CCL’s At Large chapters close the connection gap

CCL volunteers from all across Tennessee convened for a TN At Large chapter meeting last week.

CCL’s At Large chapters close the connection gap

By Caillie Roach

CCL has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 12 years, with chapters spreading out into nearly every congressional district in the country. We now have 475 U.S. chapters, meaning that most Americans aren’t too far away from a local CCL chapter they could plug into. 

But folks in rural areas still may not be as close to a chapter as they’d like to be, so in 2019, we created “At Large” chapters. These At Large chapters are statewide groups where volunteers can work together across their state to focus on moving their senators forward. 

In a year like 2021, when the Senate will be crucial, working as a statewide CCL team is more important than ever. So our At Large groups are now listed as official chapters and just waiting to be ignited! 

Ohio and Tennessee are two states with a history of success in their At Large chapters. Let’s hear their stories.

Tennessee’s Virtual Volunteers

Like all CCLers in 2020, Tennessee volunteers took their local chapter meetings virtual. Inspired by this new reality, Tennessee’s State Coordinator, Don Kraus, started holding monthly meetings for rural volunteers and anyone whose chapter was not meeting virtually. Although Tennessee faces issues with broadband and wifi, one benefit to meeting virtually is that volunteers who were unable to drive to local chapter meetings can now participate online. 

By the third meeting, the group had formalized into an official chapter. “We call ourselves the Virtual Volunteers,” says Mary Legan, the At Large chapter leader. Mary shares, “Our Tennessee At-Large chapter has been a wonderful way to connect with other CCL staff and volunteers. We are focusing on chapter development and helping our members find their favorite ways to support CCL.”

Ohio’s exciting expansion

Before the pandemic hit, Ohio was engaging with their At Large members. They had eight active At Large members. Small but mighty, that group went on to create three local chapters over the span of eighteen months!

Two of these local chapters were formed due to the support these volunteers found in the At Large group. Three of the At Large volunteers attended the state conference, and two of them traveled to D.C. to lobby. Doug Bell, Ohio’s former State Coordinator, says that the presence of conservative, rural constituents in the lobby meetings was persuasive and notable for their member of Congress.

The At Large chapter structure “allowed my husband and I to get involved within the limits of our schedule as working parents, and we subsequently have both attended one of the D.C. Lobby Days,” says Carla Blackmar Rice. “The various Ohio CCL chapters, including our ‘at large’ chapter, function as a statewide community. This was very apparent at the Lobby Days, regional conferences, and statewide conferences, which feel a lot like a family reunion.”

During COVID, Carla had the opportunity to get connected with her local chapter and work toward district-specific goals, and she sees hope in her small town getting increasingly engaged in climate action. In recent years Oxford, Ohio, has submitted letters of support for H.R. 763 and joined the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. “I’m very grateful for the amazing Ohio CCL Community that has developed creative strategies to make our involvement possible,” Carla says.

Every state has an At Large chapter created. If you aren’t connected to a local chapter, you can find your state’s At Large chapter here.

Caillie Roach is CCL’s Membership Specialist, ensuring volunteers are connected with the resources they need to be successful.