CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- A social justice organization in Chattanooga is looking to expand its efforts in the community. Chattanooga Organized for Action is getting a major boost thanks to a hefty grant coming its way.

Chattanooga Organized for Action started two and half years ago with only three members but its presence has increased over the past few years.

Now the Benwood Foundation is awarding the group a $40,000 community grant that COA wants to put towards what it calls a 'Justice School.' 

"We started out as a small street activist organization wanting to bring an activist culture back to Chattanooga," says Perrin Lance.

Lance co-founded Chattanooga Organized for Action two and half years ago.

He says COA is out to be the ultimate good neighbor, hoping to empower the under-served and less privileged.

"We're not stepping in to be the leaders, but we're just giving them the skills, the training, the resources to go out and lead," he says.

"Ideally, the goal that we're looking for is for people to be able to take more direct control over the things that affect their lives," says Michael Gilliland.

Gilliland is on the board of directors.

Both he and Lance point to the battle over low-income housing in the Westside as an example of what Chattanooga Organized for Action does.

"We helped them form the Westside Community Organization, which represents 2,400 residents out here," says Lance.

Last spring, COA helped community members start a petition, ultimately defeating the efforts to bring in Purpose Built Communities to re-develop the Westside.

"That petition got 1,200 signatures all across the city, and then ended up in a march with over one hundred people, public housing residents and their allies across this city, marching on Chattanooga city hall saying, you know, that 'Hey, we're Chattanooga too.'"

Now, with a $40,000 grant from the Benwood Foundation, COA wants to expand its efforts with a social justice school.

"The justice school is an intensive program that tries to embody and tries to develop and deepen the goals that we have in COA. And those goals are for us to find our place in our city," says Gilliland.

He wants to encourage people to use their voice for change.

"People have don't have to be elected, they don't have to be judges, they don't have to be politicians in order to affect a real change in the community," says Gilliland.

If you are interested in the mission of Chattanooga Organized for Action or participating in the justice school, the group meets once a week.

The organization holds its meetings every Monday night at 6, at Renaissance Presbyterian Church.