The Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign of the Stephen Lewis Foundation (SLF) was nationally launched on March 8, 2006. Grandmother groups started forming across the country. The pivotal Toronto Grandmother Gathering happened in August of that same year. Priority to attend was given to existing grandmother groups. Ros Shepard and Marion Rosborough quickly formed “The GANG” and attended. Vicki Strang, not knowing about this, attended the Gathering as a solo delegate. The three from the Edmonton area met at the Gathering.
The first meeting of “The GANG” was called for October 2, 2006 at the south side Cafe Select and six people attended. Dianne Linden volunteered to chair the group. After that first gathering, the group brought bag lunches and met over the lunch hour at St. Paul’s United Church. The money saved from not eating out was donated to “The GANG” and was used to start a bank account. With each meeting new members joined the group.
The first fundraising event, The Gift of Story: Writing from Memory conducted by Eunice Scarfe, a local writer and teacher, was held at Rio Terrace Community Church on the last Saturday in January 2007. She generously donated all the proceeds of this writing workshop to the SLF Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign.
The GANG experienced another major incident that January in 2007. Liane Faulder of the Edmonton Journal wrote an article about “The GANG” and the SLF that appeared in the paper on January 7, 2007. From the telephone calls and e-mail messages received we realized an informational evening was needed. We prepared for 25-30 people to attend this meeting. As the evening unfolded, however, we stood in jaw-dropping amazement as the people arrived. Sixty-five people attended, standing and sitting shoulder to shoulder in the very small meeting space at St Paul’s.We were overwhelmed but oh so encouraged by this show of support for the African grandmother cause. For the rest of that first year then, “The GANG” focused its energy on building an organizational infrastructure that would support a larger number of members.
Leanne Floden, daughter of Sally Floden who is one of the original six, volunteered her expertise and guided us through two workshops in which we grappled with our vision for the future, our mission, our goals, our values and our activities. It became clear that we saw “The GANG” as a truly grassroots organization, open and transparent , one that reflected the over-all values of the SLF and the Toronto Grandmother Gathering. You can see these on the Home page of this website. We also wanted to create a group structure that would ensure continuation of our work for years to come. In March Leanne led the second workshop which was open to all GANG members. Julie Coultas, the coordinator of the SLF Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, was also with us for the day. We finalized our mission statement, our goals and our commitments at that event.
By this time The Eastside “GANG” in Sherwood Park had organized and “The HATS” had formed in Morinville. We thought we might disband the founding group and organize entirely into neighbourhood cells. The decision at the March meeting, however, was that “The GANG” (some call it “The Central GANG”) would continue as a steering committee or board. The activities would focus in the four main areas of fundraising, education, advocacy, communications and public relations. “The Eastside GANG”and “The HATS” remain associated with the GANG. Indeed, the Eastside GANG has become the main fundraising group with its hugely successful Good Words for Africa Scrabble event in October, 2007.
We have acted on that mandate to the best of our abilities. The following are our accomplishments for the first year: We have
- created a tri-fold display about our activities and taken it to over 25 locations for display.
- had various GANG members give talks to seven different interested community groups.
- raised $ 4,000 for the SLF in our first fiscal year.
- raised $ 51,000 at September Good Words for Africa event (this occurred in our second fiscal year).
- met with Stephen Lewis when he visited Edmonton in February.
- created by-laws for our group and we are now an officially numbered Society under the Societies Act of Alberta.
- organized fundraising, educational and advocacy committees.
- become a member of a national network of grandmothers to collaborate on advocacy.