Janet Meek, one of many volunteers at the Democratic Resource Center, is one of those people who puts others at ease the moment she meets them.
Those who know her say she’s the “Mama to local Democrats,” but one who disregards party lines to help anyone in need.
Meek, however, sees herself as just another person on the planet who likes to lend a helping hand. Her involvement in politics began just nine years ago as the county was entering into a presidential election year.
When her youngest child was a senior in high school, Meek experienced a huge increase in her health insurance premiums. She began researching the issue and “I realized something was really, really wrong. Health insurance shouldn’t be a struggle to pay for and difficult to find,” she said.
One thing led to another and Meek found herself right in the middle of the political process of electing a president. Her candidate didn’t win in 2004, but the experience spurred her interest in politics.
“We came out of the elections in ’04 very disenchanted, disappointed, felt like we hadn’t done enough, weren’t doing the right things,” she said.
A group of Democrats talked about what they could do and came up with the idea of a central location where party participants could go and meet “to have a visible location for Democrats in Northeast Tennessee.”
With no money or volunteer commitments, the group forged ahead. Somehow, money became available, free office furniture was donated and the office opened.
But after the 2006 elections, “everything got real quiet. Everybody went home and nobody was thinking about politics anymore and here we were with an office.”
The DRC came up with ideas for training and events to keep things going.
When the 2008 election season came around “everything just burst wide open” and cemented the center’s presence in the community, Meek said.
Since then, the DRC has worked with other counties to find and recruit Democrats and strengthen the party in Northeast Tennessee, she said.
But it’s not just about politics and party lines, Meek said. There are projects and programs the DRC supports that have no political association.
One in particular is a donation drive just completed for underprivileged school children in Johnson City.
The DRC worked with the Washington County Democratic Party to collect school supplies for the homeless student program in Johnson City. Members also put together packages for the military and helped with food drives for Second Harvest Food Bank.
“We do politics here, but we also try to reach out to the community, regardless,” she said.
“We feel like, as Democrats, that we have an obligation to help folks who are less fortunate. Sometimes, helping people is the one thing you can do to feel really good about yourself and that never hurts, either.”
Meek said her role as a volunteer at the DRC doesn’t make her extraordinary.
“If somebody needs something and I can do that for them or I can make it happen, I do it,” she said. And that is about being a human being, not just a Democrat, she said.