By Sandra Zunino
It was a rainy afternoon in Annapolis last year when Donna Gildea first learned about Americans for Prosperity (AFP), and now she is the co-chairperson for the Queen Anne’s County chapter and has helped the chapter grow from a few members to 800.
AFP is a non-profit grassroots organization committed to educating citizens about economic policy and mobilizing them as advocates in the public policy process. Donna was attending the Annapolis Tax Day Tea Party, part of a nationwide citizen protest against taxation and government overspending when someone ducked under her umbrella and asked if she had ever heard of AFP. “It was exactly the organization I had been looking for,” she says.
Donna has owned and operated a small business in Maryland for 20 years and believes that free markets are the best way to ensure prosperity for all Americans. “Our liberty and our free enterprise systems are valuable,” says Donna. “It’s what made America great and we want to preserve that.”
While AFP is non-partisan and does not endorse any political candidate, the group does educate voters about candidates’ voting records and organized a “Meet the Candidates” fair last summer. “We had 50 candidates from all parties under one roof,” says Donna. “Close to 200 of our members came and spoke face-to-face to the candidates.”
Donna says many voters become frustrated with confusing advertisements and not only want to understand the candidates’ positions, but also want to know if they really mean what they say. “I think AFP has been so successful because we are non-partisan,” she says. “People look to us to find out the truth.”
Through staging events like tea parties to sending email newsletters on both local and national issues and holding monthly meetings, AFP informs members of upcoming bills that may affect free enterprise and how citizens can change whether or not they are passed by writing letters to congress or the state legislature or even testifying.
“AFP only focuses on fiscal issues,” Donna explains. “There are many issues out there, but we are free market advocates, so we only concentrate on fiscal issues.” Local AFP members fought the QAC tax increases proposed earlier this year by swarming the hearing and persuading commissioners to balance the budget through other means. Members also testified on the state budget hearings during the legislative session in Annapolis.
Because many citizens want to become active but don’t know what they can do, AFP provides knowledge and effective techniques such as letter-writing workshops to empower citizens. “We encourage actions,” says Donna, “and not only help people find their voice, but teach them how to articulate in a way that will be affective.”
Ron Rowland, who has also been involved in the QAC AFP chapter since its inception, recently joined Donna as co-chair. Donna was asked to volunteer as the QAC AFP chairperson position last year. “There was a need and I wanted to do something to serve my country,” she says.
There are no dues or other commitments required by AFP members and members need only to sign up to join. AFP meetings are open to the public. The next meeting on December 6 will be held at Annie’s at 6:00 p.m. Congressman Elect Andy Harris will be speaking at the meeting. There will also be a buffet and cash bar. The cost is $10 per person to attend. Please R.S.V.P. by calling Donna at 410-707-1406.
For more information or to join, visit www.afpmaryland.com.