Editor's note:  Roberta Berlin is a member of Middlesex County NOW.




New Brunswick volunteer strives to get votes for Barack


By LEO D. ROMMEL Staff Writer November 2, 2008



Obama campaign volunteer Roberta Berlin at the Metuchen headquarters.

(Ed Pagliarini / MyCentralJersey)

NEW BRUNSWICK Barack Obama and John McCain both have their fleets of loyalists, lined up by the millions, all willing to volunteer every second, resource, dollar and drop of energy they have to make sure their pick for commander-in-chief hits the sheets Nov. 4 with a smile on his face.

But how many volunteer their efforts every single day?

Roberta Berlin does.

The 61-year-old works as a volunteer for the Central Jersey for Obama campaign seven days a week no, that's not an error.

She's "on call" at all times.  Sometimes she works days and sometimes she works nights.  She can be found at one of two locations:  at the Metuchen office, just 6 1/2 miles from her New Brunswick residence, or at the Princeton office, which is 18 miles from her house.

Any questions as to just how much this election means to her?

"The first thing I did was canvass out of the office in Princeton, and after one day, a manager at that office asked me to come back, so I did," said Berlin.  "Then I met a woman, Shannon Anderson, from the Metuchen office, who is now a manager there, and I told her about how I had helped out with campaigns before.  So I told her that if she needed someone reliable to help supervise phone banking and data-entry work, I was available."

Berlin's proposal was gladly accepted, and she has since been working the phones like a trader on Wall Street.  Mercifully, the number of hang-ups and flat-out rejections has been limited.

"Sometimes the people we call are very brief," said Berlin.  "They'll say, "Yeah I'll support Obama.  I can't help volunteer but I'll support him.'  Other times, they'll say they'll never support Obama and then they'll hang up.

"But when we call someone who does want to talk and who does want to understand what we have to say, that's valuable.  We tell them how we need more people like you on our side."

Berlin, who has been volunteering with political campaigns since the 1960s, said that she used to do more door-to-door canvassing when she was younger, but a bad back has limited her to working the phones and data-entry assignments.

"It's hard to go door to door in New Jersey, especially in the suburbs, where the houses are so spaced out," said Berlin.  "But I've never had a door slammed on me when I did go door to door.  A few weeks ago in Princeton, we visited a couple of people who were registered as Democratic but were iffy with Obama.  That's about as difficult as it has gotten."

Berlin credits her youth for her enthusiasm toward volunteering.

"Maybe it's because I'm a Kennedy kid," she said.  "He inspired me.  He inspired a lot of people from my generation."

Berlin was also a hard-hitting volunteer back in 2004, when she worked in Washington, D.C., and lived in Montgomery County, Md.  That year, many of her neighbors car pooled to Montgomery County, Pa., where they distributed sealed envelopes stuffed with literature about John Kerry.

It's too bad not everyone supports their candidate to the degree that Berlin does, she said, but the mother of three also understands.

"When we were making phone calls to Democrats asking them if they wanted to volunteer, many of the people were not home, and the majority of the people that did pick up said that they had a family and thus, not the time needed to volunteer," said Berlin.  "Other people also said that they have a demanding full-time job, or that they were working two jobs, or working and going to school at night, all because of the bad economy."

Berlin is also retired.  After working several years in financial management services for the government, she has a pension, so she doesn't need to work.

"I have the time most people do not," she said.  "But I always felt it was my obligation to volunteer, even when I worked.  I always did a little something, whether it was giving out literature or holding up signs.

"It's an empowering feeling, volunteering.  It helps that I am energetic and a little on the hyper side, but I feel all people should be involved.  They would feel that much better."

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