Tagged: “Community Engagement”

Full Hearts. Full Plates.

Families across the nation continue to face exacerbated hunger levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and they are approaching another holiday season with empty plates and worried minds.

Supporting the Schools and Education Leaders Helping Fill Kids’ Plates

This Fall, No Child Goes Hungry has received a significant number of grant requests from schools, social workers, and teachers building daily meal support programs for students. In our new reality of childhood hunger, weekend backpack programs are no longer enough. Teachers and school staff recognize that many students need snacks and meals daily to support what they receive at home and from the school’s free meal assistance programs.

Staff and supply chain shortages are complicating matters further. Simply getting a granola bar, apple, small fruit cup, and juice box into a child’s hands before getting on the bus has become a more significant challenge than ever before. In some cases, the shortage of school bus drivers results in students arriving at school after the free breakfast program has closed for the day—leaving them with nothing to eat before starting schoolwork. Some teachers pay out-of-pocket to keep something in their desk drawers to feed students, which adds a financial burden to our teachers.

No Child Goes Hungry supports students in need and their school heroes and wants to ensure that our teachers don’t have to use their hard-earned salaries to help feed students. We’re sending healthy food boxes all over the country where the food supply chain is sorely interrupted with not enough truck drivers. The typical response is gratitude and comments like, “This is like Christmas. I can feed the kids something before they get on the bus.”

About No Child Goes Hungry

When NCGH was founded in 2016 and through 2019, it awarded 56 different grants in three and a half years, 14 to 16 grants a year on average. Then 2020 hit and the number of grants NCGH receives on average soared, and it distributed 71 grants—more than all the other years combined. 2021 and the pandemic have shown no slowdown. This year, NCGH has already given 71 grants with more in the wings to give before the year ends. Before 2020, NCGH received two to three applications a week. Now, it receives that many each day.

NCGH provides grant money and mentorship opportunities so that community organizations can build hunger advocacy programs that will thrive and grow as their communities continue to tackle the problem of local food insecurity. Such sustainable programs include afterschool backpack programs, little free pantries, community food pantries, and donation programs.

Here’s a video detailing how our model works: No Child Goes Hungry Business Model Video

NCGH also strives to educate the community on food insecurity issues and arm people with the knowledge to help. NCGH offers age-appropriate lesson plans to help local organizations to talk to people of all ages about the issue of food insecurity, helping to fuel future generations of childhood hunger advocates. The lesson plans are designed for schools, churches, or any group that would like to learn more about what they can do to eliminate childhood hunger in their community and are available to use at no cost. Lesson plans are available for Preschool-Kindergarten, Grades 1-3, Grades 4-7, Grades 8-12, and Adults.

To adapt to the changing needs of hunger advocacy groups, NCGH has partnered with new and different groups and individuals and brainstormed with them how to first get food and how to either deliver it or make it easily accessible.

Here are just a few examples of the critical partnerships we have forged this year and the impact that donated dollars have made for children in need:

Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, Bronx, NY

No Child Goes Hungry donated nonperishable food items to Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School in Bronx, New York. The donated items are helping keep the school’s free food pantry stocked with nonperishables, toiletries, and clothing for students and their families in need. Many of the students at Fannie Lou Hamer come from families that suffer from significant food insecurity. The school’s food pantry is one of several critical support opportunities in the area for families and children in need.

Community Emergency Assistance Programs (CEAP) of Brooklyn Center, MN

No Child Goes Hungry provided a $1,000 donation to CEAP of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. The grant is helping fund its children’s Birthday Bag program. The initiative provides parents in need with party décor, favors, plus a cake or cupcake to ensure that every child feels celebrated and cared for on their birthday. The cost to provide one birthday bag plus CEAP essentials for one child requires $30 in financial support.

 

Mott Haven Fridge

In collaboration with the Healthier, Greener, Kinder Foundation, No Child Goes Hungry provided Mott Haven Fridge Network with a $2,000 grant. The funds enabled the non-profit to add and winterize a third community refrigerator to its hunger-relief network in Uptown Manhattan and the Bronx.

Two sixth-grade teachers founded Mott Haven Fridge Network in response to the widespread food insecurity they witnessed among their students’ families. Today, Mott Haven Fridge maintains two outdoor, freestanding refrigerators that provide community members in the poorest congressional district in the United States with 24/7, no-questions-asked-access to fresh produce and other essentials. The fridges are stocked by donations from individuals, local businesses, and community partners and cleaned and maintained by a grassroots community volunteer network.

El Cajon Valley High Community Garden

No Child Goes Hungry donated $1,000 to  El Cajon Valley High School in El Cajon, California, to support the construction of its community garden initiative. The garden is operated by students and parents and provides fresh food options for the El Cajon community. In addition, NCGH’s donation helped fund the purchase of wood from a local lumber business to construct separation boxes in the garden.

Blackburn Community Outreach in Todd, North Carolina

No Child Goes Hungry provided a $1,000 grant to Blackburn Community Outreach in Todd, North Carolina, a non-profit 501(c)(3) with a mission to engage and mobilize the Todd Community for social, economic, and environmental vitality. The grant helps financially support the season’s youth apprentice in the organization’s Beatitude Garden. This year’s summer intern, a 16-year old young man named Bebo, who is of Cherokee heritage, will work as an intern in the gardens for ten hours a week for 20 weeks this season.

Still, more help is desperately needed. The need is vast, and it continues to grow. Every dollar donated to NCGH is used to help feed a child in need. Help us create full plates and full hearts this holiday season.

Let’s Feed Some Kids!

Support Women’s Food Forests in Guatemala

Why Contribute to this Project? Communities that produce their own food are independent, resilient, and powerful. They are also far healthier – both their bodies and their lands, with women playing a critical role in the food security, health, and nutrition of their families. By donating, you will enhance the participation of women and girls in biodiversity regeneration and conservation processes, forging a food-sovereign, equitable, healthy, and environmentally sustainable future. 

What Will the Funds Be Used for? Your support will expand tree planting through women’s associations in Caxlanpom and Chinabenque, indigenous communities in mountainous northeastern Guatemala. A historically persecuted group, the Q’eqchiʼ Maya have been actively resisting a foreign-owned mine that has polluted nearby waterways. 23 Q’eqchiʼ households will receive 3 progressive rounds of diverse fruit trees during the year-long project, plus field training on tree maintenance and the use of contour planting to manage erosion. 

What Are the Expected Outcomes? Families in the two Q’eqchiʼ communities will have planted 2,300 fruit trees and strengthened their capacities to use and maintain biodiversity for food and economic security. Increased use of agroforestry species has profound environmental benefits and makes a significant contribution to improving the communities’ nutritional status and health.


This project is organized by the International Women’s Convocation (IWC), a global partnership of Unitarian* Universalists who work for women’s empowerment through U*U connections around the world. We are living our U*U values by demonstrating our respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part as well as commitment to a just, compassionate, and sustainable world.

Project Partners

Ecosystem Restoration Camps is a growing network of ecological restoration efforts around the world that are working to repair the relationship between people and healthy ecosystems. Erin Beasley, Executive Director of Ecosystems Restoration Camps USA, is a UU who has been closely involved with IWC since 2015. 

Contour Lines leads reforestation programs in Guatemala to integrate productive (food and fiber) trees with annual agricultural crops. The results are resilient, diversified farms with full, local ownership and benefits to the local ecosystems such as improved soil health, increased tree cover, and maintained biodiversity. Their family-focused approach engages participants in successive rounds of planting to get more fruit trees into the hands of the most committed participants. Since 2018, the organization has planted over 120,000 trees in degraded land with 1,200 local residents in 37 communities. 


Project Endorsements

Herlinda Xo Caal, leader of the women’s associations of the two communities: “I’m looking forward to this project because I want to secure the future of my family to have healthy food. I believe that our community can produce our own food, and we should have the right to choose what we eat, and be able to eventually sell food that is free of chemicals. The increased use of land without conservation practices has been a problem in my community. This project will bring multiple benefits, including workshops on soil conservation, how to diversify our crops, and the use of organic products that won’t harm the environment. We’re working together to reforest the land and take care of the environment.”

Oak Street Meeting House Project

The Oak Street Meeting House is a proposed venue for dinner church, social events, an outreach office, and an **accessible** restroom. Accessibility is a big issue for our old church building. First Universalist Church of Camp Hill is an aging congregation and there is no way to make our sanctuary wheelchair accessible.

It is architecturally impossible to do. However, the adjacent parsonage, which we are renovating, offers us wonderful opportunities.

Dinner church is something that is already in our DNA as a congregation. Potluck traditionally follows service here and as our numbers have dwindled, and we now gather in the fellowship hall for our Sunday worship, the space between the worship and the food which follows has become thin. However, to make that final leap, we need a modern fully equipped kitchen.

Several of our members are involved in the local music scene and once the updates are complete, we can use also the Meeting House as a place for concerts, as others are already doing in similar spaces in nearby Opelika once the Pandemic wanes.

We also need an outreach office for our Church. We maintain a food pantry here, serving our local community, and we also maintain an animal ministry, providing not just food, but spaying and neutering services, vet care and forever homes for the stray animal population of Camp Hill, AL. We cannot do this work from anywhere else.

Oak Street Meeting House is named as a nod to Mary Slaughter Scott who co-founded the similarly named Charles Street Universalist Meeting House; Mary was from here in Camp Hill, AL and together with her husband, Rev. Clinton Lee Scott, worked to modernize the denomination and ensure a place for humanism within what became our faith.

She is buried in Slaughters Cemetery which we maintain.

We were not the first Universalists here in Alabama. The very first federal judge to hold court in Alabama had been a Unitarian. In the 1830s, there had been a joint venture between the Unitarians and Universalist in Montgomery. However, ours is one of the oldest, surviving Universalist and later UU congregations in the Deep South, having been founded by Rev. Shehane back in 1846 with the support from such families as the Slaughters and Hesters.

We have a deep history and a legacy worth preserving. We have struggled to be on the right side of history, often falling short, but never stopping short. We have kept going and we are not done yet. We have been working to reconnect to our community, to find innovative, inclusive, and exciting ways to acknowledge worth and honor the legacy of enslaved people whose stories are also a part of us.

We have the vision, the grit, and the determination; we need the funding.

Summertime Can Be Hunger Time

In the United States, 22 million kids get free or reduced-price lunch during the school year. The programs are an essential source of food for many children. However, during summer vacation, only 16 percent of kids who need USDA-funded summer meals can access them, making summer the hungriest time of year for too many children, resulting in long-term consequences.

Many of us remember fondly summer vacations living easy, breezy, carefree days. However, for too many children, summertime can be hunger time. Even though schools are back in session and kids have access to free and reduced-cost lunch programs again, teachers and social workers are seeing firsthand how challenging it is for many parents to feed their families, especially those still out of work and struggling to recover from the pandemic’s economic consequences.

This summer, No Child Goes Hungry is committed to supporting local schools, community organizations, faith-based groups, and grassroots non-profits committed to providing childhood hunger relief in their communities. We’ll be reaching out to little free pantry owners, backpack programs, and other generous organizations to help keep them stocked with the food and supplies they need to keep our children fed until schools re-open their doors this fall.

NCGH is dedicated to the elimination of childhood hunger, one kid, one meal at a time. With funds donated by churches, private organizations, and individuals, NCGH works with faith communities and other organizations to alleviate hunger locally.

Over the past several months, we have begun partnering with heroic organizations to make preparations to ensure continual student meal support over the summer. Some of our current partner programs include:

Peyton Randolph  Elementary School PTA’s Food Pantry

NCGH provided a grant of $1,500 to the Payton Randolph Elementary School to use in a match fundraising drive that raised $4,000 more for a total of $6,500 for the program. With the dollars raised, the PTA now has enough funds to offer food weekly for several months. Rev. Kären Rasmussen first heard of the Randolph Elementary School from her colleague, the Reverend Amanda Poppei. Amanda is the senior minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Arlington, Virginia. Amanda heard about the much-needed work to feed kids in Arlington from Bethany Zecher Sutton, the Randolph Elementary School PTA’s Food Pantry Coordinator, and made the introductions all around. Read More.

“I’ve known Kären for years and have watched her organization grow—especially in the way that she is able to support hyper-local groups as well as bigger non-profits,” said Rev. Poppei. “When Bethany told me about the growing need to feed kids right in her own neighborhood, I just had a feeling these two could collaborate and combine their efforts.”

NCGH Helps Sponsor Intern at Blackburn Community Outreach

NCGH provided a $1,000 grant to Blackburn Community Outreach in Todd, North Carolina, a non-profit 501(c)(3) with a mission to engage and mobilize the Todd Community for social, economic, and environmental vitality. The grant will help financially support the season’s youth apprentice in the organization’s Beatitude Garden. This year’s summer intern, a 16-year old young man named Bebo, who is of Cherokee heritage, will work as an intern in the gardens for ten hours a week for 20 weeks this season.

The YMCA of Walla Walla, WA

NCGH provided a $1000 donation to the Young Men’s Christian Association of Walla Walla (the “Walla Walla Y”). The funds will be used to purchase snacks and juice for children participating in its newest summer enrichment program in Athena, Oregon. The Walla Walla Y serves 13 rural communities in Washington and nearby Oregon, where over 15 percent of the families are below the poverty level, and over 60 percent of the children qualify for free and reduced lunch programs. For seven to nine weeks each summer, when school is not in session, the Walla Walla Y offers week-long enrichment programs that nurture children ages 5 to 14 and support their cognitive, social, and physical wellbeing. The Walla Walla Y provides nutritious snacks and meals for the children during each day of the program. Read More.

Camelot Elementary School

NCGH supplied non-perishable food items and a shelving storage unit to Camelot Elementary School in Annandale, Virginia. Some may say, “practice what you preach,” but when NCGH Founder and Director Rev. Kären Rasmussen says it, she takes it to heart. When Rev. Rasmussen leads worship in her community, her sermon’s message invites listeners to connect with their local school and see what they need to help feed their kids. Rev. Rasmussen decided she needed to practice what she preaches, so she reached out to the school two blocks from her home to ask how she could help support the food insecurity needs of students’ families. She worked with Rebecca Stebbins of the Camelot Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) Food Pantry on behalf of No Child Goes Hungry to provide much-needed food and new shelving for their school’s food pantry. Read More.

Still, more help is desperately needed. The need is vast, and it continues to grow. We feed kids, one meal at a time. It matters. Every meal matters.

NCGH provides grant money and mentorship opportunities so that community organizations can build hunger advocacy programs that will thrive and grow as their communities continue to tackle the problem of local food insecurity. Such sustainable programs include afterschool backpack programs, little free pantries, community food pantries, and donation programs.

NCGH also strives to educate the community on food insecurity issues and arm people with the knowledge to help. NCGH offers age-appropriate lesson plans to help local organizations to talk to people of all ages about the issue of food insecurity, helping to fuel future generations of childhood hunger advocates. The lesson plans are designed for schools, churches, or any group that would like to learn more about what they can do to eliminate childhood hunger in their community and are available to use at no cost. Lesson plans are available for Preschool-Kindergarten, Grades 1-3, Grades 4-7, Grades 8-12, and Adults.

Let’s Feed Some Kids!

Insulated Coveralls for the Homeless

At Grenfell Ministries we are a Unitarian Universalist outreach in Hamilton, Ontario.

Due to assistance from Cantex Distribution (a company in Niagara) we have been able to secure a really great deal on quilted, insulated coveralls and instead of paying $250 a pair we are able to pay $40 a pair. With four thousand dollars we can put 100 of these on the street for folks suffering this winter with homelessness. We have already place 25 into circulation and have ordered 30 more.

Grenfell Ministries, a Unitarian Universalist faith-based Ministry that aims to provide support to marginalized communities through programming that focuses on seniors, youth, those experiencing homelessness folks who use substances, and those who are or were formerly incarcerated. We serve with integrity, compassion and promote individuality and self-empowerment. We are committed to building communities through advocacy and activism.

We are a peer-run, peer-led organization that strives to improve the quality of life for those we serve on their terms. In solidarity, we offer organized voices of lived experience in the hopes of encouraging programming, policy adaptation and to reduce stigma and discrimination. We collaborate with various organizations and services to assist folks with meeting their needs and offer grief support to families who have lost loved ones to the overdose epidemic on an individual and group basis.

​Our projects have received funding in part by the Fund for Unitarian Universalist Social Responsibility, United Way Phase 2 and Phase 3 Funding for COVID-19 pandemic response and the Hamilton Community Foundation.

Uptown Community Podcast

The Uptown Community Podcast (UCP) raises Unitarian Universalism and its values in discussing the legacy and future of its community. UCP has recently doubled its listenership across generations. Although this podcast is called the “Uptown” community podcast, the ideas expressed have much broader appeal.

The UCP is a program of The Peoples Church and Preston Bradley Center. The building also houses a transitional housing shelter, artist studios, performance spaces, and other churches. The content of UCP is similarly active in its promotion of the arts, culture, and the inherent value of every person.

The building is named for Rev. Dr. Preston Bradley and is located in Uptown, Chicago. He led one of the first broadcast ministries in the country and also provided radio stations with short inspirational messages. His charismatic preaching helped Chicago through The Great Depression and WWII. The UCP offers contemporary commentary on his messages and Unitarian faith. The UCP reviews these short inspirational messages in-between conversations with Uptown’s own inspirational community. 

The UCP is a recipient of the Unitarian Universalist Funding program. Additional funding is needed for updated hardware, simultaneous recording, and costs for streaming and hosting digital content. Would you give generously to spread the good news of Unitarian Universalism in Uptown?

Unity Means Community: Not In Our Town

Local organizations are coming together to lift up black voices in Portage County: Unity Means Community: Not In Our Town

Our goal is to raise $3000 to be used by the Portage County NAACP chapter for communications (Zoom conferencing, social media, printing & SWAG, sound amplification for in-person events). This will support efforts to amplify the voices of Black Kent State students, to enfranchise Black neighborhoods with Get-Out-the-Vote campaigns, and will provide seed money for future efforts.

Collaborators: Black United Students, Kent State Undergraduate Student Government, Kent Interfaith Alliance for Racial Reconciliation and Justice, Allies for Racial Reconciliation and Justice,  Kent League of Women Voters, along with the primary organization, the Portage County NAACP.

UU community ministers the Rev. Renee Ruchotzke and the Rev. Christie Anderson (affiliated with the UU Church of Kent) are affiliated with the Portage County NAACP chapter.

Assist Iowans Recovering from the Derecho

DISASTER RELIEF CAMPAIGN: ALL donations will be processed immediately

(Please see Update tab for more information)

Low-income apartment building destroyed by the storm Low-income apartment building destroyed by the storm

No one expected hurricane force winds of up to 140 miles per hour to blow through Iowa August 10. While many members of People’s Unitarian Universalist Church had no power for a week and damage to their homes and trees, they are most concerned with those who had lost their homes, particularly those most vulnerable.

Immigrant resident shares his story of the storm Immigrant resident shares his story of the storm

Low income families, including immigrants and refugees spent a week in tents after their housing was destroyed. Still homeless, this population faces food insecurity. In addition, some families have lost all the contents of their homes when a roof blew off their apartment building.

Our Faithify campaign promises to provide relief by directing all of the money pledged to non-profit organizations in the community hit by this storm that ravaged one third of Iowa. These organizations include the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program, the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation Disaster Relief Fund, and the CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank, as well as the food bank of the People’s UU Church. The funds will be distributed where there is the most need. We invite all to open your hearts and reach out to those in such dire need.

Unitarian Universalists lend a hand with a lunch distribution Unitarian Universalists lend a hand with a lunch distribution

How is this project connected to UU?

Our principles inspire us to reach out to others with justice, equity and dignity, to strive toward peace and liberty for everyone, and recognize that we are all a part of an interdependent web. We cannot ignore the deep injustices and indignity of those most in need made worse by an unexpected storm of unprecedented magnitude.

The People’s UU Church in Cedar Rapids started their own food pantry to address food insecurity in the community. This congregation also and has long-standing associations and support for both the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program and the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation Disaster Relief Fund. Nearby in Coralville, the UU Society regularly sends volunteers and financial support to CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank.

Saving Split Rock

Stretch Goal Added- See details below

Near and dear to the Ramapough Lenape Indian Nation is their sacred site of Split Rock or Tahetaway, which means The Gate that Opens. It is considered a power point for gaining wisdom and understanding. Ancestors would meet there and powwow out their decisions.

This ancient rock formation is central to a series of giant turtle formations, which line up and are just off summer sunrise solstice. The stones had been shaped, modified and put into position. There are two astronomical alignments still functioning. According to anthropologist David Johnson from Poughkeepsie this site qualifies for a national historic preservation.

Relatives from the Andes have implored the Ramapough to reactivate this portal for the healing of the people and Mother Earth. In keeping with their indigenous traditions, on June 20, 2020, a sunrise ceremony was held at Split Rock with Unity Earth to begin reactivating this sacred site.  Unity Earth is traveling around the globe, engaging with Indigenous nations and peoples for the healing of human kind and Mother Earth.

Our goal is to support the reactivation of this sacred site. Plans are for a large ceremonial tipi to be erected at the site for hosting ceremonies. This will allow relatives from the global community to visit and offer prayers and blessings. The cost of the tipi is $3,000.00.

At this year’s UUA General Assembly, an Action of Immediate Witness, “400 Years of White Supremacist Colonialism” addresses the white colonial settler history and effects on Indigenous nations and people’s. Excerpt:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that we, the delegates of the 2020 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association, call upon the Unitarian Universalist Association and its member congregations to:

Continue to gather in solidarity with the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, Standing Rock nation, and all Indigenous peoples struggling to preserve their lands, waters, peoples, sacred sites, and sovereignty.

Continue to push for release of Indigenous Water Protectors from prisons, end public policies that criminalize resistance to extractive colonialism, and adopt a vision of prison abolition.

Work nationally, statewide, and locally on public policy that is decolonizing – such as establishing Indigenous Peoples Day, including Indigenous peoples’ histories in public education curricula, and eliminating racist monuments, flags, and mascots.

Work to stop and reverse ecological harm in genuine collaboration with and taking leadership from communities most consistently and harshly impacted by extractive exploitation of land, water, air, and all beings.

Research, identify, and acknowledge the Indigenous peoples historically and/or currently connected with the land occupied by congregations, and find ways to act in solidarity with or even partner with those Indigenous peoples.

Examine practices relative to Indigenous people’s histories, cultures, spiritual traditions, and rights must be respected. Unitarians and Universalists seek to be more inclusive and accountable.

This is a new project in support of the Ramapough Lenape Indian Nation, honoring their culture and traditions, working towards saving their sacred site. As Unitarian Universalists, we are called to work with communities marginalized by our society. Our call to justice, particularly in 2020 with the anniversary of the Mayflower landing, asks of us to support Indigenous Nations which have suffered great harm from the time of first contact through to today. Our Anti- Racism work must go further than our own congregations to support the call of Native Nations as they protect their sacred sites and work to renew Mother Earth. This is our present work in the UUA, and my ministry serves to support this; our Associations progressive stance is aligned with creating a world community.


We are also aligned with efforts to heal the environment due to the climate crisis. This goal and the spiritual practices of the Ramapough Lenape are intrinsic to the goal of healing Mother Earth for seven generations into the future. We are grateful to the Unitarian Universalist Association for providing this platform for us to fund raise.

For more information on the Ramapough Lenape, view #612, On Demand video from 2020 General Assembly. Also view American Native or Mann v. Ford, both on Amazon Prime. Anushiik! (Thank You!)

Volunteers cancel, Guatemala town struggles

Named after the Brazilian environmental activist, Chico Mendes, who lost his life protecting the rainforests, the Chico Mendes Reforestation Project was started in 1998, when the loss of forests and its consequences were evident to those living in Pachaj, Guatemala. This community is located near Quetzaltenango, in the Northwest Highlands of Guatemala.  Jorge Armando Lopez Pocol, a respected forester, and his family established a nursery and organizes the village as well as international volunteers to plant seeds, grow seedlings, and protect trees. The average number of trees planted each year in the last five years is 15,000. Currently, Jorge Armando has 40,000 trees ready to be planted.

One of Jorge Armando’s main goals is to plant the pinabete tree on the mountainside near his community.  The pinabete is the one tree where the rare Quetzal, national bird of Guatemala, will nest.  Planting the pinabete thwarts mining companies from destroying the mountainsides and will ensure good water quality for the village.

See the Chico Mendes website:  https://www.chicomendesguatemala.org

Because of the pandemic, nine volunteer groups scheduled to plant trees in Guatemala for The Chico Mendes Reforestation Project have canceled. This is devastating for a community that is living on the edge.  The Project depends on volunteer groups to transfer seedlings and to plant young trees, which in turn helps support the reforesting of the mountainsides.  In addition, income for the community is generated when volunteers pay to stay with families and take Spanish language classes. Without this income, the families and Spanish teachers will lack funds to feed their families.

From the three service-learning trips, many in our congregation have ties to the Chico Mendes Reforestation Project and have been supportive in past fundraisers.  Our UU accreditation as a Green Sanctuary congregation was due in part from this partnership.  In addition, we are knowledgeable about other groups who have traveled or were planning to travel there this spring and summer.  We are also well connected to various environmental groups and will communicate the needs of this project to them.

The funds raised will go for seeds, fertilizer, tools, supplies, and staff salaries to maintain the young trees and protect the forests.  Families who provide homestays and Spanish teachers will be compensated.

Contributions and support now will ensure the continuation and survival of the Chico Mendes Reforestation project.  The welfare of these community members and the protection of fragile ecosystems in the Guatemala Highlands also depend on contributions to weather the current crisis caused by the pandemic.  In the future groups will again take trips and plant trees with the villagers of Pachaj, hosted by Jorge Armando.

Testimonials:

“When I was in Guatemala, I observed the Chico Mendes group grow healthy seedlings and plant trees where they had been cut down.  Reforestation is an important job for humanity in terms of climate change.”  -Dr. John Hartman, Plant Pathologist Emeritus, University of Kentucky

“The Chico Mendes Reforestation Project not only provides clean air and water for the local people, but it also sends the message that sustainability is possible if everyone contributes.  By donating to this cause, you will be improving the local people’s quality of life and showing the world how vital sustainability is for our well being”.  -Justine Reschly, High School senior

“What most impressed me about the Chico Mendes Reforestation Project in Guatemala was the engagement and investment in youth.  They didn’t just work on reforestation, but they educated, hired, and mentored youth to participate in their work.  They understand the importance of youth education and involvement to bring change in future generations. “ -Meredith Gall, parent and participant

“The Chico Mendes Reforestation Project is as much a community and social justice effort as it is an environmental justice organization. Planting trees and protecting the environment is intimately related to protecting and providing for the local community. The connection with the local community both supports Chico Mendes and also provides a community stake in both the project and their environment. Our family’s connection with the community was good for us, them and, I firmly believe, the wider world.” -Dan Gall, parent and participant

Roundtable Revival Mentoring Program for Persons Who are Reentering the Community 

Persons returning to the community face significant barriers rebuilding their lives after experiencing contact with the criminal justice system (Coates, 2015). Examples include those citizens on probation or parole or those returning to the community after a period of incarceration in jail or prison. These challenges are being magnified by the COVID-19 epidemic.

Currently in Eau Claire County, WI, we do not have a comprehensive reentry program that can serve those being released from jail or prison, so even a brief jail stay could result in the loss of housing, employment, family disruption, health care coverage, or transportation. Recent estimates suggest that each year 15-20 women return to the Eau Claire area after release from prison. In 2017, the Eau Claire County Jail released 4,916 people. Roundtable Revival has a goal of providing resources and programming to support reintegration into the community and reduce recidivism.

We will ultimately offer a variety of reentry programs, including the Mentoring Program, Reentry Peer Support, a First Stop program for people being released from jail, and an alcohol-free tavern as a place where people can gather in the evening to socialize, relax, and have fun. Roundtable Revival utilizes a foundation of Certified Peer Support Specialists. Training for the Peer Support Specialist is provided by the State of Wisconsin and their hours are billable through Medical Assistance. These specialists have the advantage of having personal experience with the criminal justice system and have been trained in understanding the available community resources. Ultimately, we hope that any added programs will contribute to the goal of empowering returning citizens and enhancing their overall physical and mental health. We want to offer them the opportunity for an equal place at our roundtable.

Objectives: For the Mentoring Program, we plan to draw upon the power of a mentoring relationship to empower persons as they seek to negotiate the challenges of obtaining housing, employment, substance use and alcohol misuse treatment, healthcare, mental health treatment, and other needed resources. Funds raised will be used for start-up and initial operational expenses. The outcomes will consist of a tracking success across the areas of individual need and an evaluation of the mentoring program by the mentors and mentees.

Mentoring Program Design: The program will be modeled after similar successful programs, best practices, and evidence-based models. Area churches and congregations, the Synagogue and the Mosque as well as the general community will be approached for support by providing weekly meals, Life Skills presenters, and Mentors. The program will meet weekly at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Eau Claire for three hours with each session consisting of socializing and sharing a meal, group support and life story sharing, an educational presentation on life skills, and individual mentoring. Mentors will be trained prior to each cycle and will be asked to attend group mentor meetings periodically during the cycle. The initial focus will be providing a safe space for adult females who volunteer and are accepted into the program. If there is enough interest, a second site will serve adult men. We envision conducting  mentoring program cycles in the fall and spring. A graduation ceremony will be held at the conclusion of each cycle.

All mentors will be asked to complete an initial six-hour workshop training. Group meetings of Mentors will occur prior to the weekly meetings every third week of the program duration. Mentors will be given a manual with a mentor job description and training materials.

Expected outcomes: Our mission is: To cultivate inclusive, accepting, and empowering spaces WITH people who face barriers due to a conviction history: Facilitating full reintegration into our community. We plan to link individuals with community resources for housing, employment, substance use and alcohol misuse treatment, mental health treatment, and other needed resources. An overall goal of Roundtable Revival is to foster a more responsive and collaborative system for the employment, housing, mental health, healthcare, and substance use and alcohol misuse treatment needs of returning citizens.  In addition, we will instill a sense of community and belonging among individuals who are returning citizens.

How the project will be sustained: The Eau Claire County Department of Human Services operates two programs that will be a source of collaboration and support, The Comprehensive Community Services (CCS) and Community Support Program (CSP). We have also established a beginning relationship with the Eau Claire County Jail, the State of Wisconsin, Department of Corrections, Probation and Parole and The Transition Center (day treatment center) in Eau Claire. Roundtable Revival is incorporated as a State of Wisconsin, certified nonprofit social service agency or 501(c)3.

Bounty for Babies Forever

Bounty for Babies Forever

 A justice project of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ellsworth (UUCE)

In December 2019, after learning that families who needed food and supplies for babies were having to be turned away from the Loaves & Fishes food pantry due to inability to stock these products, UUCE launched a very successful Reverse Advent justice project in which the congregation was asked to donate specific foods and supplies for babies daily during Advent. The items were donated to Loaves & Fishes food pantry, and distributed as needed to the families served by the pantry. This project was a big success, and generated over $2000 in cash and goods.  Our church has committed to continuing the project into perpetuity by asking congregants for weekly donations as baby items get used from the Loaves & Fishes stock. Our goal is to ensure that no family goes without obtaining the needed food, diapers and health care supplies for their babies.  This project is run under the auspices of our Peace and Social Action committee and is managed by the Bounty for Babies Task Force.

Although the project has only been in existence for two months, we have already made a huge difference in the lives of families in our community.  Since its inception, no one has had to be denied items they need for their babies.  The program serves over 30 families each month and, at the request of the families served, has been expanded to include food and supplies for toddlers.  Additionally, we provide Birthday Bags, which contain a small toy and the supplies needed to bake a birthday cake, to parents of children of any age.

To date, this project has been fully funded by UUCE.  A very generous anonymous donor has now come forward with a proposal to match up to $5000 in donated funds to support the Bounty for Babies project, and to form the basis through which it can be sustained.

Please support us as we strive to raise the matching funds so that we can carry this project far into the future.  In honor of this donation, and with the hope and expectation that we will reach our goal to match the funds, we are renaming the project Bounty for Babies Forever.