered to help.
“Everything that’s been going on with the election has been really emotionally rough to deal with, and if I’m not doing anything, I feel helpless,” Geraghty said. “Getting involved has been a coping mechanism.”
Geraghty said she brings a different perspective to the group, as she understands how young people communicate, where they get their news and when they can meet.
She took charge of creating a closed Facebook group for the organization Sunday. The group now has more than 100 members, though fewer- than 50 were at Wednesday’s meeting and even fewer who have attended any of the meetings have been college-aged, despite the age group making up the majority of Pullman’s population.
Geraghty said students want to get involved, and she recommended meeting on the weekends when students have their time off, though the organization is still figuring out times that work for everyone.
NIOT will meet again noon to 1 p.m. April 5 at the Community Congregational United Church of Christ.
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