Virginia Commonwealth University

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100 Rally for Health Care at Capitol

February 17, 2010

By Jessica Porter
Capital News Service

RICHMOND — About 100 people gathered around the Bell Tower at Capitol Square today to urge legislators to move forward with health-care reform.

“We’re here to send a message as clearly as possible that people are suffering, people are dying, for lack of coverage,” said John Lindsay of the Virginia Organizing Project, which organized the rally. “The consequences are serious and grievous to real people who are suffering every day.”

The project, an advocacy group for low-income Virginians, describes itself as “a statewide grassroots organization dedicated to challenging injustice by empowering people in local communities to address issues that affect the quality of their lives.”

Speakers at the rally were Sen. A. Donald McEachin, D-Richmond; Janice Johnson of the Virginia Organizing Project; Jill Hanken of the Virginia Poverty Law Center; the Rev. Jon Heaslet of the United Church of Christ; the Rev. Linda McGowan of Fifth Street Baptist Church; and Tammy Rostov, a small-business owner.

Rostov employs five full-time and four part-time workers at her coffee shop, Rostov’s Coffee. Her business offers its employees health insurance and retirement benefits.

“Being raised in a family of small-business owners, I was taught early on that you treat your employees not like paid staff but your family. You take care of the family business, and you take care of them as your very own family,” Rostov said.

But health insurance costs are soaring, and Rostov became teary-eyed as she said she might not be able to offer benefits much longer.

About 1.2 million Virginians lack health insurance, and 344,000 have more expensive, non-group insurance. The rally’s purpose was to raise awareness among legislators about the need for health-care programs.

The rally came shortly after Gov. Bob McDonnell proposed $2 billion in spending cuts, including reductions in health services, to balance the state budget.

“I thought it was ironic that on Ash Wednesday, we are being asked to give up certain things for Lent,” McEachin said. “I’m not prepared to give up good health care. I hope you are not either.”

On the Web

Virginia Organizing Project: www.virginia-organizing.org