Chapel Hill, N.C. — The politicians, delegates, celebrities and reporters heading to Charlotte next week for the Democratic National Convention will be joined by thousands of North Carolina volunteers.
Some of the 10,000 credentialed volunteers will be helping the convention run smoothly, but many will be there to advance various causes.
For some, like Jennifer Ferris of Chapel Hill, it's their first brush with big-time politics.
"It's really an adventure from start to finish," Ferris said Wednesday. "When I get in the car and head on out to Charlotte ... from then on out, I don't know what's going to happen."
When she heard last year that the Democratic convention would be in North Carolina, she said she briefly considered going. But she didn't think much more about it until she got an email from Planned Parenthood asking for convention volunteers.
"It was kind of a gut check for me," she said. "I was, like, 'Oh, I'd love to go, but I have nowhere to stay.' They're, like, 'We have some place to stay.' I'm, like, 'OK, I guess I'm doing this."
Ferris said she now can't wait to get to Charlotte, calling it a "big, fun political summer camp." She has an air mattress so she can sleep on the living room floor of a Planned Parenthood supporter in Charlotte, whom she's never met.
The organization will have about 330 volunteers at the convention.
Ferris said she's never gone on the road to volunteer for anything before and has never been away from her two sons for as long as she plans to be in Charlotte. Her husband is taking time off from work to stay at home with the boys.
Still, she said, it is important for her to go.
"I feel like the political climate has gotten a little crazy, and we've kind of lost sight of, like, people like me," she said. "I'm a young mom, I'm a business owner, and I kind of feel like politicians are working in a vacuum."
Ferris said she's looking forward most to President Barack Obama's nomination acceptance speech next Thursday night at Bank of America Stadium. She's never seen him speak in person before.
"Going to Charlotte without the kids is a chance for me, even if I'm in the nosebleed (seats), I will have been a part of history," she said.