SWANZEY — Ask the Yang Gang, and ye shall receive.
For Zachary Griffin of Swanzey, what started as an unsettling observation and a tweet turned into a windfall of school supplies sitting in his living room.
Griffin, 44, said he has never been that involved in politics, whether national or local. But ever since becoming an ardent supporter of and volunteer for Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang, Griffin said he’s begun to see issues in a new light.
So when he recently heard two of his boys — Bailey, 8, who attends Cutler, and Bentley, 7, who attends Mount Caesar — talk about how their teachers at the Swanzey elementary schools often pay out of pocket for school supplies, he tried something new.
Griffin said he had gotten lists in the past from Cutler and Mount Caesar asking parents to donate hand sanitizer bottles or other supplies not covered by the school budget. On relaying that basic struggle to some Yang organizers last week while knocking on doors, something clicked. They suggested that Griffin “Yang the teachers” by airing the issue online.
In between working as a car salesman at Brattleboro Subaru, picking up the kids and canvassing, Griffin sent out a tweet calling on Yang’s legion of online followers — who self-identify as the #YangGang — for some help.
The next day, school supplies started showing up at his door.
Almost a week later, packages from all over the country had piled up in his living room.
In an interview on Tuesday, Griffin said 30 boxes had already been delivered to his house, including more than 2,000 pencils, two supersized sets of hand sanitizer and plenty of paper.
“The response has been unbelievable,” Griffin said.
Members of Griffin’s family also made their own calls for supplies in videos that he tweeted out, leading to even more packages.
Griffin said he’s made contact with a teacher at Mount Caesar, but hasn’t yet turned over the supplies. He said he wants to make sure they get allocated efficiently without turning into a mess for anyone at the school.
When he approached the principal at Mount Caesar, Griffin said, she didn’t know who Andrew Yang was.
“And I was like, ugh, that’s why I’m doing this!” he said.
Officials at Mount Caesar and Cutler did not return a request for comment Wednesday.
On Thursday, Monadnock Superintendent Lisa A. Witte emailed the following statement to The Sentinel:
"We are very appreciative of the efforts members of our community make to provide for our schools. The administration of the district was unaware that this effort was being undertaken, and were equally unaware of any association with a particular candidate or political campaign," Witte said in the email, after the article's publication. "The Monadnock Regional School District does not endorse or support any candidate, party, or special interest group."
Witte said the school board will discuss whether it can accept the donation at its next meeting.
Through the whole experience, Griffin said he’s reflected on his evolution as a voter and engaged citizen.
In 2016, he said, he was a registered Republican and voted for Donald Trump.
But ever since discovering Yang on a YouTube video and subsequently attending his events, Griffin has become an unaffiliated voter and gone door to door to learn about issues affecting his communities.
“I’m in the car business, so I see automation — I mean you look at [artificial intelligence] eyesight, these cars driving themselves, it’s real,” Griffin said. “And nobody talks about it.
“And then I watched the debate, and he started getting everybody to talk about it,” he continued. “And I was like, ‘Wow, we would never even be hearing about this.’”
Yang, a New York tech entrepreneur, has helped push automation, artificial intelligence and universal basic income into the Democratic Party’s discourse, earning a fervent following across the Internet and in pockets of the Granite State.
Even with the first-in-the-nation primary grabbing his attention, Griffin said that canvassing has made him want to get more involved in local politics to make a difference.
Griffin added that engaging with politics has made him more sympathetic to educators and the funding issues facing schools, which he has not always been as aware of heading to the ballot box.
“It definitely makes me want to be more involved [with the school board] as well, because as far as politics have gone, I haven’t really been that deep in it, you know what I mean?” he said. “I’d get down to the end and I’d be making a decision.
“But becoming a supporter of Andrew, I’ve gone all in.”
This article has been updated to reflect a statement from Superintendent Lisa A. Witte.