Tagged: “MidAmerica Region”

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.

Champaign County COVID-19 Relief

DISASTER RELIEF CAMPAIGN:

ALL donations will be processed immediately

(NO ALL-OR NOTHING GOAL FOR THIS CAMPAIGN)

Food insecurity has skyrocketed in Champaign County as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19. The Social Action Committee of the Unitarian Church of Urbana-Champaign has created a Faithify crowdfunding campaign to help ease the suffering and uncertainties of families in our community experiencing hardship.

We have selected three organizations whose outreach to families in our community are both reliable and effective. They are

  • CU Better Together
  • CU FAIR’s Pandemic Response Fund
  • Channing Murray’s Bucket Brigade

Funds during this campaign will be shared equally among these organizations. Our goal is to collect at least $10,000 in this initial round of fundraising. We will continue to offer this as rolling 30 day campaigns to meet the ongoing needs of these organizations.

Many of us have, or will be receiving checks from the government as part of the recent relief package passed by Congress.  Would you be willing to donate some – or potentially all – of those funds to our campaign?

Even if you aren’t receiving a stimulus check, but are looking for the best way to help those in our community who are in need, this campaign will target the funds where they are needed. In Illinois the peak of the virus impact is going to be mid-May to mid-Jun so now is a critical time to act.

Thank you in advance for your generosity.

Social Action Committee
Unitarian Church of Urbana-Champaign

CU-Better Together

CU-Better Together is a combined effort of several organizations to support families with school-aged children who are suffering from food insecurity during the pandemic. This project is designed to work within the food distribution structure set up by the Champaign and Urbana School Districts. It utilizes the large spaces available at the Stone Creek Church and the Vineyard Church for organizing food. Large initial donations came from United Way, the Community Foundation, the Stephens Family YMCA, and the C-U Schools Foundation. Several local churches and other organizations are supporting this project.

CU FAIR Pandemic Response Fund

Thousands of undocumented immigrants in our community do not qualify for unemployment benefits, and they are among those who need our help. Champaign Urbana Friends and Allies of Immigrants and Refugees (CU FAIR) has established a Pandemic Response Fund.  They are working with local organizations such as the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, the PTA Council of Champaign, and the Immigration Justice Task Force of the Unitarian Church of Urbana-Champaign to provide food and other support to our immigrant and refugee families.

Your funds will be used to purchase and deliver groceries and hygiene and health supplies, free of charge. Information about COVID-19 and how to access healthcare resources that has been translated into Spanish, French and English will be inserted into grocery bags, and emergency cash assistance is provided to those most in need.

Channing Murray Bucket Brigade

Channing-Murray has been preparing a #bucketbrigade of essential grocery deliveries for extremely low-income families in Urbana who are recommended by staff at the Champaign Township Office and the Cunningham Township Supervisor’s Office. These buckets have beans, rice, cereal, soup, eggs, and often some prepared meals.  Each and every item is sanitized, then delivered to the doorsteps of the families served.

Channing-Murray has been C-U’s home for social justice programming over many years, and now there is no better time to put our values into action!  Your contributions will be considered a part of a local movement, to provide aid, to be courageous, and to choose a spirit of generosity over scarcity.

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.

The Wisconsin Unitarian Universalist State Action Network

The Wisconsin Unitarian Universalist State Action Network aims to build a statewide advocacy network employing the power of the collective voices of Unitarian Universalists in Wisconsin. We uphold the worth and dignity of every person while acting to further justice, equity, and compassion. Through a website and social media the Wisconsin Unitarian Universalist State Action Network hopes to provide portals for Wisconsin UU congregations to share what they are doing and see what other UU congregations are doing to advance justice, equity and compassion, through the website and social media to provide in depth information about the issue critical to the citizens of Wisconsin, and to provide a forum for individuals to express their actions and need for justice, equity and compassion.

2020 MVUUF Teen Trek to UU-UNO Spring Seminar

UPDATE Mar 13, 2020: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this campaign has been closed. Any pledges made will NOT be processed. Thank you.

 

In light of recent developments with COVID-19, the UU-UNO has cancelled the in-person events for the Spring Seminar. Our MVUUF Teen Group will not be making the trip. Thanks to those who were willing to donate!

Original Description follows for archive purposes.

——————————————————–

SUPPORTING A NEW GENERATION OF

CLIMATE JUSTICE ACTIVISTS

Your donation to this project will fund travel expenses for youth and sponsors to attend the 2020 UU-UNO Intergenerational Spring Seminar in New York City. Our youth and sponsors have each funded their own registration fees. Your Faithify donations will go towards transportation, meals, and other associated expenses for the trip as they travel from Dayton, OH to New York City. We have set our fundraising goal to match projected expenses, and we need $500 per traveler to cover our costs. Any extra funds raised this year will be put to use in future trips as we seek to make this a biennial event for the youth in our congregation.

The 2020 UU-UNO Intergenerational Spring Seminar theme is “All In For Climate Justice: People, Power, Planet.” The conference will take place April 16-18 in New York City. Through worship, panel discussions, skills-building workshops, and small-group collaboration, participants will learn and grow together as they explore UU centered responses to vital global climate challenges.

This year, we have six youth (Avery, Travis, Zane, Matthew, Yemaya, and Genna) and three adult sponsors (Shaun, Richard, and Lathe) registered to attend. This record attendance from our congregation is the best indication of the value of the conference to our youths’ growth in social activism. MVUUF Youth who participate in the trip will:

  • Gain deeper understanding of the UU-UNO’s climate justice work with the United Nations and the world
  • Develop a broader sense of UU community as they connect with UU youth from across the country and other nations who share similar values
  • Practice leadership skills by engaging the MVUUF congregation in the UU-UNO mission upon their return

Some pictures from last year’s trip are included below!

Chalice Lighters &...

MidAmerica has a new way of supporting congregations with their Chalice Lighters program and Faithify.

All Souls’ Children’s...

Nowhere is the shadow of racism longer in American than when it comes to educational disparities. You can change this.

Our six-week, evidence-based program, developed by the Children’s Defense Fund, has been proven through rigorous research to improve literacy skills, build character and engage parents. During our first two summers, All Souls hosted the only CDF Freedom School in the state of Indiana. In 2017, we got 501(c)3 status, and in 2018, our parternship launched a second site. This will be our fifth summer offering this impactful program.

Thanks to our donors last year, 84% of our scholars experienced no summer-learning loss of gained literacy skills. Normally their peers would lose 2-3 months of reading ability; such summer learning loss, compounded year-after-year accounts for 50% of the achievement gap. Faithify is our single largest individual donor source, covering just over 20% of our program costs. $125 covers the cost of a scholar’s program for one week. Thank you for helping us mitigate the educational disparity gap that keeps so many of our children behind.

There have been three waves of “Freedom Schools” in American history, and Unitarian Universalists have been part of all three. Northern whites, often women, went to the South soon after emancipation to teach formally-enslaved persons to read. Then in 1964, as part of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, the National Council of Churches and SNCC formed summer “Freedom Schools,” focused specifically on literacy, humanities, science and math. These schools, often “taught” by white, northern college students, also had a larger purpose: to show young, Southern black Americans that they were valued and to engage them in community problem-solving.

The Children’s Defense Fund has initiated the third wave with the development a modern, evidence-based summer learning and family engagement model. The model retains the historical focus on offering a culturally-appropriate program designed to empower and promote civic engagement and literacy. The model is defined by five essential components:

  • High-quality academic enrichment, which includes age- and culturally-appropriate books that are part of an Integrated Reading Curriculum involving reinforcing activities, field trips and games.
  • Parent and family involvement at multiple levels, from morning introductory activities to classroom assistance to supporting community projects.
  • Social action and civic engagement by our children and youth so that they are prepared to be active citizens. Participants engage in solving community problems and do social justice work, including through a Children’s Defense Fund yearly National Day of Social Action.
  • Intergenerational servant leadership development, by engaging college students and recent graduates to deliver the program, many of whom have had Freedom School experience themselves.
  • Nutrition, health and mental health, by requiring programs to provide—at a minimum—two USDA-compliant meals and a snack each day of operation, while training staff to recognize the importance of providing therapeutic health and mental health services.

With your financial support, All Souls Unitarian Church would offer six-weeks of programming for 40 school-age children in summer 2020. Indianapolis has pervasive educational and opportunity disparities and our congregation sits in a high-need community. The church is in close proximity to two struggling public elementary schools. Robert Lee Frost is 87% African-American and over 80% free and reduced-price lunch. In 2014, only 51% of students passed both English and Math in ISTEP. Only 65% of students passed the IREAD-3. At Brook Park, 76% of students are African-American or Hispanic and over 76% qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Only 52% passed ISTEP in 2014. Opportunity disparities in is high. Nearly 25% of individuals in the All Souls zip code (46226) live in poverty and nearly 40% of children live at or below the poverty level. We know from national-level research that poverty is correlated with fewer summer learning and other enrichment opportunities.

All Souls has already begun to build a diverse coalition of organizations and individuals committed to making a Freedom School a permanent fixture in Indianapolis. Our partners include, but are not limited to, the Indianapolis Freedom School Partnership (the umbrella organization we helped form), the neighborhood elementary schools near the church, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis, neighborhood organizations, the League of Women Voters, the Indianapolis Public Library, and the education departments of Indiana University, Butler University, and Marion University.

“Indiana Black Expo, as the backbone support organization for the Your Life Matters Initiative, is in full support of All Souls’ endeavors with the development of a Freedom School in Indianapolis.” – Tanya Bell President & CEO Indiana Black Expo, Inc.

“The development of a Freedom School in Indianapolis is an important service and support for youth in the northeast part of our city. I applaud All Souls Unitarian Church for its vision and for making social justice visible for children who need a supportive community and gifts that participation in a Freedom School provides.” – Dr. Cindy Jackson, Positive Discipline Coordinator, IPS district, and member of the education committee of the Your Life Matters Task Force

The Ordination and Installation of John Eric Severson

An ordination 25 years in the making!

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Midland, MI (UUFoM), is honored to ordain John Eric Severson to the Unitarian Universalist ministry at an ordination ceremony on March 29, 2020. UUFoM also will be installing Eric as its called minister at this event.

Ordination is an essential component in the Unitarian Universalist tradition, occurring after an individual has completed formal training and has been accepted into preliminary fellowship as a UU minister by the denomination. Ordination is the final step that sets aside the ordinand as clergy and allows the title of “Reverend” to be bestowed.

Eric will be joined by congregants, family, friends, UU and interfaith clergy, and by those who have played an important role in his journey to becoming a UU minister. Your support of this campaign will help make this a meaningful and memorable event to mark Eric’s formal entry into service as a Unitarian Universalist minister.

Funds for this campaign will be used for food and refreshments at the ordination/installation, compensation for guest musicians, and to support travel and lodging for clergy traveling from outside of the area. Any funds exceeding ordination needs will be split between a local food security organization and the fellowship’s endowment fund.

We are grateful for any amount you might give. Thank you!

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ordination/installation has been postponed until gathering in person is safer for everyone. Thank you once again for your donations!

Immigrant Housing in Chalice House

The need for housing for immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S. is critically important. In a recently released report, the National Immigrant Justice Center described immigration detention centers as a “sprawling network of wasteful prisons operated by for-profit companies, county jails, and a small number of processing centers owned by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that are interchangeable from jails in structure and practice.”

Countryside Church Unitarian Universalist (Palatine, IL) currently owns a 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom house, and we are partnering with Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants (ICDI) to convert this home into transitional housing for immigrants seeking asylum.

It’s our goal for the home to be ready for a family by sometime in 2nd Quarter 2020.

Chalice House is a shared project whereby ICDI provides ongoing services and support to its asylum-seeking clients, while Countryside and donors like you provide housing and hospitality. Community-based housing such as Chalice House offers alternatives to detention while an immigrant’s case is pending so that families can stay together and immigrants don’t experience additional trauma in immigration detention centers.

ICDI is a non-profit, faith-based organization that provides housing and other services to immigrants released from ICE detention. An ICDI case manager connects people to educational, ESL, religious, health, and legal services. By providing a supportive and caring environment and trauma-informed care, ICDI seeks to help people heal and adjust to life in the U.S. while they wait for future court dates or work permits.

Chalice House is a way to build the beloved community right here, right now. But we can’t do it alone — this is where the support from you can come in. In addition to seeking the support (both financial and volunteer) of areas congregations and community groups, we are seeking support from individuals who support this cause.

If, for any reason, Chalice House does not come to fruition, all funds will go directly to ICDI to support other community housing for immigrants.

Help Midwife Seminarian...

Peace and civility can only be manifested through forging personal relationships by way of interfaith dialogs, across secular lines, and taking our message of peace into the public square. I consider myself an artist of that ministry.

Sunrise Lake Michigan Painting

I see myself as a religious leader, poised through my training to teach people how to forge relationships civilly and bring about real change. I am to respond to situations of growth, conflict and change pastorally and creatively. The degradation of peace is often lost in the discourse when people are afraid to sit in discomfort in order to make this world just. So often peace is equated with ease. Peace comes in examining problematic behaviors in ourselves and our communities.

Weaving together marketing, arts and public relations with ministry has been the way I’ve shaped my vision to grow peace and civility in today’s world. I enroll people in our movement for peace by making it voluptuous, gorgeous and reverent. When humans are engaged by splendor, they are in a better space to hear one another and can engage in the deep listening required to reach peace in our hearts and actions. Art and beauty invite people in. It softens the discomfort. I affirm what Toni Cade Bambarayou says: “The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible.” As an artist of ministry, I  use all my tools to make our movement irresistible. Won’t you support me, so I can take this next step toward becoming an artist of ministry on the canvas of our movement?

I see the MFC on December 6. I travel to Boston. I have had to prepare tests, reviews, photos, and more to get to the MFC. Now I need to travel, eat, take transportation and lodging while there. Your donation of any amount will help.

All who donate $100 or more will receive a postcard set of five of my art prints suitable for framing. 

I have spent decades sharing our ideologies outside of our churches in places where people are struggling. Knowing how to harness the power of media is necessary to our movement. When we dance, sing and display beauty outside the church walls, we can appeal to people and open their hearts.

Autumn Trees: Falling Forward Reaching Back

Systems of oppression need to be dismantled and that only comes from 1:1 relationship. If we cannot love our mother earth, our transgender siblings, our unhomed neighbors, our queer children and our immigrant cousins as much as we love our god, how will we claim grace?

I answer this question with the sentiments of Alfred S. Cole and John Wesley: “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike?”

It is in that loving, carrying beauty in one hand and our message of peace in the other across lines of faith, that we will bring about true and lasting peace.

Please come with me on this journey.

Let the Music Play!

Minnesota Valley UU Fellowship is blessed to have a vibrant music program and an energetic new music staff. With new staffing and new programming comes the need for new music. Some music can cost up to $2.50 per booklet of sheet music; with 20+ choir members, costs can add up quickly.

Staff and the music committee have been working hard going through our files to assess what music is still relevant in keeping and making room for new pieces. Your generosity will help in really lifting our new music program to new heights