May 31, 2017

Growth of Local Grass Roots Group Has Taken Founders by Surprise

The November election of Donald Trump did not sit well with Lindsay Castro, Ashley Henderson, and Anna Westrick.

The three friends, who live with their families in Princeton, went to the Women’s March in Washington the day after the Trump inauguration. Energized by the momentum, they were inspired to form a group of like-minded people, motivated to support officials reflecting their views. That marked the beginning of Princeton Marching Forward, a locally-based, grass roots organization which now numbers some 230 on its current mailing list.

The three friends were taken aback by the quick response to their idea.

“We thought if we had 10 people show up at the first meeting, it was a win. And we had 85,” said Ms. Castro, a stay-at-home mother (Ms. Henderson is a producer at the New York advertising agency BBDO, and Ms. Westrick is a physician at University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro). “We were amazed,” Ms Castro continued. “But we realized we had tapped into this community of newly-motivated people who had never done something like this before. We’ve become part of this national grass roots movement. We are a local, action-oriented group formed to stand up for what we believe in and elect officials who feel the same.”

The group e-mails subscribers an update each week. The most recent one included the news about former FBI Director Robert Mueller being appointed special counsel to oversee the investigation of Mr. Trump’s campaign, calling it “the first big piece of bipartisanship since the new administration took effect. A win for all.” Links to a New York Times story about newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron appointing an equal number of men and women to his cabinet; a Huffington Post article about Planned Parenthood; and a citizen activist training session are also in the mailing.

Monthly meetings are held in the founders’ homes. Past speakers have included journalist Kathleen Biggins, whose presentation was about climate change; Princeton Councilwoman Heather Howard, whose talk focused on health care; and Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, who spoke at the group’s February meeting. The June 12 gathering of the group will be a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey.

So far, all of the meetings have been held in the organizers’ homes. “We want to keep the meetings at our houses,” Ms. Castro said. “Our whole platform is based on reaching like-minded people who are really busy, but can just stop by, have a glass of wine, and talk about these important issues. The feel of Princeton Marching Forward really belongs in the home.”

While the emphasis is on those whose political views tend toward the left, the group is not opposed to hearing from the other side. “We see ourselves as positive, and highly patriotic,” said Ms. Castro. “We welcome people with different views. We’re actually thinking about trying to bring in some speakers for the fall who wouldn’t completely align with our views.”

The Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey fundraiser on June 12, at 7:30 p.m., is geared not only to raising money, but also to raising awareness for New Jersey elections and how they relate to women’s health and reproductive rights. Featured speakers are Christine Sadovy, the legislative and political director of Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey; and Sean Hoey, the organization’s field director.

“We know elections matter,” said Ms. Castro. “New Jersey is one of only two states with elections this year — the governorship and 120 seats in the New Jersey Legislature are up for grabs, and the nation will be watching. What happens in New Jersey will set the tone for the midterm elections nationwide in 2018.”

The suggested donation is $50, but all are welcome to attend and donate what they can. Visit for details and to be put on the mailing list.

Starting Princeton Marching Forward has been a learning experience for its founders. “We felt like we had to do this for our own psyches,” Ms. Castro said. “It has really snowballed. And it has been really educational, rewarding, and fun.”