CEL Grant Empowers GWAC to Meet the Moment




GWAC supported Lexington students’ Climate Strike and its newly created Sunrise hub.




By Janice Litwin

“We are in the midst of a climate crisis. The impacts of global warming are already widely apparent, and the window of time available to limit future damage is closing rapidly. The next ten years will be critical to the future of our planet.” These are the words of Ricki Pappo, Chair of the Lexington Global Warming Action Coalition (GWAC).

GWAC was founded 15 years ago, inspired by a Lexington Reads book, The Future of Life, by E.O. Wilson. The mission of this all-volunteer group is to raise awareness of the climate crisis and to give citizens the tools to address it meaningfully in their own lives. Now, in the face of increasingly urgent calls for action, GWAC is intensifying its efforts. In the words of Bill McKibben, a Lexington native who in 1989 was the first to alert the general public to global warming, “Lexington takes great pride in having been in on the start of one revolution; now it’s wonderful to see it taking an active role in this planet-wide transformation that we must make in the next few years.”

At this pivotal moment, the Community Endowment of Lexington (CEL) has stepped forward with an innovative grant to help strengthen GWAC organizationally and enhance its impact. CEL’s Capacity Building Grant Program was launched in 2019 with support from the Ciccolo Family Foundation. The program funds efforts that strengthen a nonprofit’s ability to achieve its mission, such as infrastructure building, strategic planning, and leadership development. GWAC is the program’s first grantee. It will use its $10,000 grant to strengthen its leadership and membership structures, fine-tune its programmatic strategic planning, build community partnerships, and create and implement a comprehensive communications plan that will raise awareness and reach diverse constituents more effectively. This is GWAC’s second CEL grant; in 2016, GWAC received funding to hold its first Lexington Sustainability Fair.

“It is inspiring for us to see how much CEL respects and cares about the work GWAC is doing to address climate change,” says Pappo, “and that the Endowment also recognizes how important organizational capacity building is to groups that are working to meet big needs with modest resources. To really make a difference in addressing an issue like climate change, organizations like ours need to maintain and build our strength over time, so our impact can extend beyond the life of a grant. This grant helps us further develop our capacity to handle the increased focus needed for this issue.”

CEL was created in 2013 by Lexington residents who saw the need for a permanent endowment to strengthen the community by supporting organizations and agencies that address issues important to those who live and work in Lexington. In the last six years, CEL has raised more than $1 million from residents for its endowment, providing a way for donors to give back to their town and leave a legacy. As an endowed fund of the Foundation for Metrowest, CEL is a permanent, steady source of funds for the town.

Since its inception, CEL has provided funding of more than $170,000 in 36 grants to 28 nonprofit organizations and town agencies in Lexington in four areas: health and human services, arts and culture, the environment, and community building. CEL particularly encourages innovative and collaborative solutions to issues facing Lexington.

Of the grant just awarded to GWAC, Kimberly Hensle Lowrance, CEL’s Co-Chair, says, “CEL was excited to establish a new grant program focused on capacity building as we have seen how these grants can transform organizations and accelerate their ability to impact the community. Putting money into the community in this manner has an exponential effect. CEL was thrilled with the Ciccolo Foundation’s support for this year’s funding and is hoping to find another partner for next year’s grant.”

GWAC has become known for the dozens of events – film discussions, nationally recognized speakers, energy fairs, and more – that it has sponsored on topics ranging from healthy soils to recycling to carbon pricing to building for net-zero emissions. In all of these activities, GWAC ties education about the facts and impacts of climate change to specific, practical actions citizens can take to reverse, mitigate, or adapt to the effects of global warming in their own lives. This approach reflects GWAC’s conviction that while the challenges posed by climate change seem overwhelming and require commitment on a global scale, every time an individual makes a choice, there is usually the option to make a choice that has the least effect on carbon emissions.

For GWAC, CEL’s grant comes at an important time in light of not only global but also local developments. In 2018, to ensure the town’s resilience to the effects of climate change, Lexington adopted a comprehensive Sustainable Action Plan. Lexington’s goal is to drastically reduce all greenhouse gas emissions. The plan calls for aggressive action in every sector – from buildings to transportation to land use to public health. GWAC is poised to play a catalytic role in this broad-based community endeavor by providing outreach and education.

Given the broad and varied impacts of climate change, GWAC emphasizes the importance of collaboration and partnerships among local groups whose work intersects with environmental concerns. In 2017, with seed money from The New England Grassroots Environmental Fund, GWAC launched the Lexington Green Network, which connects all groups in Lexington that are concerned with climate change and the environment. GWAC has supported Lexington students’ Climate Strike and its newly created Sunrise hub, and has strengthened its partnerships with Mothers Out Front and the Sustainable Lexington Committee, among others. GWAC also works with town committees and boards that influence decisions related to climate change, and is ramping up efforts to work with coalitions of towns to lobby for enabling local and state legislation.

As Ricki Pappo says, “We want to rise to the challenge facing us by enlarging our tent — by welcoming and encouraging all groups and individuals to work together on the issue of our lifetime. Everyone can learn and act on things they can do to contribute to a more livable future. Every one of us can make a difference.”

To learn more about GWAC, go to lexgwac.org or attend a monthly meeting. To learn more about CEL, go to www.lexingtonendowment.org. 

Share this: