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Hope's Network

A 28-person daisy chain of inspiring Bay Areans.


The Activists Next Door
From Right to Left: Judith Bolker, Susan Pfeifer, Aram Fischer, Caroline Nassif, Jiggy Athilingam

(1 of 7)

The Social Justice Warriors

From Left to Right: Fred Blackwell, Daniel Zingale, Lenore Anderson, Alicia Boccellari

(2 of 7)

The Immigrant Defenders

From Left to Right: Amanda Alvarado Ford, Pillar Eslava, Ana Herrera, Saira Hussain, Reverend Deborah Lee

(3 of 7)

The Climate Crusaders

From Left to Right: Abigail Dillen, Adam Browning, Emily Kirsch, and Nancy Pfund

(4 of 7)

The Everyday Educators

From Left to Right: Representative Eric Swalwell, Beth Borchers, Tamara Helfer, and Patrick Remer

(5 of 7)

The Civil Rights Watchers

Top: Abdi Soltani & Myrtle Braxton
Bottom: Rebecca Brown

(6 of 7)

The LGBTQ Champions
Top: Elizabeth Lanyon & Ken Jones
Bottom: Michelle Meow

(7 of 7)


In dark times like these (and no matter your politics, these have been rough days in America), it's a good idea to follow the advice of Mr. Rogers and "look for the helpers."

Fortunately, in the Bay Area, we’re blessed with a multitude of them: cleantech innovators, criminal justice reformers, LGBTQ rights leaders, grassroots phone bankers, philanthropic thinkers, immigrant defenders. We tracked down some of these indefatigable  ghters and asked who’s helping them carry on. What resulted was a daisy chain of goodness, with citizens helping citizens to lead us back to the light.

The Activists Next Door

Judith Bolker
Coleader of Swing Left, a campaign organization targeting vulnerable Republican candidates
“Susan got me engaged in grassroots organizing, first with the ACA and then with Hillary Clinton’s campaign. She guided me on phone banks, tabling, and the ABCs of keeping an organization on track.”

Susan Pfeifer
Cofounder of Democracy Action, a phone bank for Democratic causes
“Aram is creating a place where voters can be heard; he’s working to connect new groups to create a more cohesive force to take back our government.”

Aram Fischer
Leader of San Francisco’s chapter of Indivisible, the group working with Congress to steer policy
“In less than a year, Jiggy has created a framework for Californians to understand state politics and apply citizen pressure to make real change in Sacramento.” “It’s easy as a Californian to feel electorally powerless. After watching Caroline and Sister District in action, I believe that they will restore voting rights and fair representation across the country.”

Caroline Nassif
Leader of the Sister District Project, a state-level grassroots organization working to flip red states to blue by focusing on local elections
“I don’t have any experience in political organizing; I thought, what right do I have to be here? Hearing Aram talk about how he’s from Berkeley and has done politics from before he was even born is way more important than me and my insecurities. 

Jiggy Athilingam
Cofounder of California State Strong, a partner of Indivisible San Francisco that participates in statelevel grassroots organizing and lobbying for progressive legislation
“Because I’m so new to political work, I’m particularly inspired by others who are also new to the scene and have changed their lives to meet the current needs of our society.”

The Social Justice Warriors 

Fred Blackwell
CEO of the San Francisco Foundation, which promotes racial and economic equity
“The California Endowment has been highlighting concerns rising out of actions that the administration has taken, and has established a Rapid Response Fund for issues that are impacting the community.”

Daniel Zingale
Senior vice president of the nonprofit California Endowment, which expands access to affordable healthcare for underserved populations
“Californians for Safety and Justice were a driving force behind the passage of Prop. 47 and Prop. 57, and Lenore was really a thought leader and strategist behind that.”

Lenore Anderson
Founder and executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice, a nonprofit advocating for reforming the criminal justice system “Alicia Boccellari has been providing trauma and recovery support to victims of crime. That is an extremely smart investment when it comes to stopping the cycle of crime.”

Alicia Boccellari
Clinical psychologist at UCSF and cofounder of UCSF’s Trauma Recovery Center
“I spend a good deal of time reflecting on how we keep hope alive. I believe now, more than ever, in the importance of healing communities and that, despite Trump, the world is still filled with good, caring, and loving people. I am inspired by my clients’ resilience.”

The Immigrant Defenders

Amanda Alvarado Ford and Pilar Eslava
Former directors of La Raza Centro Legal’s immigration law program who now run their own private practice, Alvarado & Eslava, LLP
Alvarado: “Ana is a tireless, dedicated removal defense attorney who, in spite of working 12-hour days, makes it a priority to mentor other immigration workers with their complex cases. Ana also takes time with each client so that they are treated with dignity.”

Ana Herrera
Managing attorney of the deportation defense and legal advocacy program for low-income and immigrant communities at Dolores Street Community Services
“Saira sees how each immigrant community’s struggles are tied together—that is, an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. She’s exemplified this through her work on SB 54, the 'sanctuary state' bill. 

Saira Hussain
Staff attorney at the Asian Law Caucus who was instrumental in passing the “sanctuary state” bill
“Reverend Deborah Lee leads vigils at West County Detention Facility twice a month for immigrant detainees and works with congregations to become physical sanctuaries for immigrants facing deportation.”

Reverend Deborah Lee
Senior program director of immigration at the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity
“I understand being a disciple of Jesus to mean practicing a devout defense and radical inclusion of the most marginalized in society and challenging the power structures that dehumanize and oppress.”

The Climate Crusaders

Abigail Dillen
Vice president of climate and energy litigation at Earthjustice, which uses the law to enforce environmental protections
“Adam saw very early that scaling solar power is the key to unlocking a wholesale energy transformation, and he is seizing the opportunity.”

Adam Browning
Executive director of Vote Solar, a nonprofit that promotes state-level policies to bring solar energy into the mainstream
“Emily and her incubator find entrepreneurs with bright ideas and give them space, cash, and mentorships; show them how to raise money; and connect them to the markets they need to engage with.”

Emily Kirsch
Cofounder and CEO of Powerhouse, an Oaklandbased accelerator and incubator for energysector startups
“Ninety percent of venture capitalists are both white and male, and only 4 percent of venture capital funding goes to women. Nancy just stands out as an incredibly successful figure in this world.”

Nancy Pfund
Founder and managing partner of DBL Partners, a venture firm investing in clean-tech companies including SolarCity, Tesla, and NexTracker
“We have seen a redoubling of efforts to invest with impact. As people see the dysfunction in Washington, they look to the private sector to play more of a role. California has doubled down.”

The Eveyday Educators 

Representative Eric Swalwell
East Bay U.S. congressman and a ranking Democrat on the House committee investigating Russia’s ties to the 2016 election
“After the election, Beth Borchers, the mom of a West Point cadet, started an activist group to call people, send postcards, and take action. Her energy and optimism give me hope for the future.”

Beth Borchers
Volunteer mentor for No One Left Behind and a science teacher at Fair Oaks Elementary School
“Given Tamara’s intelligence, she could do anything, yet she’s devoted her life to bettering our public schools and teaching kids about the value of growing their own food and healthy eating.”

Tamara Helfer
Founder of Sequoia Science Education
“Patrick’s always thinking outside the box and pushing to get parents and community members involved. He’s doing incredibly innovative things around education, especially around early education, which has a lot to do with educating parents.”

Patrick Remer
Pleasant Hill Community Library manager
“Every day our doors are open to everybody. When I greet somebody who comes into the library, I can meet them where they are and listen; I get to connect with them and support them on whatever learning journey they’re on."

The LGBTQ Champions

Elizabeth Lanyon
Co-coordinator of Women’s March in San Francisco, which gathered 150,000 supporters on inauguration day to rally for women’s interests
“Michelle asks tough questions and really pushes the envelope. She has a really tough job, to run Pride Board in San Francisco when we all know our queer community is as divisive as we can possibly be.”

Michelle Meow
President of the San Francisco Pride Board, a 47-year-old LGBTQ pride organization that originally formed to protest police brutality against gay people
“Cleve Jones, Ken Jones, Cecilia Chung—these people that are doing work on the field—all it takes is going to one event and meeting them. It makes you feel like you can do the things they have done.”

Ken Jones
LGBTQ activist and navy veteran
“I am inspired by the young people of all colors and economic and social status who are gathering week after week as they build their resistance lifestyle. I feel their passion to make this world a better place.”


Originally published in the December issue of San Francisco 

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