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Merion Mom Donates $15, Gets Call From President Obama

Sandy Swanson sent a letter to President Obama, and what followed is something she and her family will never forget.

It wasn't a huge sum, but for Merion mom Sandy Swanson, the $15 she donated to President Obama's campaign in August was still a sacrifice.

The donation seemed almost pointless in the scheme of things—"pebble-in-the-ocean support," she later called it. But for the stay-at-home-mom of two and her family—living below the poverty line while her husband Steve studies at Temple University—that $15 could have been spent on a lot of things.

So when the family opted to use their pizza money to donate to the president's campaign, Swanson decided to let the president know.

She'd never written a letter to a president before. But it was a quiet evening, the kids were asleep, her husband was working on his dissertation, and, Swanson decided, why not?

She wrote the letter—which talks about her family's love for Poppi's Pizza, her husband's hard work, and her support for the Obama campaign—mailed it off, and went about her business.

“It seemed far-fetched that it would do anything, besides get lost in a huge basket of mail,” she told Patch this week.

So when Swanson got an odd phone call three weeks ago while making dinner, she didn't think much of it. Assuming it was a solicitation call, she was only half listening—at least, until she heard some key phrases, like "Air Force One."

And then the kicker: "Please hold for the President."

"The classic line you never imagine anyone saying to you," Swanson laughed, still sounding a bit shocked. "At that point, I'm sure I must have said yes, but I don’t remember."

President Obama thanked Swanson for her grassroots support, and told her he'd read the letter and knew about the block party she was planning to help get out the vote in her neighborhood.

"He said all these ridiculous complimentary things about being the perfect example of who this campaign is—I felt very undeserving hearing all that from the president," Swanson said.

And also on that call—which Obama made the same week of all the upheaval in Libya and North Africa, Swanson noted—the president took the time to say hello to her husband and her two young daughters, thanking them, too, for their support.

"It was totally surreal," Swanson recalled.

Swanson will be hosting a block party in her Merion neighborhood this Sunday to encourage election involvement and educate neighbors on Voter ID law requirements, and Obama campaign members will be available to answer questions. There will be free ice cream, lemonade and pizza—the latter of which will be provided by Poppi's, Swanson's favorite pizza place.

Speaking of pizza: as if talking to the president weren't enough, the Obama campaign also had a pizza delivered to the Swansons' home for their daughter's sixth birthday.

"It was the coolest pizza I've ever eaten," Swanson said.

Read Swanson's full letter to President Obama here. 

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LLH_Philly September 28, 2012 at 07:17 PM
I hardly see how those two things are related. Plenty of people can take 10 minutes to write a letter.
Amanda September 28, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Wow, you have to move your car?? What kind of world are we living in?? The horror!
Tina Elsner September 28, 2012 at 09:30 PM
LLH - you're right! My apologies; I just spoke with Sandy and she explained the logistics to me. My apologies to all for being such a grouch. I tried to delete my comment but that didn't seem to work. I think the block party sounds like a great idea and I hope that she gets a good turnout from the neighborhood residents and any others who are interested. Since I had just been talking about volunteering to help with voter registration efforts, this seems like a perfect opportunity to sign up and do that.
Tina Elsner September 28, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Yes - truly horrible! Especially since I had planned to be out of the neighborhood most of the day. What can I say, I am a moron sometimes. That's why I shouldn't comment with lack of sleep and work stress making me crazy. Now if I could only figure out how to delete that comment, since the delete function doesn't seem to be working on Patch.
Tina Elsner September 28, 2012 at 09:37 PM
Nope - just grouchy this morning after a long week out of town for work :) I'm better now, and hopefully Sandy will forgive my lack of neighborly-ness.
E. Ogens September 28, 2012 at 11:27 PM
I am sorry but I don't think that the Swanson family qualifies for poverty. They live in a home worth $255,000 and both parents are healthy and could work!!! My husband was married , worked two jobs and went to Rutgers at night and had a son to take care of. I just donated a large sum to Romney because social issues are not the main crux of this elect6ion. Security , jobs and debt top the social issues. Communism is on its way with Obama. How can people be so blind?????? They need to do their research and find the truth. Likeability does not equal competence!!!!!!!!!!!!
Stacey Heivilin September 29, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Hey E. Ogens, I personally.don't care what you think about this family, their circumstances or yours! I find it ridiculous that you feel it necessary to discuss your "large" donation to the Romney campaign. Does that make you feel better about yourself? Go for it! The problem with this country isn't a threat of communism, it's people like you who feel justified in looking down on people struggling in this country to improve their lives & the future for their children. Who are you to judge anyone? You know NOTHING about this family except for the limited information from a short article about a letter! Shame on you!
Concerned Citizen September 29, 2012 at 02:56 AM
E Ogens. Sshhhh. You sound like a lunatic, oh sorry, a self-righteous wealthy lunatic.
Christine Dorian September 29, 2012 at 03:35 AM
E. Ogens, You mention that people should do their research but you obviously need to do just that. If you think Obama is communist you have no idea what communism is. I recommend getting info from reputable non-partisan sources - real journalists not ultra right-wing sources feeding people distortions and lies.
E. Ogens September 29, 2012 at 12:02 PM
HI! I have been researching for four years. :) I am not wealthy and far from a lunatic I volunteer with people who came from Cuba and the Soviet Union. Ask them what they think of Obama and communism. I grew up in Ardmore and attended Ardmore Avenue School. I paid my own way to Villanova. I worked all of my life. What will you do when the country runs out of money? Hopw much can be printed until the dollar is worhless? Soros knows. Where do you get your facts? I am not degrading Mrs.Swanson. I have many friends who live in Merion. I just find it hard to believe her story. I can agree to disagree with all of you. This is still America. By the way I sent $25.00 as i have been retired for 15 years. and live on a fixed income. What about the calls never made to our soldier's parents or to the border agent's parents? What about Obama's not visiting Israel? Why are you all so angry and critical when you do not have any facts about me.. P.S. I think you need to check the lies spewed continually by Obama and his administration. All most all of his people are socialists or communists. Go see 2016 and read and do your research. Talk is cheap and all talk and no action are Obama's only attributes.
A. Stokes September 29, 2012 at 12:34 PM
I wish folks with no personal knowledge of others' situations wouldn't make judgments. Ever think they don't own that house?
Mildred Roberts September 30, 2012 at 04:55 AM
When the economy collapses, it won't matter if you're liberal or conservative. However, it will be easy to tell the difference. The conservatives will be laughing and the liberals will be rioting. Remember the old saying... "Give a man a fish, and he'll riot for more free fish."
S.S. September 30, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Actually -- the real saying goes, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." Clearly we all have different views of the world. I'll spend my life trying to feed and educate people...you spend your life eating fish.
Philabella October 01, 2012 at 12:04 PM
What a nice story (not including the obnoxious comments left by readers). Sally Swanson is absolutely an example of grass roots support and how no contribution (financial or otherwise) is insignificant. Regardless of your political views, it's an honor for the President to call you! And pizza too! Awesome!
Christine Dorian October 09, 2012 at 04:29 AM
You asked where I get my facts? I love the site Politifact to separate fact from fiction: It has a "truthometer" that tells you if politicians are telling the truth. Very eye-opening! For example, when Romney said in the debate that Obama doubled the deficit, that was completely false. In the explanation it said "So, far from doubling the deficit, Obama (along with, it should be noted, some Republican help in Congress) has instead reduced the deficit by about 8 percent." Obamacare will also reduce the deficit, not add to it. FYI, Obama was not entirely perfect on the truthometer either! I also like online sites like slate.com, huffington post, daily beast etc. They've all had articles about Romney's dishonesty in the debate. I also go to sites from economists (bi-partisan) who can explain in plain language presidents' economic policies, the deficit etc (By the way, it's so high due to a lethal combination of tax cuts and increased military spending by Bush, in addition to a Medicare drug program that he had no way to pay for -- so everything was basically put on a credit card.) I also found out our taxes are at a 60-year low. I encourage people to find unbiased info, instead of basing your vote on lies on Nov. 6. There's a lot of untruthful stuff being spewed out! Calling our government communist or socialist sounds like right-wing extremist rhetoric designed to scare people. Having a safety net for struggling folks hardly makes our govn't communist!

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