Volunteer Spotlight: Kelly Plessas
By Flannery Winchester
At age 26, Kelly Plessas is figuring out what she wants to do next. From working as a project manager for a computer company, to walking dogs and volunteering at an animal rehab center, to stepping up as a CCL liaison to Sen. Chris Van Hollen, she’s exploring all her options and embracing the journey.
When she found CCL in September 2016, Kelly said, “I was looking for ways to give back and to help the world in a meaningful way. I found CCL on VolunteerMatch and I filled out the forms.” Her group leader, Sabrina Fu, contacted her the next day. “I jumped right in from there,” Kelly said.
Today, she shares how some memorable lobbying experiences have empowered her and expanded her comfort zone, and how she stays motivated.
What drew you to CCL?
CCL is so unique! I thought I would fill out that form and get an automated response of some sort. I really didn’t think a live person was going to contact me right away and help me get in the thick of it. I’m on mailing lists for many other organizations that seem to want your name on their petitions and your donation, but not necessarily any further contributions. CCL is such a one-of-a-kind experience, and it’s so incredible to actually get into the work and take part in helping the environment.
Tell us about your main efforts or projects within CCL.
I am currently the liaison for Senator Chris Van Hollen, and I got to meet him last June. I was really nervous, but it was so cool! I’ve become really comfortable in uncomfortable situations.
I’ve also become well-versed in plans changing and situations getting a bit awkward. November 2016 was my first lobbying experience. I was team lead for one of my meetings, but the time was TBD. I guess the liaison was having a hard time getting the meeting confirmed, and I was thinking, “Okay, I guess I have to make this happen.” I emailed the staffer many times over a couple of days, and I think at 7 p.m. on the night before we were supposed to lobby, he finally got back to me and granted us a meeting. No one in the designated team could make it, so I was running around frantically trying to get a team together. Luckily, seasoned CCL members helped me gather a team, and we went in, and it all went really well. I was so relieved! It was very nerve wracking for sure, but the end result was awesome!
I was also in a meeting with Sen. Ben Cardin, which went a little different than we were planning on, and we had to roll with it. We were just standing in the hallway of the office in a semi-circle. We were a bit thrown off, but we had to get to it—you learn to just go with the flow and adapt.
What keeps you motivated to do this work?
Honestly, in everyday life, I see how many people don’t think about this kind of stuff. They think that it doesn’t affect them, or it’s something that only needs to be worried about much further down the line. I see a lot of people who are in survival mode, so they can’t worry about anything past their immediate needs. I’m fortunate enough not to be at that point in my life anymore. I have the luxury of thinking down the line and being able to worry about the bigger picture. That thought process keeps me motivated. Those of us fortunate enough to be able to have time, money, and resources to concern ourselves with this work have to take on as much as we can, so that society as a whole benefits.
I’d also like to give a shout out to Sabrina Fu. She’s amazing! I mean seriously, I watch her work, and it’s incredible. She’s very passionate, compassionate, and empathetic. Her energy is infectious, and she’s great at talking to people and getting people involved. I’m really grateful to get to be a part of her chapter.
Got a suggestion for our Volunteer Spotlight series? Send the name, chapter and some brief info about the volunteer to Flannery Winchester at flannery @ citizensclimatelobby.org.