Staff photo by Julian Emerson | Enlarge

MADISON — In groups of a half dozen or so, 65 Chippewa Valley residents made their way Thursday through the stately marble halls of Wisconsin’s state capitol building, each seeking to make a difference in whatever way they could on topics important to them.

Participants from the Eau Claire area, members of the organization Joining Our Neighbors Advancing Hope, or JONAH, were in Madison for the day as part of a larger statewide effort involving more than 800 people intent on pushing forward various issues.

Earlier in the day they gathered at Madison’s Bethel Lutheran Church to discuss matters ranging from criminal justice system reform to transportation to health care. After a short lunch they convened at the capitol, then broke into groups to meet with state legislators from the areas where they live, eager to advocate for ideas they believe in.

“There are so many people in jail who need services instead to get their lives on a better track,” JONAH member Audrey Nelson, of Eau Claire, told state Rep. Dana Wachs, an Eau Claire Democrat, in Wachs’ statehouse office. “That, in turn, leads to many other problems, and it has a huge cost to our community.”

Nelson and others in her group told Wachs about other issues they believe need attention, topics such as more state funding for highways and how to better assist people living in poverty. After about 20 minutes of discussion with Wachs, they left and headed down a hallway toward Republican state Rep. Warren Petryk’s office.

“On to the next one,” Nelson said matter-of-factly.

Getting involved

Instances of people getting more involved in what is happening in national, state and local politics appear to be on the rise in recent months.

For evidence locally, look…