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Unpaid, But Inspired: Volunteers Do Behind the Scenes Work for Santorum's Campaign

Volunteers work long hours for their favorite candidates.

Steve Johnson's hands were covered in black dirt after spending Tuesday afternoon assembling Rick Santorum signs with a small crew of volunteers at the .

As television crews set up lights in the Grand Ballroom, a group of four or five people gathered to put together the hundreds of red and blue signs in advance of the party he planned to hold later that night.

Then, just as a few people had to leave, a few more volunteers walked in.

"This is very organic," said Steve Johnson, who is a member of the Francis Howell School Board and a Republican. "There's no crew of people teling us what to do."

Volunteerism on behalf of presidential candidates had been slow to organize in St. Charles County, that is, 

Steve and his wife, Mary Johnson, had wanted to volunteer on behalf of presidential hopeful Rick Santorum for awhile, but weren't quite sure what to do.

"We got a phone call to see if we could volunteer at ," Mary Johnson said. "I was very excited."

From there, people started talking to one another about which candidate they liked best, said Mary Johnson. "Everybody had been hiding in a corner," she said. "Now they're all excited, how can we help?"

On Friday, Steve Johnson picked up a load of campaign signs from a distribution center in Hazelwood and drove them to Fulton and Columbia where he met another volunteer who took them further West.

Then, the Johnsons and several other people put up the campaign signs on Monday night in nearly every precinct in St. Charles County.

Steve Johnson said he thinks that Santorum's hope is to prove he's a viable nominee through his success in Missouri. 

"He has a path for solving some of the problems the country faces," he said.

Cheryl Bates, president of the St. Charles County Young Republicans group, said she knew after seeing Santorum speak on Jan. 30 that he was the person she would support.

"Pro-life is my top priority," she said. "Santorum is the same person he's always been (on that issue)."

Bates, who homeschools her children, took them to see Santorum in Hannibal, Fulton and Columbia, MO last week. It served as a social studies lesson for the kids. "You get to see the political process up close," she said.

Kate Thoelke of Harvester area of St. Charles County brought four kids to help put together Santorum signs Tuesday afternoon.

With three children under age 8, she said they try to squeeze in volunteering when they can. On Tuesday, her daughters and her friend's son scrambled around placing the plastic Santorum sign wrappers on the metal rods.

Thoelke has supported Santorum since he first announced plans to run, she said. His views on family and anti-abortion stance were key factors in her decision. She also feels a connection to Santorum because both have lost a child.

"I'm encouraged by the way he views family," she said. "I think he can beat Obama."

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