We appreciate social media here at AAT. Without it, we would find it a lot harder to spread the word about all the articles we do every week on the amazing men and women we have the privilege of interviewing! I’m sure you can think of the many benefits of being connected online with others, as well. Through the web, we can share memories, milestones, and information. However, like most things in life, the positive aspects of social media can be overshadowed by those who choose to use these sites to gossip, bully, stir up drama, or cause hate; this reality has turned many folks away from even wanting to bother with services such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Thankfully, we have individuals, such as today’s guest, who chose to use social media to create something that can be used as an essential tool to bring thousands of people information helpfully and rapidly.
Today, we’re joined by Marli Acquistapace Cusolito. Marli is the creator of the popular Facebook group, Elko’s People Reporting News. If you’re not familiar with EPRN, the group’s goal is to provide a place where Elko area locals can easily share the news with one another. However, Marli doesn’t just serve the community online; she’s very involved with helping and befriending the members of our town that find themselves homeless.
We’ll talk more with Marli about all the different things she does in a bit, but for now, let’s give her a chance to tell us how she came to be an Elko resident!
“I grew up on the West Coast; Santa Barbra was mainly my home town. My grandparents owned a grocery store, so I worked in a store since I could reach the register and did so until I moved here (Elko) from California in 2005. I followed an amazing man who thought Elko would be more my speed; at the time, it wasn’t. We moved back to California in 2008; however, he moved back here in 2012, and I came back in 2013 because I had a house fire. I realized from that experience how important it was to know my surroundings.
“I moved here in February and, by May, I was going nuts because I couldn’t find any local news! I think we had a news station here, but it really wasn’t a local station, and I’m not a radio person! I remember once seeing a fire, I could see the smoke, and nobody was talking about what was going on with it! So, one day, I got on Facebook and decided to create a “people’s site,” and I started Elko’s People Reporting News. I just wanted to find people! My daughter thought I was absolutely crazy; she asked me who would ever even want to join that group? Well, the first year we had three thousand members! I never expected it to grow to (currently) sixteen thousand members, ever!”
That is quite a bit of people, Marli! As I mentioned in the introduction of this piece, social media can be a little bit of a double-edged sword, depending on how people use it. How do you and your team of administrators make sure the posts being shared on EPRN stay away from being harmful or hurting?
“Not everybody fits in our group. We have standards that we have to go by that our members chose in the first few years of EPRN’s existence. In the beginning, our only rule was “be kind,” and that was our only rule for about two years. We try to keep EPRN to the standards you’d expect from any business, even though we’re not a business. I hear all the cries of drama and rumors, and we squash them as quickly as possible because we do have legitimate resources at our disposal, and we’re not an official “news source.” We’re a provider of a place where you can find the news people are looking for.”
Marli, continuing this subject, how would you encourage others to use social media in a healthy/productive way?
“I think there is a proper way to say anything. A person can say anything he or she needs as, as long as they use tack and kindness. If something is wrong, you can have a discussion with someone and get to the root of the problem; the root of the problem is the issue, not all the symptoms around it. On EPRN, we’ve ended all rants! Until a person has worked the proper channels, we don’t really need to hear the drama. Sometimes, we (the admin team) are wrong about a situation, but if somebody writes us and talks to us, we will try to explain our side and why we feel the way we do.”
Marli, let’s talk about how you serve the community away from a screen. Can you please share a little bit about your work with a specific demographic of our city?
“I was a homeless advocate both when I lived in California and here. My husband (Coz Cusolito) and I pour our heart into helping the outdoor community, whether it be people or animals. We help anything that’s outdoors and enduring the elements. I am a volunteer with FISH and have been since 2017. I work in their soup kitchen a day or so a week, depending on what they need. I’ve been with the cold weather shelter since 2014; it doesn’t matter what shift it is, we love being able to go in and help. The homeless camp opened in May of 2015, and we were the heads of getting down there and cleaning it up to get it ready for the homeless community to move into. When I go to the homeless camp, I’m walking around making twenty people smile because the people down there are my friends! It makes me feel good to help make a difference, and doing the right thing matters to me, even if it’s not always the most popular thing.”
How do plan to continue that positive work in 2019, Marli?
“My number one goal for 2019 is for our new mayor and two, new city council members to hear my plea for a cold weather shelter policy change. The policy (as of the time of publishing this article) is it needs to be forecasted to be zero degrees or below before the shelter’s doors can be opened. That’s not good enough! I want to get a group of us together, stand in front of the city council and beg for change. Zero degrees is thirty-two degrees below freezing! That being said, the city is really good to us; they gifted us Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s even though the temperature wasn’t at zero degrees.”
Marli, you work with organizations like FISH, Animal House, and Feline Fix Project to help people and animals in need, how would you describe our community when it comes to getting involved and helping?
“We’re a community of team workers! That’s what I love the most about Elko; everybody wants to jump in to help. For example, there was a time when I was overwhelmed with EPRN, so I reached out for help, and Linda Mott (EPRN Administrator) offered and has been everything to that group”
So, being an online presence hasn’t changed your perspective and opinion on that, Marli?
“No way; it’s actually made my perspective on Elko even more positive. I’ve met some amazing people here, on both sides of the tracks. I wouldn’t change Elko; everywhere you go there’s kindness, and the people that live here are extra special. This is coming from someone from the sunny, lush green big city!”
Well, it’s great to start 2019 by speaking with someone so positive; thank you, Marli! Is there anything else you want the people to know about you before we sign off?
“I want people to know that I am available. If you have a problem, I’m a resource. I may not have all the answers, but I know where to find most of them! If you need anything, reach out to me, please! I’m not big and scary!”
At my age, I never thought to join a group like EPRN. However, now that I am living away from home I would really like to stay in the loop about what’s going on. This seems like a good place to start. Plus I know my family and friends have been a part of this group at some point or another. I can only imagine the amount of information available at any given time now that the page has over 18,000 members! Marli’s idea began with some great intentions that I as a journalist really admire and relate to!
Also, I am a huge advocate for help in our community for the homeless. It is a terrible thought to have to sleep out on the sidewalks in below freezing temperatures and working to change that is quite an amazing goal! I’m interested to know how this has progressed since the publishing of this article in 2019.
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Until next time, we’ll see you around, Elko!