Activists in Action: Bob's birthday bash

June 28, 2017
Emily Huestis at the Bread for the World 2017 Lobby Day. Bread for the World photo.

By Bread Staff

Bread’s members aren’t your run-of-the-mill activists, and Ohio’s Emily Huestis is a prime example of that. She is the type of leader that gets noticed — and she does it with kindness and compassion.

Before coming to Bread’s annual Lobby Day earlier this month, Huestis decided to do some research on her member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs (Ohio-07). His birthday fell on the day after she was scheduled to visit his office in Washington, D.C.

That sparked an idea.

Huestis invited 25 other Bread activists to a birthday party for Gibbs  at a local eatery in her a town of Ashland, Ohio, calling it “Bob’s Birthday Bash.” Together, they each wrote a birthday card to Gibbs, wishing him a happy birthday and included Bread’s talking points on the budget and hunger that Huestis would be using at Lobby Day at her meeting.

She said: “I thought that some of the folks in my area that had been organizing with me could use just some time to hang out — that seemed less like a meeting but more like a community building exercise.”

Not only did the event help her build relationships in her own community, it helped her build a relationship with her member of Congress.

At Gibbs’ Washington, D.C., office,  Huestis sat down with legislative assistant Alex Briggs. The meeting started off with Huestis making the point that programs like SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) and Medicaid were vital to low-income Ohioans. She asked that Gibbs champion robust funding in the federal budget.  She punctuated her concerns about  proposed cuts to funding with stories from home and repeating “people are hungry.” Briggs listened and made noncommittal responses.

Then she handed him the cards and everything changed.  “You could see the human connection,” Huestis said. “It really warmed up the room.”

With a smile, Briggs looked at the cards in awe, noting that no one had ever done anything like that before for the congressman. Before Huestis  left the office, Briggs mentioned the possibility of an in-district meeting  with her group during the August recess. Huestis called this “huge.”

Huestis freely admits that she hasn’t always agreed with Gibbs  and has felt frustrated with his positions on policy that affect hunger.  It’s easy to fall into a pattern of animosity with our lawmakers, especially as hurt and anger drives so much of dialogue around politics these days.

“Modeling something other than that can be something really powerful,” Huestis said.

Her advice to advocates is that it is easy to put up shields, but better to build bridges. 

Not only did the event help her build relationships in her own community, it helped her build a relationship with her member of Congress.

from our Resource Library

For Education

  • The Nourishing Effect

    Hunger and food insecurity add at least $160 billion a year to U.S. healthcare costs.

  • Mass Incarceration: A Major Cause of Hunger

    Mass incarceration has far-reaching effects in the United States. It poses a significant barrier to ending U.S. hunger and poverty by 2030—a goal the United States adopted in 2015. But the connection is not always obvious.

  • Advancing Nutrition through Food Aid Reform

    The United States has long been a global leader in responding to humanitarian emergencies. Food assistance that includes nutritious food for pregnant women and young children is both a life-and-death matter for individuals and an economic imperative for countries.

For Faith

  • Unity Declaration on Racism and Poverty

    A diverse body of Christian leaders calls on the churches and Congress to focus on the integral connection.

    Dear Members of Congress,

    As the president and Congress are preparing their plans for this year, almost 100 church leaders—from all the families of U.S. Christianity—are...

  • In Times Like These … A Pan-African Christian Devotional for Public Policy Engagement

    This devotional guide invites deepened relationship with and among Pan-Af­rican people and elected leaders in the mission to end hunger and poverty.

  • Sermon by David Beckmann at Duke University Chapel

    Remarks delivered October 1, 2017 at Duke University Chapel in Chapel Hill in North Carolina.

    Thank you for inviting me to preach here at Duke University Chapel. And I especially want to thank the Bread for the World members who have come this morning.

    Bruce Puckett urged...

For Advocacy

  • Grassroots Advocacy Toolkit

    A set of how-to sheets for carrying out advocacy and fact sheets on the current issues Bread for the World is working on.

    For new and current Bread grassroots hunger activists.

    Ideal as a starter toolkit for new Bread activists or as a set of updates for current activists.


  • Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017

    Unnecessarily long prison sentences, combined with the lack of rehabilitative programs for people in prison, exacerbate hunger, poverty, and existing inequalities.

    Overly harsh mandatory minimum prison sentences have contributed to the rapid increase of our country’s prison population. The...

  • Health Care Is a Hunger Issue

    Learn more about the principles that Bread for the World supports regarding health reform.


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