La Crosse Republicans: Captains of Community

[Julian Bradley] led La Crosse County Republicans on a yearlong mission of volunteerism. We rang bells for the Salvation Army, plunged into frigid waters at the Polar Plunge, worked at the La Crosse Community Thanksgiving Dinner and cleaned up neighborhoods on Neighbors Day.

-From my La Crosse Tribune column published today

Republicans in La Crosse County, especially under the leadership of Chairman Julian Bradley, are inventing a whole new dimension for grassroots activism, which I explain in my Tribune column this month.

Mr. Bradley’s activist ideal arose from his less-than-privileged upbringing and a commitment that political parties should be forces for good in their communities rather than just electioneers – a sentiment passed down to him by his mom, a Democrat. When Mr. Bradley approached then- and current chair Vicki Burke, she turned down his offer to do a joint event for the community.

But “Bradley found a willing partner in former La Crosse Democratic chairman Andrew Londre, who responded to one of Bradley’s tweets proposing the idea,” I write. The two sponsored a Toys for Tots toy collection site, which in 2012 was among the most successful sites in La Crosse County.

This year, the “Together for Tots” toy drive is back and the news is even more encouraging:

This year the pair revisited Together for Tots. The site collected toys at a respectable rate…then just the other day, a truck arrived. It was a semi truck, loaded down with $6,000 in toys, a donation by Blain’s Farm and Fleet.

But a bipartisan toy drive, even if the other party isn’t officially onboard, is just the start. La Crosse Republicans also rang bells for the Salvation Army this past weekend. The bell ringing drive is organized by activist Pam Johnson, who underwent breast cancer surgery just last week. WXOW took notice. Ms. Johnson was a top volunteer statewide during the recall of Gov. Walker.

GOPers in God’s Country rang bells in 2012 also, becoming the top getters for the weekend they participated. In 2013 they dove into icy water for the Polar Plunge to support the Special Olympics (while bezombied lefties instead protested Gov. Walker at one of the organization’s events). They helped clean up neighborhoods for disabled and elderly homeowners for Neighbors Day. They volunteered at the La Crosse Community Thanksgiving Dinner, which provides free dinners to all comers and delivers meals to those who can’t venture out (this year the Dinner delivered 1,600 meals).

Yours truly will be joining the Dinner’s planning committee as a result of my experience this year and a decade of experience in commercial kitchens.

Mr. Bradley and Mr. Londre are both using their influence in their respective roles as political leaders to encourage others to follow La Crosse’s lead. The former, the 3rd District GOP vice chair and member of the state party’s executive committee, is spreading the word. The latter, part of the Young Elected Officials Network and a La Crosse County supervisor, is doing the same.

Politics as usual can wait until the first of the year. During the holiday season, helping out those in need is a win-win.

I should note that I’m the secretary of the La Crosse County Republican Party and a frequent participant in these charitable efforts.

About the writer: Chris Rochester has worked in communications and finance for a state Senate and congressional campaign, consulted on numerous Assembly and local races, and has held leadership roles in his local Republican Party. He's communications director for the MacIver Institute. Commentary here is strictly his own.