By Flannery Winchester
No matter how big CCL grows, one thing will always be true: we love to get together. In addition to our annual International Conference and Lobby Day each June and our Congressional Education Day each November, volunteers organize regional and state conferences around the country throughout the year. Often, volunteers will travel to neighboring states for these informative, energizing events.
A few weeks ago, volunteers from Louisiana did just that. Sixteen of them traveled over to Houston, Texas for the Third Coast Regional Conference, an event open to CCLers and climate-concerned people from Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
“CCL Louisiana is one big, loving family,” says state coordinator Jessica Schulz. “In addition to driving climate action in our home districts, our chapters support one another by attending CCL events in our other cities when we can. We’re building a strong network of volunteers that inspire each other and the rest of the region.” CCL’s presence in Louisiana includes five chapters so far: New Orleans, Alexandria, Lafayette, Hammond, and Baton Rouge. Attending the regional conference gave them a chance to strengthen their bonds and learn together, whether they were new volunteers or veteran climate advocates.
New volunteers connect
Rechard Crockett is a member of the Alexandria chapter. This was his second conference–his first was the 2018 June conference in Washington D.C. In the time he’s been with CCL, the realities of climate change have loomed large. “I’ve learned how much climate change has affected people who live near me and even people that I know,” Rechard said. “We all have a story to tell about why we joined CCL or why we’re so passionate about taking action.”
At this regional conference in particular, Rechard said, “I enjoyed meeting so many new people who have taken an interest in climate action.” A panel on Friday, Feb. 8, had a distinct impact on him. “Being able to listen to stories of how the panelists and their families were affected by certain events related to climate change really touched me and made me more motivated than ever,” he said.
“Not only do I feel more motivated to take action, but I feel like I’ve made lifelong friends while getting the chance to learn. I wish I would have known how much fun I was going to have!”
Veteran volunteers get new context, commitment
Courtney Forbes leads the Hammond, Louisiana, chapter and has been to several conferences before. Folks like her know the ropes pretty well, so why do they keep coming back? “Sometimes it’s not about learning something brand new,” she explains. “It’s about something you ‘knew’ being re-contextualized and having a surprise when the information hits you on a different level.”
One place Courtney felt that was in Dominika Parry and Princella’s presentations about working across racial and cultural divides. They emphasized how to listen and invite broader range of viewpoints into climate work. After those sessions and the entire conference, Courtney says, “I’m re-dedicated to working with folks and working with our social fabric as we are, including some of our messy history—not waiting for some more perfect circumstance to appear.”
That’s what it’s about, at the end of the day: doing the work. Whether you’re in a part of the country where climate change is a tough topic to discuss, or you’re trying to make your climate work more inclusive, or you just need an energetic boost, a CCL’s regional conference is the place to help make it happen.
Princella Talley, one of CCL’s Diversity Outreach Coordinators, said, “The turnout of CCL family from the Third Coast was inspiring. I was especially moved by the panelists I shared the stage with because they were so full of strength and courage as they shared their stories! There were state strategy sessions, impactful moments, training, and breakout sessions that motivated us to reflect and keep learning. It was beautiful to see so many volunteers from Louisiana and neighboring states united for climate solutions.”
This season, there are five more regional conferences on the schedule, everywhere from Atlanta, Georgia, to Eugene, Oregon. See the full list and attend one near you!