Greenwood County Democrats have found ways of staying connected during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“We have gained quite a few new members and have lost touch with others because of the shift in technology,” Bill Kimler, chairman of the Greenwood County Democratic Party, said.
Kimler began to shift the programming of the party to a virtual format to try and keep members connected during the pandemic. He said some of the party’s membership has not been able to adjust to virtual and technological ways of meeting particularly among the older generations.
Despite the challenges, Kimler, who works in IT, has used the available means and his expertise to keep things moving in a safe way for participants.
The party hosts a monthly virtual breakfast where party members can hear from party leadership and outside speakers. Democrats are also active in other ways.
“We have a very active social media presence,” Kimler said.
He said on some platforms the party has doubled or tripled the number of followers since the start of the pandemic.
A few months ago, Kimler started hosting virtual office hours.
“I used to be a teacher,” Kimler said. “The idea of an office hour, just an open door where anybody could come in for any reason, was something I always wanted to do when I first considered running for chair of the party.”
He said prior to the pandemic he was planning to set up the office hours at a coffee shop or public meeting area but COVID-19 changed those plans.
For the last few months, Kimler has hosted his office hours through Zoom for others to log on and chat.
“Just open up the door virtually and anybody who drops by, drops by,” Kimler said.
Despite the successes, the party has faced some technological challenges. The party’s YouTube page was taken down not once but twice in early April.
“It was taken down twice,” Kimler said.
Kimler was able to successfully appeal both times before having to move the organization’s content to another platform.
The party has also hosted a number of virtual town halls including a legislative town hall put on by the Young Democrats of Greenwood.
“I’m really proud of the Young Democrats,” Kimler said. “I’m proud of them all around.”
Kimler said the party helped the Young Democrats get off the ground but the organization runs independently.
On Thursday at the Young Democrats legislative town hall, Jitwan Floyd — the organization’s leader — talked with municipal, county and state legislators.
Greenwood City Council members Patricia Partlow of Ward 2 and Betty Boles of Ward 3 spoke about the need for broadband access and more beautification in Greenwood.
“A lot of homes are boarded up, abandoned,” Partlow said.
Representing county government was Greenwood County Council member Edith Childs, who talked about overcoming challenges in a poor district and becoming active in government.
“All you have to do is get involved in your community,” Childs said.
Cleaning up trash in your neighborhood or helping a senior citizen who may be shut in can be a great start to public service, she said.
Reps. Anne Parks of Greenwood and Chandra Dillard, D-Greenville, gave an update on the happenings at the statehouse this legislative session.
“The one good thing we did was pass the hate crimes bill,” Parks said.
While technical difficulties silenced Parks during the town hall, Dillard spoke about how to get involved in government by serving on a board or commission.
“That is an important place to serve,” Dillard said.
Return to normal
“We are seeing some of our counterparts throughout the state already having outdoor events and meetings,” Kimler said. “We are not quite there yet.”
Kimler said the party is planning for an outdoor event in June or July although don’t be surprised if some of the virtual programming continues.
“I do want to keep some of this virtual stuff going,” Kimler said.