How a grassroots group became a major donor
In 2008, a small group of landowners gathered around a kitchen table to discuss their concerns about a coal gasification project proposed near Round Hill Alberta, about an hour east of Edmonton. Residents were concerned about how this proposal would affect their quality of life and livelihood. Over time, they formed a nonprofit group called The Voice of Community and Land Society (VOCAL), with membership swelling to 200. Throughout the process, they were faced with complex scientific literature, confusing regulatory processes and legal jargon, and they were unclear about their rights. VOCAL called the Environmental Law Centre, which became an important source of information and support. They made many calls to staff lawyers, who provided counselling over the phone. They attended some of our webinars and invited our lawyers to present at a number of community meetings.
"The whole process is overwhelming and it's nice to have someone explain it to us" says Jane Oracheski, a VOCAL member. "The Centre provided us with information that was easy to understand. Your staff helped us understand the issues and what our rights were. We are not rich - we were grateful to have someone to call without charging a fee."
In late-2009, the project proponent announced it was putting the project temporarily on hold, citing changing market conditions and the economic slowdown as reasons. VOCAL continued to engage with residents over the years, but at a public meeting in April 2013, they decided to officially disband.
As they closed down their operations, VOCAL chose to donate nearly $3000 to the Environmental Law Center with the funds remaining from their efforts. We are grateful for this generous donation, and honoured to know our services were so helpful to them. This gift will support other groups who use our Environmental Law Information service to help with their environmental concerns.
"I think I can safely say we are all very proud of what VOCAL stood for and what we accomplished in a very short time," says Bill Sears, one of the founding members. "Of all the groups and organizations that we worked with and learned from we felt our [donation] to the ELC would go the farthest in supporting and promoting what VOCAL stood for.
Through dedication and a lot of hard work by many people I think we proved that a grass root organization that started around a kitchen table can be an effective voice for change. I would like to thank the ELC for helping us with that."
To learn more about how the Environmental Law Centre can help your community group, visit our Environmental Law Information webpage or call 1-800-661-4238.
To learn more about VOCAL or view their photo gallery and videos, visit www.vocalalberta.com.