Open FirstSteps Re-entry House for People Returning Home From Prison to Champaign Co, Illinois
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Urbana-Champaign (UUCUC) is partnering with FirstFollowers to open FirstSteps, a re-entry house for people returning to our community after incarceration. UUCUC has already committed $5500 for this desperately needed program. Many other congregations, community organizations, and government programs are also supporting this cause. Funds raised from this Faithify campaign will be used to cover startup and operational expenses. The FirstSteps house is scheduled to open this Fall. They have already raised 85% of the funds needed to open, this Faithify campaign could get them to 100%. Please consider supporting the FirstSteps home and sharing this campaign with your network.
FirstFollowers is a local non-profit supporting people returning to the community from incarceration. Over the years of providing peer mentorship to people leaving prison, they recognized a stark need for housing.
Housing is very scarce for those with any history of criminal justice system involvement. Historically, the local Housing Authority has banned formerly incarcerated people from returning to their units, even if they have family members living there. This is slowly changing with advocacy, but the demand for public housing still far outstrips the supply. In Champaign, landlords are legally allowed to refuse to rent to people with certain felony convictions. Other obstacles, like application fees and credit checks, exclude most people returning home from prison. With nearly 400 people on state supervised release in Champaign County, there is a huge need for supportive services.
FirstFollowers is working with the Housing Authority of Champaign County to renovate a home on Ells Street in Champaign. FirstFollowers GoMAD scholars are young people with some criminal justice involvement who are being trained in construction skills. GoMAD scholars are currently working side-by-side with contractors to ready the FirstSteps home for its first residents. When the home is complete and enough funds are raised to launch the program, staff and volunteer mentors will welcome up to four residents at a time.
FirstSteps is not just a house or a bed. Individuals living in the house will have the support of FirstFollowers peer mentors. Residents will also be connected with local resources and provided with access to opportunities for employment, training, and education. In addition, peer mentors will help them establish personal plans and goals offering social/emotional support through their networks of allies in the community.
First Followers’ mission is to build strong and peaceful communities by providing support, guidance, and hope to formerly incarcerated people and their loved ones through peer mentorship.
A safe stigma free environment
Assistance with employment searches
Job readiness training
Advocacy for individuals with felony convictions
View website: https://www.firstfollowersreentry.com/
UUCUC is pleased to sponsor this Faithify campaign to help FirstFollowers acquire the necessary funds to make the FirstSteps home a reality. FirstSteps will not just benefit the residents, but the entire community. We thank you in advance for your support. We hope to have many community members present on FirstSteps opening day, to not only celebrate, but to commit to a continuing partnership. Please read the UU Connections tab to learn how UUCUC came to support FirstFollowers and the FirstSteps transitional house.
“I Hope to...
“I Hope to Find a Way Out”: Bonding out Asylum Seekers in New Hampshire
On August 24, some 200 marchers from four New England states met at the Strafford County detention center in New Hampshire where immigrants are held. They conducted a mock funeral ceremony for immigrants killed at the Mexican border; as they marched by the prison they could see detainees pressed against the slim rectangular glass windows and hear them pounding against the walls.
The first speaker said:
We gather here today outside the Strafford Detention Center in solidarity, witness, grief, and hope.
We are here in solidarity with our siblings detained within.
We gather here to witness to a broken system that uses black and brown bodies for profit, dehumanizes Muslims, cages children and causes death.
We gather here today to mourn the dead, and we are here today to call for a different future.
The bond fund we are working to create aspires to be part of this different future.
Some immigrants came to New Hampshire just recently, seeking safety after suffering repression at home. Others have lived here for decades, working and raising families. Increasingly, ICE is imprisoning members of both groups. The good news is, many detained immigrants are eligible to be released on bond. But that takes money that they often don’t have. Here are some of their stories. Their names have been changed for their protection:
Harold escaped certain death in the Congo, his home country, for his ethnic identity. His family went into hiding, but Harold fled to the U.S. on a visa —only to be seized by ICE at the NH-Canadian border. His crime? Attempting to cross over to Quebec where people speak French, his native language. Thanks to help from our fund and other supporters, Harold was bonded out and is now living at the UU Church of Manchester while awaiting his day in immigration court. In the meantime, Harold has received his working papers, NH driver’s license, and he has landed a new job.
Sally, from Zimbabwe, was jailed by ICE on a routine traffic stop. She described jail to us as “the worst thing that can happen to a person.” Personal power and choice are taken away. Sally told us that no soap or lotion are provided and there is no opportunity ever to go outside. Officials took her documents and subsequently lost all of them. Sally was bonded out through the help of the United Church of Christ. Recently she had her asylum hearing and she won her case!
John recently wrote us from the Strafford County detention center, where he’s been held for the past year. It’s been harder than he imagined it could be. “I got detained a month after my daughter’s birth,” he wrote. “I feel that I have failed her as a father. I wasn’t there for her when she needed me. She’s been through two surgeries already before she even turned one year old, and I wasn’t there for her…I am in a dark tunnel. I hope to see the light soon. I don’t know how long I can go on.”
Working in concert with immigrant organizers, UUs from across New Hampshire, and other communities of faith, the New Hampshire Bail and Bond Fund is working to pay immigrant bonds, which can be anywhere between $1,500 and $20,000 per person, and to provide other support to immigrants fighting for asylum.
The need for bond money is as great as the cause is compelling. As John wrote, at the end of his message “Because of you I might be saved. I hope to find a way out.”
Ordination and Installation of AJ van Tine
Sierra Foothills UU (SFUU) and the UU Congregation of Fairfax (UUCF) are honored to co-ordain AJ van Tine to the Unitarian Universalist ministry at an ordination ceremony on March 28, 2020. SFUU will also be installing AJ as their 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. Ordination is the final step that sets aside the ordinand as clergy and allows the title of “Reverend” to be bestowed.
AJ 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 AJ’s entry into service as 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 our ordination needs will be added to our offering collection for the Living Tradition Fund.
Thank you for your generous donation to this important event.
The Ordination of Justin McCreary
In the Unitarian Universalist tradition, it is the privilege and responsibility of the congregation to ordain a minister.
Following this tradition, the ordination of Justin McCreary is sponsored, with excitement, deep love, and respect, by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Jackson, Mississippi. UUCJ would like to share this special privilege with the many individuals, organizations, and churches who have benefited from Justin’s passion, energy, and encouragement through the years. Your generous donation will be used for the ordination ceremony of Justin as he has been an example of a liberal faith minister in the heart of Mississippi.
Any funds raised above the needs of this ordination will go to benefit the Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund in alignment with the first Principle of UUA beliefs.
Sponsorship of Asylum-Seeking Immigrants
In response to the hostility and injustice aimed at immigrants to this nation, The Community Church created our Sanctuary and Immigrant Support Ministry. Last year, after a lengthy period of self-education and discernment, our congregation voted overwhelmingly to become an official Sanctuary Congregation. As such, we pledge to open our hearts and our church to poor and oppressed people who come to our borders seeking survival, safety and well-being. Our mission extends to people needing church sanctuary to avoid deportation, refugees in need of emergency housing assistance, and asylum-seekers, who arrive from Latin America and elsewhere seeking asylum due to the extreme dangers they face in their home countries.
The Manse (former parsonage) has been refitted to house immigrants.
Our church campus includes an old minister’s residence or manse which is located in a secluded space. In recent years, it had fallen into disrepair. We have worked long and hard to clear out, clean up and repair this structure to make it a habitable and welcoming space for immigrants in need of housing and other supports to avoid deportation. In January of this year we completed this work and announced to the larger community our readiness to receive an immigrant into sanctuary.
Concurrently, another related and urgent need surfaced. Individuals fleeing Central America to seek asylum in the United States are in desperate need of safe options as they wind their way through the asylum processes. Because of the backlog of cases, asylum seekers are waiting a year or more before their asylum determination hearing. Escalating stresses on the system suggest the backlog may grow dramatically in the coming months and years. Those seeking asylum cannot enter the U. S. until they have a sponsor; the sponsor or a surrogate is required to pay the bond that must be posted before the immigrant can be released to the sponsor. Often there are no family members available or able to fulfill the related responsibilities, which are considerable. Beyond the bond are the burdens of adding another person to a household when the new addition is not allowed to work for at least five months after arrival. Churches are beginning to mobilize to meet the needs of those awaiting asylum.
In April, our Sanctuary and Immigrant Support Ministry determined that we could best use our physical and human resources by making ourselves available to someone in the slow pipeline of asylum determination. After contacting a church-affiliated “matching” organization, we were put in contact with lawyers working at the southwest border near San Diego, California. We were matched with a 21-year-old female asylum-seeker from El Salvador who, since November, 2018, was held in detention in California awaiting a sponsor. At her bond hearing on May 15th, her appearance bond was set at $5,000 of which Community Church has paid $2,000, plus transportation to North Carolina. She arrived with few clothes, no personal hygiene products, no English language skills and genuine gratitude that she has found a community to welcome and support her.
Our current guest goes through a bike safety check with a church volunteer.
Meeting the bail and plane fare expenses has been burdensome. Ongoing costs are considerable and include housing, medical and dental care, clothing and personal care needs, food and transportation, acculturation experiences including language classes and safety. We are writing this request to help defray these costs and to maximize the help that we can provide. We have already been asked to take in a second asylum-seeker, and in May we had a refugee from Cuba who stayed with us for four weeks. We are hopeful that once we have secured adequate funds to afford the needs of our current resident, we will be able to meet the needs of additional immigrants.
Steering Committee session.
Fund Hope: Sponsor an Incarcerated UU
Thank you so much for supporting our Faithify campaign and for your interest in learning more about what Prison Ministry at the Church of the Larger Fellowship is like. This Faithify campaign is so important to the incarcerated members of the CLF. What we’re asking you to do is support the membership of our over 1,000 incarcerated UUs who live behind prison walls all across the country.
Through our Worthy Now Prison Network, we are able to provide vital programming for people who live in various forms of incarceration across the United States. In practice and on principle, we do not ask for membership dues from any of our incarcerated members. The programming we offer comes in the form of receiving a variety of printed material which includes:
- Two prison ministry newsletters a year
- A printed copy of the UU World magazine
- A printed copy of the CLF Quest magazine
Every dollar you donate will be doubled!
Can you give $50 to fund hope today?
By contributing to the success of this Faithify Campaign,
you will be helping over 1,000 UUs living in prison.
Additionally, with your help, we are able to offer our UU incarcerated members a number of the Tapestry of Faith classes which we have converted into correspondence format. These rich materials supply valuable religious education to our incarcerated siblings. Perhaps the best thing of all is, after becoming members and completing the New UU Class, they are eligible to receive a pen-pal connection with a free-world person (that’s you).
These pen-pal relationships are often the lifeline for giving and sustaining hope within the prison walls. It is the connection to the Power of We that is so vital to our Unitarian Universalist faith. Can you imagine hearing that you’re worthy of love and justice inside a system that often dehumanizes your very presence?
The cost of all this programming is about $150 per person. It would mean so much to the lives of these members if you, your friends, or your congregation found it in you to sponsor an incarcerated member’s cost of $150 dollars. That is less than $0.50 a day to fund this hope-giving ministry to an incarcerated UU.
Maybe that’s a little bit too much, maybe fifty dollars is more in your price range. The truth is, whatever you can give every dollar counts, every dollar helps bring programming and the message of hope and love to people in prison all across this country.
We have over 1,000 incarcerated UU’s depending on us.
Can you give $50 or more to fund hope?
Maybe you don’t feel comfortable standing on street corners and professing your faith but perhaps you would feel comfortable blessing someone’s life with the hope of Unitarian Universalism today! Won’t you bless someone with a membership to the CLF who is living behind prison walls?
* Thanks to the generous challenge grants supported by the Unitarian Universalist Funding Program, every dollar given to this Faithify campaign will be matched.
Nurture Justice Ministry in NH!
The mission of UU Action New Hampshire is to amplify Unitarian Universalist voices and values in the public square throughout New Hampshire. After running for two years as an entirely volunteer organization, this spring, we hired Tristan Husby as our first Executive Director, in order to take our work to the next level. Your donations will help us fund Tristan’s new position, which is funded in large part by a matching grant from the Fund for Unitarian Universalist Social Responsibility.
As our only staff member, Tristan is growing our organization through relationships, education, and action.
Our goal is to build and sustain relationships with communities directly impacted by the injustices we oppose: Tristan will deepen our connection with the immigrant communities in New Hampshire, which we have formed through our work on the NH Immigrant Solidarity Network as well as the NH Bail and Bond Fund.
In the 2019-2020 church year, Tristan will travel to UU congregations across New Hampshire, both our member congregations and currently unaffiliated congregations. By building these intra-faith relationships, Tristan will foster collaboration among congregations and ensure that churches share effective methods and actions with each other.
He will also remain in touch with our membership by maintaining our online presence, including our newsletter, website and social media accounts. Through these channels, Tristan will ensure NH UUs know when and how to contact their elected representatives on bills such as granting drivers licenses to immigrants without social security numbers and raising the cap on net-metering.
In collaboration with partners such as the UU College of Social Justice, Rights and Democracy NH and others, Tristan will host workshops designed to sharpen the skills and analyses of NH UUs to make effective change. We currently have such workshops scheduled for Saturday, October 5.
Finally, Tristan will help UUANH foster new projects, particularly around climate justice in NH.
Your donation today will ensure that we can support all of this programming, as well as administrative work, that is necessary to take our State Action Network to a new level.
Help us REOPEN Downtown Church in Greenfield MA after asbestos found
DISASTER RELIEF CAMPAIGN: ALL donations will be processed immediately
(NO ALL-OR NOTHING GOAL FOR THIS CAMPAIGN)
-Click the “Updates” tab to read earlier updates on this project.-
What’s wrong? Greenfield All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church is totally closed, sealed by the Greenfield Health Department due to a public health contaminant discovered during a demolition and rehabilitation attempt. Church members and volunteers gutted a former mold and water damaged classroom in preparation for productive use of the space. Just as the demolition was almost complete it was discovered that many of the materials contained asbestos. Now Department of Environmental Protection is mandating remediation which will cost us over $17,000.
We are a “Little-Engine-that-Could” congregation of about 70 members who are desperately seeking funding to re-open the church as soon as possible. Our current operating budget is so slim that we are currently lay led. Recently a group approached us about using our spaces during the week and we jumped into action to make those spaces habitable and ready. That’s when our disaster struck us and closed down our beautiful home and vibrant community gathering place. There are no funds available to rectify this emergency without your help!
All Souls Church is a Unitarian Universalist Congregation located in the historical downtown section of Greenfield, Massachusetts. We are a very active social justice oriented church with a small membership. We’re a downtown church, in one of Massachusetts’ lowest income communities, Greenfield. In addition to our Sunday services; we host the Stone Soup Café, Wednesday evening AA groups, recitals and concerts, community forums, our annual Anti-racism Film Festival, we host a myriad of economic and green justice initiatives. The Stone Soup Café (thestonesoupcafe.org) provides a weekly Saturday meal, feeding lunch to 90 – 150 guests on a pay-as-you-can basis. Stone Soup also serves 700 – 1,000 people at an annual Free Harvest Supper and supports many other community non-profits with food donations as well as catering from our kitchen.
We have been a major force for community-building and social justice in action in Greenfield; the inability to access our church creates difficulties not only for the congregation, but for the hundreds and hundreds of others we serve through our ongoing ministries.
Your help is really needed!
- Until we are able to complete the asbestos abatement and pass all the tests, no one is allowed to enter the church.
- The $17,000.00 clean up bill poses a serious threat to our ability to stay open.
- We are faced with at least tripling the cost for the renovation of this classroom space and will need as much help as possible.
- Your assistance will be greatly appreciated by the congregation and all those that we serve.
Songleaders Convergence- Update
The Convergence brought in new people to the organization and expanded our mission and our organization in powerful ways.
Flash Flood Relief- Help...
DISASTER RELIEF CAMPAIGN: ALL donations will be processed immediately
(NO ALL-OR NOTHING GOAL FOR THIS CAMPAIGN)
East Suburban Unitarian Universalist Church (ESUUC) is small in size and large in goals. We have served the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh for 53 years as fair share congregation of the UUA. We have an active CUUPs chapter and our RE program has grown to two classes last year.
Unfortunately the church was flooded on July 21st and when the congregation removed carpet and padding we found out that there is crumbling asbestos tile that needs to be removed by abatement, a costly fix, before new flooring can be installed.
We call upon our sister and brothers UU’s to help us get back into the RE and Community Rooms in the building. We estimate the cost of abatement and flooring to be between $15 and $20K. We have $10K in reserves we are putting toward flooring.
Please help us get back up and running!