- Unitarian Universalism Connection
UPDATE: First, a huge THANK YOU to those who helped us reach our original goal in just 12 days! However, as outlined in our original description of the need – to make our sanctuary space safe in the event of fire and to defray the cost of our guests legal representation – at least $15,500 was needed. Now, 6 weeks into our guest’s stay, we are faced with the significant increases in our energy bills due to the 24/7 volunteer coverage provided. Due to the long delays immigrants are experiencing in getting court dates, our guest may be with us for many more months. Therefore, meeting a stretch goal of an additional $7500 in the next 18 days will go a long way toward providing our congregation with financial stability as a sanctuary church and our guest with real hope for a positive court ruling.
In April 2017 First Parish in Bedford asked you to help us create a space in our church where we could offer physical sanctuary to our neighbors in danger of imminent deportation. You responded rapidly and generously. The $9240 raised was used to install a shower, build a privacy wall, purchase a washer/dryer, and acquire major furnishings such as mattresses, window blinds, an induction cooktop, and a kitchen table. Many other necessities were donated by parishioners.
The small, sunlit sanctuary space on the second floor of our beautiful 1817 meeting house has had two occupants. Our first guest received a stay of deportation after only one day in sanctuary. Our second guest, a Central American woman with children and grandchildren, arrived a month ago on January 6. She is still with us and will remain as long as she chooses to be in sanctuary.
As a congregation we received a great gift when our guest chose to stay with us. We are living our faith, resisting the unjust and family-fracturing immigration policies of our government, and broadening our social justice community to include many other nearby communities of faith. Our guest, however, is dealing with a loss of income, separation from her extended family and her community, and the prospect of being returned to a situation of violence and peril. She is a courageous beyond words.
Recently, in order to receive an occupancy permit as a Temporary Shelter, additional fire and safety code work was required to meet state requirements. First Parish is now installing a sophisticated smoke/CO alarm system in the spaces where our guest and overnight volunteers sleep, and along the emergency egress routes from these second floor temporary residences. To hard-wire these alarms and tie them into our current alarm system, we had to spend $9400 that was not in our budget.
Our current guest lost nearly all her savings when an unscrupulous attorney charged her family exorbitant fees for few services and NO positive results. Her current attorney is highly competent, experienced in matters of immigration, and is so committed to our guest’s case that she would continue her work even without further payment. That, however, is unjust, and we want to ensure that this lawyer can earn a living and support her family as she works skillfully to get our guest’s case reopened and adjudicated positively. This attorney’s modest fees on behalf of our guest currently amount to $6000.
We are asking you to help us raise $10,000 in the next 30 days. Our hope is that we may be able to stretch this goal, or, if need be, do additional fundraising activities to gather the funds we so urgently need. Our Sanctuary Coalition includes 8 congregations of differing faiths. Over 200 members of the coalition are now volunteering to provide a 24/7 presence of at least two volunteers at each of 5 daily shifts. They know what to do if ICE agents come to the church, how to handle emergencies, how to recognize signs of trauma, and how to interact with our guest in a culturally competent manner. Wonderful, committed people!
Join us in our support…. please.