State Level Advocacy

UU Justice Ohio

 

UU Justice Ohio had a banner year becoming incorporated, obtaining 501c3 tax exempt status, hiring an Executive Director, Howard Tolley,  and Issues Coordinator Carol Temerson, and enrolling as institutional members 22 Congregations and the OMD UUMA Minister’s Chapter as well as over 40 individual Justice Advocates.  The UU Fund for Social Responsibility provided a matching grant in time for tax-deductible year end membership or other contributions at http://ohiomeadville.org/uujo/.  The annual November Justice Assembly in Columbus drew nearly 100 from all four corners of the state, and the Get Smart on Crime Rally engaged partners and allies – Greater Cleveland Congregations, BREAD in Columbus, and Cincinnati’s AMOS project.  For pictures of the event as well as justice postings go to https://www.facebook.com/UUJusticeOhio  UUJO’s three action teams on Immigration, Economic Justice, and Criminal/Racial Justice are organizing for work in 2015  on Black Lives Matter, income inequality, the death penalty and deportations.  Five other issue groups also have pages for information exchange on the UUJO website – Environment, LGBT, Reproductive Justice, Voting Rights and Peacemaking.

 

Next big event–MeetUp For Justice with training on how to talk directly with your state legislator to make a difference. More info here: http://ohiomeadville.org/uujo/.

 

Interfaith Impact NYS

 

Interfaith Impact has been working in several areas this year. IINYS Executive Director Robb Smith testified about the minimum wage gap for tipped workers in New York State. Right now, the difference between the minimum wage for other workers and that for your waiter or waitress is $3 per hour, going up to $3.75 per hour on Dec. 31st. Member also participated in the Family Planning Advocates (FPA) Day of Action and wrote statements on many issues including Reproductive Justice and Hydrofracking.

 

Plan on joining Interfaith Impact NYS on their Advocacy Day on May 4. Details at http://iinys.nationbuilder.com

 

Follow the example of First Unitarian Rochester!

 

Members and friends of the First Universalist Church of Rochester, NY, recently contributed nearly $500 to Interfaith Impact of New York State through a pass the plate for justice (or another term) emphasis during a Sunday morning service. Interfaith Impact is a state-wide advocacy network composed of Unitarian Universalists, Reform Jews and progressive Protestants who advocate on state-wide issues. The particular focus of the contribution was on stopping hydrofracking in New York State.

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And More Congregational Social Justice

We are still running stories of congregational social justice projects because we received so many great stories!

North Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Lewis Center, OH

The NUUC Social Action Committee (SAC) has been involved in numerous projects during 2014 to raise awareness, encourage participation in social justice, and provide assistance to address human needs.  Our congregation participated in UUSC’s Guest at Your Table program, hosted an Empty Bowls luncheon to raise money for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, collected school supplies to benefit students served by the Delaware County Juvenile Probation Department, and collected gifts and donations to support Montana de Luz, a faith based organization in rural Honduras that provides a home for children affected by HIV/AIDS.  Each month we donate our Loose Change Offering to an organization that provides educational awareness or support services to those impacted by social injustice.  Our monthly Fair Trade sales of coffee and chocolate support fair wages for farmers and the proceeds from sales are used to sponsor a child at Montana de Luz.

During 2015 the Social Action Committee offered several educational programs on different social justice topics to provide information to members of our congregation and the surrounding community.  Our environmental group watched “The Story of Solutions” discussed steps we can take to move toward a more sustainable future.  We showed A “Place at the Table”, a documentary about hunger in America.  We hosted a screening and discussion of  “Disruption! “. We sent ribbons for the Climate Ribbon Project with two members to  the People’s Climate March in New York City.  We also showed “Dollarocracy – The Influence of Money on Our Democracy and What We Can Do About It.”

Unitarian Universalist Church of Amherst, New York

In October, our committee  offered a book reading  called an ” Innocent Man” by John Grisham about a innocent man with mental health isues, convicted of a crime and all the inequities in our legal, prison and mental health systems. Then we had a storyteller from Prisoners are People too and had a special collection for them.

Our Committee also provides a meal and chaperones for a homeless family by partnering with the UU Church of Buffalo through Family Promise.  The Buffalo Church hosts familes for a week four times a year and our church assists with one evening meal and sleep over for the family or families.

We hosted a potluck for a UU minister Rev Mark Kiyimba from Uganda, He presented a documentary from Uganda regarding the abusive treatment of LGBT in his country.  His church runs and orphanage for children whose parents died of AIDS and we collected money for his work.

The UU Church of Amherst belongs to VOICE – Buffalo, an organization of faith groups, teacher’s union, many other groups that want to improve the public life in Buffalo, NY.  On Nov 6 VOICE had a public meeting and our church was represented with many other churches and groups. At that meeting we invite politicians, and those in power, along with the community and asked for their support publically on issues to improve our life here in Buffalo. This year our focus was on restorative justice,, improving the mental health in Erie County and the County Jail, We also wanted to reinstitute the local conditional release program for non-violent prisoners. At the meeting the public officials announced their support in front of about 700 people.

West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church in Rocky River, Ohio

This year the Social Action Committee decided to honor long time member and one of the founders of the SAC, Jane Metzger, by renovating and expanding the food pantry at West Shore.  The pantry is open every Sunday morning as well as during the week.  We have two major food drives, one in October and one in February, and use the food collected to restock the pantry and also to share with Urban Hope a UU based drop in center for the homeless, and St. Paul’s church where low income and homeless people can go for assistance.

In  April we celebrated the 5th anniversary of the social action film series.  We have shown films about PTSD, sustainability and climate change, human trafficking, economic inequality, drones, women’s rights, marriage equality, and genetically altered food.  There is a regular group of attendees but we have partnered with task forces at West Shore as well as other community groups to increase the viewing audience.

We participated in Homeless Stand Down and for the third year we collected shoes to be distributed by Walk A Mile In My Shoes.  We also collected school supplies for Case School, where 10 members of West Shore regularly volunteer.  Several of our members participated in raising awareness of mass incarceration issues and hope to focus on this issue in the coming year.

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More Congregational Social Justice

Image courtesy of John Kasawa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of John Kasawa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This month we are continuing to run social justice stories we received from congregations.

 

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Greater Canton, Ohio

Every Sunday at 1:00, people who are hungry for a meal assemble on the lawn west of Market Street between 3rd and 4th Streets, where various churches and other organizations set up tables to distribute food and sometimes clothing to any who have gathered there.

The UCC church faithfully sets up tables and hands out a variety of hot foods every Sunday. Other groups, like ours, contribute less often. Every month there are familiar faces and new faces waiting in line.

 

On the Sunday before Christmas, we came to Kresge Square with homemade cookies and hats, gloves and scarves donated by UUCGC members and friends. There were so many cold winter accessories that we needed two tables to stack them on. It was gray, cold, and muddy. The people who came by the tables looked grimly through the hats and gloves, nodding with satisfaction when they found something that could fit them. “My little girl needs a new pair of gloves. She just keeps growing,” one man told me as he picked up a small pair of pink fleece gloves. Picking out the right pair of gloves, the hat that would fit, or a warm scarf was serious business. But when we pointed to our other table across the lawn, the table that displayed plates of homemade cookies, faces brightened. Two men pretended to steal an entire plate of cookies but returned laughing when the teens called after them. Another guy flirted with my 71-year-old mother, complimenting her on her Christmas tree earrings and asking her for a date. I like to talk smack about the Browns this time of year since so many people show up in Browns and Steelers gear.

 

On another Sunday, the weekend before Thanksgiving this year, Max and I put about 100 sandwiches and 20 juice boxes into a large plastic tub and carried it between us to the long line that snaked across the lawn as people waited for the UCC volunteers to set up their tables. It was a cold day, and we were all shivering. Those without gloves were holding them under their armpits, stomping their feet to keep them warm. The mood was more than usually pleasant, though, no doubt helped by a band of four musicians who had braved the cold temperatures and set up near a picnic table where they played guitars, violin, and a horn. The atmosphere was festive, and our sandwiches were welcomed. Our juice boxes, as always, disappeared within seconds. As Max once said to a visiting youth who wondered whether anyone really appreciates our tuna fish and egg sandwiches, “We don’t do it because we want their gratitude, we do it because they’re hungry.” But there was not one person who accepted a sandwich from us who didn’t thank us sincerely and bless us for coming down.

 

No moment during my own Thanksgiving celebration later that week made me feel as grateful, happy, and blessed as I felt to walk somewhat shyly among strangers and offer them food made by the children of our congregation.

—by Erin Dubois

 

First Universalist Church of Rochester, New York

Members and friends of the First Universalist Church of Rochester, NY, recently contributed nearly $500 to Interfaith Impact of New York State through a pass the plate for justice emphasis during a Sunday morning service. Interfaith Impact is a state-wide advocacy network composed of Unitarian Universalists, Reform Jews and progressive Protestants who advocate on state-wide issues. The particular focus of the contribution was on stopping hydrofracking in New York State.

 

Unitarian Universalist Society of Cleveland

Newly called minister Rev. Joe Cherry has brought a different way of giving to the community. In an acknowledgement that the minister’s ministry is never solely to the members and friends of the church, nor contained to the walls, Joe has asked his congregation to tithe some of his ministerial time. Through a lottery selection of organizations suggested by members, he is giving around four hours a week to organizations outside the church.

 

North Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Lewis Center, Ohio

The NUUC Social Action Committee (SAC) has been involved in numerous projects during 2014 to raise awareness, encourage participation in social justice, and provide assistance to address human needs.  Our congregation participated in UUSC’s Guest at Your Table program, hosted an Empty Bowls luncheon to raise money for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, collected school supplies to benefit students served by the Delaware County Juvenile Probation Department, and collected gifts and donations to support Montana de Luz, a faith based organization in rural Honduras that provides a home for children affected by HIV/AIDS.  Each month we donate our Loose Change Offering to an organization that provides educational awareness or support services to those impacted by social injustice.  Our monthly Fair Trade sales of coffee and chocolate support fair wages for farmers and the proceeds from sales are used to sponsor a child at Montana de Luz.

 

During 2015 the Social Action Committee offered several educational programs on different social justice topics to provide information to members of our congregation and the surrounding community.  Our environmental group watched “The Story of Solutions” discussed steps we can take to move toward a more sustainable future.  We showed A “Place at the Table”, a documentary about hunger in America.  We hosted a screening and discussion of  “Disruption! “. We sent ribbons for the Climate Ribbon Project with two members to  the People’s Climate March in New York City.  We also showed “Dollarocracy – The Influence of Money on Our Democracy and What We Can Do About It.”

 

 

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