How to Get Involved in Plowshare

Occasionally I am asked about how to get involved in Plowshare Peace Center. Or I am asked how to become a member of Plowshare. With the new Presidential administration, this has started to pick up, in fact.

First, I will clarify about Plowshare membership. We are not organized on a membership basis. This was discussed early on, and it was felt that we would be spending a lot of energy and time keeping track of who is a member, sending out reminders about dues, etc. It was felt that that energy and time was better used doing our projects.

Instead, Plowshare is organized on a practical basis. That is, you can have a connection with Plowshare based on however you want it to be. If you want to be very active, be very active. If you want to be less active, be less active. Sometimes people are very active, at other times less so. People come and go (and sometimes come back).

How then does one become involved in Plowshare? I will tell you what my experience has been, though others in Plowshare may, of course, have different experiences.

I will also describe involvement in Plowshare generally from very active to less active. While we want to get people active, all levels of activity are valued.

*Plowshare Board

I usually recommend that people interested in becoming involved in Plowshare first attend a Plowshare board meeting. This will give you a good overview of our projects.

If you are led to join the board, you will be asked to attend some meetings so you can see if you are in tune with Plowshare and so the board can see if you are in tune with Plowshare. (See the Plowshare mission statement at the end of this document. You should be generally in agreement with it). Then the board will decide about your membership on the board. (As a 501(c)3 organization, Plowshare does have board members). You will be asked to attend the Plowshare board’s monthly meetings and to serve on a committee or as a coordinator. Again, being part of the board is on a practical basis, that is, some board members are very active, some less so.

Some people attend the Plowshare board meetings, never intending to join the Plowshare board. But then they have a better sense of Plowshare projects. And we can talk about their involvement with Plowshare. (If you can’t or don’t want to attend a board meeting, that’s okay. We can still discuss your involvement with Plowshare).

*Committees and Coordinators

Plowshare operates on a committee or a coordinator basis. They are autonomous, that is, the Plowshare board doesn’t tell them what to do. We ask them not to spend a lot of our money without asking us first or not to embarrass Plowshare by making statements or doing something major without checking with us first. But they generally work on their projects as they see fit.

Committees have risen from felt concerns. That is, someone sees a need, like holding peace vigils or distributing alternative newspapers; approach the Plowshare board to see about this being taken as a project; and then, when approved, run with it. We are always open to new projects. (Or revival of old ones. I would like to get our Truth-in-recruitment Committee going again).

Below are the present action committees and coordinators.

**Vigil Committee-Plowshare holds a monthly silent peace vigil on the third Saturday of the month from noon to 1 PM in front of the Roanoke City Market Building. We co-sponsor the Sierra Club climate change vigil on the first Saturday of the month from 11 AM to noon in front of the Roanoke City Market Building.

**Program Committee-Plowshare offers programs and workshops on issues and skills. We like to organize at least half a dozen a year. We have presented all kind of issues and workshops. In recent years, the Teen Peace Jam, our annual youth conference in the spring, has been a big event for us. Peace in the Park and the Plowshare Open House, both in the fall, are also major events.

**Death Penalty Committee-Plowshare gathers for a death penalty vigil on the nights of executions, usually from 8:45 to 9:15 PM, in various locations. (Executions are scheduled for 9 PM).

**Newspaper Coordinator-Plowshare distributes “Appalachian Voices” and “The Virginia Defender” at fifteen locations around the Roanoke Valley. We are looking at other papers to distribute.

**Carpooling Coordinator-Plowshare arranges carpools when there are out-of-town demonstrations. In recent years that has been to the School of the Americas Watch demonstrations in Georgia, but we have also done this for protests in Lexington and Washington DC.

**Public Information Committee-Plowshare wages a campaign to encourage WVTF-FM to carry the show “Democracy Now!” and to constitute a responsive Friends Council.

*Lobbying Committee-Plowshare meets with officeholders or their staff in Roanoke and Washington DC about our concerns. We have also organized demonstrations around various concerns, as needed.

**Ad Hoc-Plowshare occasionally takes on other projects. For example, we have hosted Pastors for Peace when they come through the area; participated in the Witness for Torture fast; or worked on the Springwood Burial Park clean-up. We have also supported other groups, like Impact + Amplify; Environmental Patriots of the New River Valley; Radio Free Roanoke; or Blue Ridge Coalition Against Gun Violence.

Below are the present infrastructure committees:

**Outreach Committee-Plowshare works to let people know about Plowshare and its projects in many ways. Among these ways are: an email list; a Facebook page; a Facebook page; a website; a quarterly newsletter; tabling at festivals; visits to groups; interviews on television and radio and in newspapers; marching in parades and a monthly online calendar.

**Finance Committee-Plowshare raises funds to continue our work. Most of this is through individual contributions and pledges. Some religious organizations also support us. We also make money through the Kroger contribution program; merchandise; the Natural Foods chips program; the website donation button; and 5% organizations. Lately we have been encouraging people to make legacy gifts, that is, bequests, IRA distributions, etc.

**Volunteers Committee-Plowshare recruits and supports volunteers to work in Plowshare. (This document is one effort!) We work with interns, too.

*Occasional Involvement

Some Plowshare supporters want to help out now and then but not serve on the board or on a committee or as a coordinator. For example, they will sit at the table at a festival; march in a parade; attend a peace vigil; go to a program; or help out at a newsletter mailing party. We know who they are and they call us or we call upon them when needed. (And their assistance is very helpful!)

*Financial Support

As noted above, Plowshare depends on individuals or organizations to financially support us. Some give occasional contributions, usually in response to our newsletter. Some pledge amounts monthly, quarterly; half-yearly; or yearly. We have had some legacy gifts (a bequest, IRA distributions) given to us. Amounts vary but all are deeply appreciated.

*Prayers and Good Thoughts

Personally I believe the spirit wheel moves when prayers and good thoughts are sent our way. Some people do this for us, and it’s important!

So, very personally put, these are ways to get involved in Plowshare Peace Center. Want to do more than feel bad after you listen to the news? Check us out!


Plowshare Mission Statement, created at the 2011 Plowshare retreat, subsequently approved by the Plowshare board:

Plowshare Peace Center is committed to the creation of a just world peace by connecting with our local community. We are peace facilitators and social justice advocates, who nurture educational opportunities that engage and inspire actions for a culture of peace.


Gary Sandman
Plowshare Peace and Justice Center Director

Office: 505 Day Av., Roanoke VA 24016
Mail: PO Box 4367, Roanoke VA 24015
Facebook page at “Plowshare Peace & Justice Center”
Facebook group at “Plowshare Peace Center”