Leafletting: An American Past time

Little Sis and Big Bro heading out for an Easter celebration of  our own

Siblings heading out for an Easter celebration

Distributing leaflets on cars is an age-old gray area when it comes to non-commercial and commercial advertising. Well maybe not age-old, the patriots of the American Revolution utilized this method heavily.  The modern consensus on the internets is that pamphlets are annoying, so when extrapolated to the general public, I would say that they’re not exactly a fan favorite. However, as a cheap and relatively easy way to reach a large amount of people I decided to do it anyway.

Perhaps I thought it would be successful and unannoying to the vehicles’ owners because it’s THAT good of a cause. The idea came from my old man this past Friday, “Did you know the Essex Alliance Church is having Easter at the Patrick Gym?”

Turns out the biggest church in the area was having an Easter mass on Saturday at 6pm and Sunday at 10am, a prime opportunity to spread the word about my medical mission. Our hope was that 2,000 to 3,000 church patrons (Saturday evening and Sunday morning) would be looking to make an impact after a moving Easter sermon.

Simple handout flyer.

So on Saturday, the Ursiny team went into action. My dad did a little graphic design, I wrote a little blurb, and we made some leaflets. My younger sister Anna and I went to Votey Hall (on the UVM campus), where engineering students have unlimited printing privileges, and had the printer print out a modest 400 copies, with two leaflets per page.

At 6pm, Anna and I took out all of the leaflets and distributed them on all the cars in the parking garage outside of the Gutterson Field House and Patrick Gymnasium. Once all the literature was disseminated, we made our way to the lobby of the Patrick Gym, where the Essex Alliance Church was holding their Easter reception. My sister went to the bathroom and I stopped in at the information desk to ask permission to disseminate some literature personally in the lobby. The friendly ladies behind the counter didn’t know, so they found someone who would know. But it so happened that the man they were looking for found me first.

Pastor Larry Wakefield confronted me, asking if I had been placing leaflets on the vehicles out in the lot. I confirmed to my former little league baseball coach, a great guy, that I had been doing just that in hopes of spreading word of my cause. He began to get stern and told me that they were going to have to be taken down because they had “reached out” to a lot of new people, hoping to woo them by an extravagant Easter ceremony. Larry explained in a pastoral tone of soothing language that they just couldn’t “do that.” I wasn’t really sure what he meant because it was I who had obviously “done that.”

I understand that he’s trying to run his business while I’m trying to raise some money for my cause, and perhaps the two interests conflicted. However, what could be wrong with supporting a medical mission where the beneficiaries are extremely disadvantaged people in Africa? Especially when there are no overhead or administrative costs, all of the money goes to the actual missions, no skimming, no pork-barrel spending. The church does great work like this from time to time, so I imagined they would be supportive of a local volunteer effort.

I asked Mr. Wakefield if he’d be interested in talking to the authority of the church and perhaps making some sort of larger donation to my cause. He explained that it would have to go through a meeting of “the elders,” insinuating that it would take some time. Naturally, I wouldn’t be granted any permission to leaflet again by the next day’s morning Easter service.

While Larry and I chatted for about half an hour, several other staff service men came to us wondering if I was “the guy” and telling me that I had to take my fliers down. I found it quite amusing that this turned out to be such a big deal, when all I am trying to do is to help some folks who need some medical care.

After more talk of church patrons “reaching out” to new customers, a few lines of gospel at my young impressionable sister, and vague “we can’t have this” comments, I decided that it was time to vacate the premises. To me the whole situation was really disappointing. I met several extremely kind people right before I entered the gym lobby, two ladies and one gentlemen. They were interested in my effort, thought it was a perfect opportunity to raise awareness, and I found them genuinely caring. Hopefully I didn’t annoy the patrons with my literature.

Team Ursiny walked back to the car a bit dejected seeing that all of the leaflets on the top level of the garage were removed and probably thrown away. A waste of effort, time, paper, and ink, what a shame. Fortunately, they either didn’t realize we put a leaflet on every car on every level of the garage or they just couldn’t match our commitment. The sight inoculated us with hope, and we returned home. I would do some research and hopefully we would return to leaflet another day…

Continued with Easter Services Ambush.

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