Dear Editor:

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I boarded the bus in Westfield that morning. I knew I was ready for the Women’s March on D.C., but I didn’t know a single other person on the bus.

Then I met Dawn Mackey.

Dawn was sitting across the aisle from me. And no one can sit across the aisle from Dawn Mackey and not instantly become friends with her. Not just because she immediately shared with me – and everyone around her – the hand wipes, tissues and other essentials no one else had thought to bring for the long bus ride (evidence of her foresight and organizational skills). Not just because she also shared with everyone a delightful spread of cookies and snacks and Italian sandwiches (evidence of her incredible generosity).

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Mostly because of her obvious, genuine dedication to women’s rights and human rights, and her determination to fight back against those who would undermine them.

When I told Dawn about my own experience as a forced-marriage survivor, and how I founded a nonprofit, Unchained At Last, to help end forced and child marriage in America, Dawn quickly vowed to do whatever she could to help the cause. When we parted ways after that extraordinary day in D.C., she promised to follow up with specific plans.

And she did. Since that day, Dawn has spent hours of her time raising awareness of forced and child marriage in New Jersey and urging her friends and colleagues to email and call their legislators – on one particular day, helping to flood Sen. Nellie Pou’s office with more than 80 letters thanking the senator for sponsoring the bill to end child marriage in New Jersey. Dawn also has met with me to strategize and has introduced me to others in town and beyond who can help further Unchained’s mission.

Most recently, Dawn insisted on taking on the role of bridal-gown designer and creator. Unchained needs bridal gowns because the organization regularly hosts Chain-Ins, or political protests where participants, dressed in bridal gowns and veils, chain their arms and tape their mouths to raise awareness of forced and child marriage.

So perhaps you will not be surprised to learn I wholeheartedly endorse Dawn Mackey as candidate for Westfield Town Council, Ward 4. I can think of no one more thoughtful, kind, energetic and dedicated to represent me in my local government.