Tagged: “Accessibility”

Lift our voices with a new sound system

Be a part of our return.

We are the Unitarian Universalist Church of Jackson, Mississippi.  Since 1951, UUCJ has been a voice of liberal religious expression and social justice in our state.

Like churches everywhere when the 2020 pandemic struck, our church had to cease in-person gatherings. We began to livestream our services for the first time. Our church is small, with no equipment for creating video or for streaming, so we borrowed what was needed from our congregation: A webcam from one member, a laptop from another, cords and cables from all over. It wasn’t pretty, and there was a huge learning curve at first, but we did okay.

Streaming our services kept our congregation together during the stress and isolation of the pandemic. It also helped our church reach a wider audience than we ever thought possible. So we decided to continue streaming once in-person services resumed. To do that, our church needed to purchase its own video equipment.

Then, right on cue, our aging sound system began to die. Now, we needed an all-new video and audio system, and quickly.

After much research, we found a reasonably-priced, expandable setup including a mixing board, speakers, cameras, a laptop, and assorted stands and cords that would give us a PA system and allow us to keep live streaming once our church resumes in-person services in the near future.

Our congregation members have already raised almost $1700 towards this project! With an additional $2000 raised through Faithify, UUCJ can purchase the new A/V equipment we badly need. Please give what you can to help bring our church’s services back in-person and online for now and into the future.

Thank you!

Project Update: Student...

The UU Congregation of the Lowcountry (Bluffton, SC) sends us an update on their successfully funded project, Student Tech Connect: Our Faithify campaign raised $4,100 for Student Tech Connect. These funds came from generous donations of UU Congregation of the Lowcountry (UUCL) members and friends, and from UU friends across the country. Hear inspiring stories […]

Help Create a Brighter Future for Vulnerable Transylvanian Girls

DISASTER RELIEF CAMPAIGN: ALL donations will be processed immediately

(NO ALL-OR-NOTHING GOAL FOR THIS CAMPAIGN)

Background. At the height of nationwide lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, up to 1.6 billion children were affected by school closures, causing the largest mass disruption of education in modern history (Source: UNICEF). Many schools around the world, including in Romania, remain closed or experience intermittent closures, making remote learning essential to children’s education. Although Romanian authorities promised to ensure that all children have the necessary devices to join the online educational system, the distribution of devices has often not reached children from vulnerable groups.

What will the funds be used for? In times of crisis, access to digital technologies is critical. The International Women’s Convocation has teamed up with the Unitarian Providence Charity Organization to provide electronic devices (laptops) for girls who are disadvantaged or living with disabilities – from both rural and urban areas – so they will be able to attend school remotely.

Vulnerable girls cannot afford interruption in their education. Disruption to learning only exacerbates existing inequalities, leaving girls even more vulnerable to abuse, early pregnancy, and poverty. With your help, we can provide access to education for girls who may not otherwise have the chance in a COVID-19 world — and ensure that they have the choice to write their own futures. Thank you for your support!

Project Partner: Unitarian Providence Charity Organization, whose mission is to fulfill the vocation of the Hungarian Unitarian Church by serving people and communities in need without discrimination. The project benefits economically disadvantaged girls and girls with disabilities in Transylvania. Through this project, we are living our U*U values, bringing positive change in the world by connection, care, compassion, social justice, and service.


Project Endorsements

Rev. Attila Vagyas (on the right), Providence Organization (Gondviselés Segélyszervezet): Even though Romania is part of the European Union and thus beneficiary of EU’s social development programs, many are left behind. Our organization reaches many isolated rural communities, where we have gotten to know vulnerable girls full of potential. In these troubled times, when remote learning is the new normal, access to a digital device has become a matter of access to basic education – and an opportunity to make the most of one’s life. With your help, we can give some of these girls a hope for the future.


Some of the Beneficiaries

Klaudia Sebesi, Székelykeresztúr / Cristuru Secuiesc

Twin girls Erzsébet Emő Veres and Ilona Emilia Veres, Barót / Baraolt

Fire and Accessibility: Rebuilding and Outreach in Appalachia

DISASTER RELIEF: All donations processed as they are given.

(NO ALL-OR NOTHING GOAL FOR THIS CAMPAIGN)

The essence of this fundraiser is to raise $9,500 to make necessary repairs to our building and surrounding property after a fire 5 years ago, repairs that had been delayed due to lack of funding, and to make needed accessibility additions, so that we may return our full focus on outreach in Appalachia, and to create a more inclusive ministry. We are a UUA congregation and we will be happy to supply a receipt for your tax deduction purposes.

OUR CLAIM FOR UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISM:

For decades, the Unitarian Fellowship of Huntington, WV, a UUA congregation, has worked to be an active member of our community. Not only do we offer a weekly Sunday Fellowship meeting that balances the UUA order of service with enlightened educational discussion, but we have also participated in and hosted dozens of community events, meetings, gatherings, and spiritual celebrations each year, including: AA/NA Meetings; PFLAG Meetings; Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition Meetings; Lambda Meetings; Weekly Meditations; Monthly Drum Circles; Boardgame Nights; Participation in the annual Marshall University Earth Day Celebration; Participation in the annual Huntington Sustainability Fair; Educational Workshops and Lectures on Yoga, Climate Change, Social Justice, Art, etc.; and Holiday Celebrations on Solstices, Equinoxes, Christmas/Yule, Halloween/All Souls Day, etc. We’ve even hosted visits from local and international Buddhist Monks. Suffice to say, we are an active bunch, doing our best to live by our shared 7 Principles and to be an active positive influence on our region. All of the work to maintain and perpetuate our Fellowship is done by volunteers.

Our congregation is particularly motivated to be involved in matters of Social Justice & Environmental Activism, and to encourage each other on our paths to seek truth and personal growth. We have families, children, teenagers, single persons, married persons, elders and LGBTQ persons. One group we are less able to minister to, however, would be those with serious mobility challenges, as our Fellowship Hall does not have a wheelchair ramp. This is one of the things were are asking funding for.

Our vision involves a few things: Providing an inclusive space that is safe and welcoming where people feel comfortable to attend while they search for truth; ministering without judgment to those who need it in an area that can be very judgmental; setting an example of environmentally friendly and sustainable use and maintenance of our property; participating in matters of social justice; and perpetuating personal improvement and growth. Our members are passionate, intelligent, diverse, and have a desire to make an impact.

We are especially involved in the sustainability renaissance that has been happening in our area. To that end, we have partnered with a number of area organizations to host a number of green workshops and events in 2021, such as: Urban Orchard pruning and maintenance, hosted by WV Extension Service; Composting & Sustainable Urban Agriculture, hosted by the Marshall University Sustainability Department, Native Edible Perennials, hosted by Appalachian Forest Herbs, and a series of outdoor movie nights called “Green Movies Under The Stars”, hosted by the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. All have verified their commitment through either letters or email.

OUR NEED:

On September 5, 2015, our Fellowship experienced an electrical fire that caused significant damage throughout our building. Through our Church Mutual insurance and our 2015 Faithify fundraiser, we were able to fund and make many significant and necessary repairs. However, we were unable to raise enough funds for all repairs, the largest of which is rebuilding the rear roofed stairs and decking that provided secondary access to both the first and second floors, which is a serious safety issue, and further brick mortar repair to adjacent walls.

The rear roofed stairs and deck were significantly damaged in the fire and had to be torn down. The bricking mortar was damaged as well, with sections so deteriorated that you can stick a finger into the mortar and watch it turn to dust. We have been without stairs out back ever since then, leaving the second floor without a secondary exit and thus unsafe in the case of another fire emergency, and making it impossible to move from the kitchen to the backyard, as there is more than a 4-foot drop. This has made utilizing our backyard meeting space complicated to say the least. Moving from inside the kitchen to out back requires going outside, walking around the building to the side gate (a found discarded piece of fencing our volunteers had turned into a somewhat functional gate). This inability to move directly from backyard to kitchen has also meant we cannot lock the gates from the inside, which has led to substantial vandal damage to our fencing.

Due to COVID-19, gatherings at the church greatly increased our use of your backyard. When the case counts were lower and stay-at-home orders were not in effect, we alternated online zoom services with in-person outside masked meetings every-other-week. At our Fellowship Hall, we either gathered on the small front porch when numbers were small enough to keep 6-feet or more apart, or in the backyard. We even hosted a few garden workdays and an Autumnal Equinox celebration using this space. Since new stay-at-home orders and a significant rise in cases in our county, we moved to virtual gatherings only in early October. But for the months we could gather, our backyard space was invaluable.

In plain fact, however, our backyard is not currently friendly to anyone with mobility challenges. There are some dips and holes in the yard that need leveled out, and entrance areas really need to be made more stable with leveling and concrete paving squares. Our fencing needs some repairs, too, due to age and vandal damage, and the gating needs replaced with something more stable, secure, and accessibility friendly.

Our Fellowship Hall greatly needs a wheelchair ramp, too, as it is currently only accessible via the front porch stairs and side door entrance stairs. Anyone utilizing a wheelchair or walker would have great difficulty joining in our fellowship meetings or community outreach events.

Given that things will likely continue to be complicated concerning COVID-19 and future mutations of the virus, the use of outside gathering spaces will continue to be a necessary option. As we work to improve and expand our outreach, we wish to make both our inside and outside Fellowship Hall meeting spaces more accessible. To that end, we wish to install a wheelchair ramp for easy access to our front porch and inside meeting space, and add level paving stones and light, easy to open yet secure gating to our backyard meeting area.

GOAL:

We need to raise $9,500.00 in 45 days for these delayed fire damage repairs and needed accessibility additions. Here is how we have come to this fundraising goal amount:

  • For installation of new roofed decking and stairs to both the “ground” floor and the 2nd story on the back of the building, and mortar repair to that general area, material and supply estimates have run upwards of $3,000, with approximately $4,000 for bonded, certified labor.
  • Stephen Zoeller, a volunteer with Faith In Action of the River Cities, has been building wheelchair ramps for people and organizations in the community for over 15 years. He’s promised his volunteer labor and expertise to construct our new wheelchair ramp, with some volunteer help from our UFoH members, and has provided an official estimate for materials and supplies at $1,200.
  • For installation of lightweight lockable gates (for sturdy security and ease of opening by those who use wheelchairs), and a few panels of new fencing along the back that are more vandal resistant, estimates for the vinyl gates and wood paneling materials and supplies are around $800, with labor provided by UFoH members.
  • For leveling of backyard “dips”& holes, and leveling of gated entrance areas using concrete paving squares, gravel, weed barrier fabric, and sand, estimates for materials and supplies are around $500, with labor provided by UFoH members.

Total ask would be for $9,500.

Any additional funds that are raised will go towards building more vertical and raised gardening areas and increasing the paving square zones in our yard, so as to improve accessibility and increase participation in fellowship meetings and community outreach events by anyone with mobility challenges.

CONCLUSION:

If these repairs and accessibility additions were completed, our congregation could better focus on the UFoH’s vision and outreach mission, including our “2021 green push” workshops and movie nights, foster a more inclusive ministry, and be personally involved in perpetuating the positive social changes slowly arriving in our area. We live in an area that is not always receptive to social changes. We desire to spend our energy on preserving and promoting the health of the sacred interdependent web of existence by practicing and educating the community on sustainability measures, growing food, and recycling/up-cycling. We have several ministers here that are happy to conduct same-sex marriages. Perhaps it would be of interest to you that we have an agreement which was voted upon in 2011 that if the Unitarian Fellowship of Huntington should ever experience dissolution; that the church building (which we own without debt) would be sold and the funds from the sale would be given to the UUA Ohio Meadville district. So, any investments made into this project would ultimately return to the UUA.

We understand that these are significant requests for assistance and would be glad for any help that could be sent our way. We thank you for your consideration.

In Love and Peace,

Linda R. Greer
President of the Unitarian Fellowship of Huntington
619 6th Avenue
Huntington, WV 25701

Unitarian Universalist Meetinghouse of Provincetown Sanctuary Restoration

Stretch Goal Added!

see details below

Image of a church pew. A pew and floor in the Sanctuary.

Sanctuary restoration and accessibility project at the Unitarian Universalist Meetinghouse of Provincetown.

During this time when we cannot gather together in the UUMH of Provincetown, we want to use the time our temporarily going online affords to engage in stewardship of the historic interior of our Sanctuary.  We have been entrusted with a beautiful and historic building, and we want to preserve, restore and steward it, as well as increasing accesses for all members of our congregation and guests, now and into the future.

We will also improve accessibly and inclusion for members of the congregation and guests who use wheelchairs or scooters, by carefully removing one row of pews to create more room while being mindful of the historic integrity of the Sanctuary.

We have a budget of $20,000 for this work with a match of $10,000.  We are seeking to raise $10,000 from the congregation, UU’s worldwide, as well as friends and visitors.  You can donate online by credit card here, or mail a check payable to UUMH of Provincetown to PO Box 817, Provincetown, MA 02657. Please make a note “Sanctuary Restoration” in the memo field if donating by check.

Center aisle of a UU meetinghouse. Center aisle of the Meetinghouse.

This project is being undertaken in consultation between the Board and a member of the congregation with a master’s degree in historic preservation to sensitively restore the Meetinghouse pews, floors, hymnal racks, handrails, etc in a historically appropriate way.  We are keenly aware of both the emotional and historic significance of our building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and want to do our best to do this work in a historically appropriate way.

Help Support Body...

Izabel has grown so much, from the shy young girl feeling “othered” by schoolmates and strangers, with deep doubts in herself, into a young woman strong in her identity as a capable and creative individual. What is more, she has developed a worthy, larger vision that includes others who have faced, and will face, similar challenges without a strong role model and advocate. Her first year was paid for with financial help from the school and from me and other family and friends. This year, while the school is offering some support, I cannot. I lost my partner Dana, to Lewy Body Dementia recently, and the financial toll has made it impossible for me to help. Dana and I have given and received a great deal as Unitarian Universalists over many years, not the least of which is an appreciation for the generous spirits of UUs. As members of this movement, this faith, and our shared commitment to support programs and people who seek to make a real difference in our communities, I wanted to reach out to you now. It’s a compassion issue. It’s a justice issue. It’s an opportunity to be part of a special young woman’s unfolding. Please, be as generous as you can. Help Izabel continue in school and build a space for people with disabilities and different abilities to thrive in the world of theater. The possibilities are great…and so is the financial cost. Please. And thank you in advance!

Izabel says :

My goal is to use my education to change the face of disability representation in theater and film, and I need your help to do it. I am a daughter, a sister, a lover of dogs, music, art, makeup, acting, dancing, singing. I am also a disability advocate; I was born without my right hand and with a partial right foot.

When I was little this did nothing to stop me. I played freely without a care in the world about what I looked like or how I presented myself to other people. I was determined and creative. I existed with my disability, and I saw it as a part of me that I worked with and adapted to. I learned how to do the monkey bars, I played the violin, I skied and ran cross country. I was unstoppable. Middle school proved more difficult for me. I became extremely self-conscious about my physical difference. A lot of this was because I never saw people like me doing the things I was interested in. I loved music and acting and dancing, but I saw no representation in the music and films and plays that I idolized. At the time, I just accepted that that was how it was.

Because I was born with a limb difference, it often feels that, in my everyday life, I am confined to being one type of person: “disabled.” People who look like me are rarely featured, and if they are, their entire character arc and personality is that they are disabled even though oftentimes the actor playing the character with the disability isn’t even disabled themselves!

In tenth grade, I decided that despite this extreme doubt that I had in myself, I wanted to act. I started auditioning for–and getting cast in–shows at my local youth theater and high school. These years in high school when I began acting and theater were a revelation. I knew the first moment I stepped on stage and found confidence in my uniqueness that I could be whoever I wanted to be, and that this was what I wanted to do. When I’m acting I can forget that label of “disabled,” and explore other aspects of being human while adapting to whatever comes my way.

I knew I wanted to act seriously not just because of the euphoria that comes with performance, but because I never wanted children like me who were born with a disability or lost a limb to feel like they didn’t exist or that they couldn’t pursue what they were passionate about just because they didn’t see anyone like them doing it.

I knew when I applied and got excepted to NYU Tisch School of the Arts for Drama that I wanted to use my degree to represent body diversity in theater and film. In the future I hope this will involve much more than just acting; I would love to choreograph for disabled bodies and direct accessible and adaptive shows.

I believe that I was given this opportunity and accepted to this amazing program, in a city that is the heart of theater and film,  to make this difference. My first year at the program completely opened my eyes and further confirmed that this is what I need to pursue. I fell in love with the program and all of my classes and teachers and long studio days. I am in the Meisner studio, and I spent nine-hour days, three days a week there, learning acting and voice and speech and movement and clown and stage combat and crying and laughing.

I noticed, though, that apart from one other girl who was in a different studio, I was the only one who had a physical disability in the drama department at NYU. That’s ridiculous! That under-representation is ridiculous. I know for a fact that there are many talented and creative disabled actors out there, and the under-representation in the industry which is reflected at my school makes me sad.

One community to whom this project is important is a group I am a part of called the Helping Hands Foundation. This is a group of people and families with limb differences. I started going to their gatherings when I was two years old, and now I see the little kids in that community growing up. I want to be a role model for them and help create a world where they can see themselves reflected on screen and stage. At every winter gathering of this community, there are guest speakers (limb different athletes, models, scientists, etc). It would be amazing to stand up in front of that community as a working actor, director or choreographer!

This program at NYU is so important to me. In one year I have grown and changed so much, and I can feel that this is the right place to be in pursuit of all of these things that I’ve mentioned. However, as of right now, I cannot afford to return. After weeks and months of back-and-forth with the financial aid office, I still do not have enough money to attend next fall.

I understand that it is a privilege that I even got to go for one year and that many students cannot afford higher education. But I also understand that this is an important opportunity, and I will do everything in my power to make the most out of it because it is about so much more than me and my getting a college degree.

The total cost of attendance at NYU for next year is $72,000. Here is a breakdown of what I’ve got so far:

$37,000 covered by loans ( I am borrowing the maximum amount I can), scholarships, parent contributions, friend contributions, and summer work

$15,000–help from my great aunt

$21,000—this is what I still need

NYU is notoriously stingy with financial aid. As part of my package, they included a $51,000 parent loan (for one year). My mother is a single mom and a teacher (and I have a younger brother, too), and this loan is larger than her annual salary, so we could not accept it. I knew when I decided to go to Tisch that it would be a massive financial stretch and might not work out. Against my mother’s practical advice, I decided to try to make it work. I would not have succeded without the help of literally hundreds of people who made small contributions last year; my first year was, in part, a gift from my community. This is part of what makes me want to see this through. I don’t want to let them down!

My tuition payment is due the first week in August. If I have not raised the funds by then, I will move on to plan B. This would either be studying at a non-degree (less expensive) studio in New York or living at home with my Mom in rural Vermont, working at the local general store, and taking some community college classes.

Here is a link to my NYU program if you would like to read more about it.

https://tisch.nyu.edu/drama

Thanks so much for considering my project!

Help Rachel Attend GA and Present About Disabilities!

I am a person with multiple invisible disabilities pursuing ministry to help all religious spaces become more inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities. My proposal was chosen which is amazing and wonderful but I need help getting there. I would love to experience all of GA. Help me reach my goal!  My program info is below:

PROGRAM TITLE :

Dis-Abilities: A Discussion on Inclusion, Accessibility and Identity

SCHEDULED DATE & TIME:

Saturday 6/22/2019, 1:30:00 PM – 2:30:00 PM

FACILITY AND ROOM:           

Convention Center — 300A

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

People with disabilities often struggle with accessibility and inclusion within religious spaces. How do we have meaningful discussions within our congregations on how to be truly welcoming to people with disabilities? Join Rachel Carter, an advocate and person with multiple disabilities as we discuss this topic, share ideas, and stories.

The breakdown of funds are:

$1009 Flight and Car

$425 Registration

$375 Home Hospitality