Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater (UUC) 2013-2014
UUC was the 2013 recipient of the Bennett Award for Congregation Action on Human Justice and Social Action. See Application and UUA Award Summary statement on UU Clearwater website (http://www.uuc.org/newindex.htm) with links to UUA Bennett Award write-up. See www.uuc.org for website.
Social Justice Council
The Social Justice Council (SJC) is the organizing body for UUC Social Justice work. The Council consists of a Coordinator, Treasurer, Secretary, Team Leaders, Liaisons and at-large UUC members. Team Leaders facilitate groups which focus on the four teams which are Economic Justice, Environmental Justice, Human Rights and FAST. Liaisons represent affiliated groups such as Interweave, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC), UU Justice of Florida (UUJF) and Religious Community Services (RCS). See church website for more information.
Actions regarding Worker Justice:
Actions supporting Comprehensive Immigration Reform and Farm worker justice continue: UUC continues their support of the CIW and Immigration Reform. In 2013 UUC provided a lunch for over 150 people walking from Immokalee to Publix Headquarters in Lakeland as well as marched with CIW.
We continue work on comprehensive immigration reform by working with a coalition of immigrant organizations under the umbrella of CIR NOW to request District 13’s congressman to support comprehensive immigration reform. Members have sought to focus attention on the need for reform by holding educational forums, press conferences, and demonstrations at government officials’ offices.
In 2012 the SJC decided to change the way we helped provide food for Plant City farm workers. We went from our beans and rice collection to a congregational share the plate with the money going to Pinellas Support Committee of the National Farmworkers Ministry (PSC). The amount of food that these monies could provide using food banks was far above the collection of beans and rice that we had previously collected. One member of the EJ Team has taken on the responsibility of collecting blankets for our Christmas blanket collection that is held in conjunction with the PSC and other denominations. We participate in other PSC activities and have a member of the committee on the board with the PSC. In addition wwe had the YAYA (youth group of the National Farmworkers Ministry) here to speak to the church youth group. Other activities include the Sacrificial Soup Supper and the Berry fest, both of which educate the community as well as raise funds for the PSC.
In addition we have a food chest in the entrance of the sanctuary for the RCS (Religious Community ). The amount collected fluctuates but for four months at the end of 2014 we collected 261 pounds of food. We have a representative speak at Open Issues occasionally when totals drop. Some of the covenant groups at UUC have worked at RCS as a service project. A dance concert was held to provide support for RCS’ Haven, a domestic violence shelter.
Although no one has tracked the number of hours we have spent on these activities (and it is hard to even estimate), at least 35 people helped with the CIW lunch, with more marching each year. CIR NOW has about 5-10 members of UUC participating in regular meetings and demonstrations, press conferences, and meetings with officials. Around 10-15 people have been part of PSC’s activities.
This total doesn’t count the number of people who have attended lectures such as the one byJennifer Troth from UUA about immigration policies, signed petitions, written letters, and called representatives on issues such as CIW’s protests to Publix Supermarkets, medicaid expansion in Florida, and Move to Amend.
Move to Amend: At the annual meeting in May 2014 the congregation voted to endorse “Move to Amend” which supports a federal constitutional amendment to the Constitution which states that corporations are not people and money is not speech. In preparation for this vote speakers came, films were shown, and the congregation got written information. Michael Greenman, a national speaker about MTA, came and gave a lecture. UUC has joined the Pinellas County Move to Amend Coalition which sponsors various events to publicize this amendment.
The Economic Justice Team identified the Clearwater Hispanic Outreach Center as an ally in our work on comprehensive immigration reform. This partnership took an unexpected turn when they approached us with an idea to run a weekly program for young children and their mothers to familiarize them with English in a non-threatening environment. This program recently had its three year anniversary. The UUC received the Hispanic Outreach Center’s “Amigo Award” for its support of the Hispanic community in Clearwater Over the four years that we have been involved 8 people from UUC have taught and approximately 50-60 families have attended.
The amount of money that has supported these efforts has fluctuated over the years. Each congregation is different and even our congregation has fluctuated but the average seems to be near $350.00 per Share the Plate (twice monthly).
FAST (Faith and Action for Strength Together)
In February 2013 UUC joined FAST, a multicultural, interfaith organization that works on finding solutions to issues of social injustice in our local community. Our FAST Justice Ministry is made up of Team Leaders who develop teams which make up our FAST Justice Ministry Network. The FAST committees develop solutions to problems identified by our congregants. These committees meet with decision makers to discuss the problems we have identified and possible solutions. The appropriate decision makers are then invited to the annual Nehemiah Action to see if they are willing to implement the solutions. This past year the FAST issues included reducing the number of arrests in our school system, providing jobs for people who have felonies on their records, improving the reading scores of elementary children in Pinellas and expanding dental care for low income citizens. UUC has 4 people serving as team leaders and 3 people serving on the research teams. In 2014 UUC won a FAST award for being the most improved congregation and for bringing 139 people to the Nehemiah Action.
Welcoming Congregation: Over the past ten years, a large contingent of members from the UUC and other area UU congregations have marched in the St. Petersburg Gay Pride March, the largest Pride march in Florida. We have had a steady number of marchers in the 10-20 range and a float courtesy of one of our members’ truck. We also have a table with information and small sale items.
The congregation has continued to “Stand on the Side of Love” with numerous films and panels in support of GLBT rights. The Interweave Chapter is supported and the congregation commits annually to GLBT rights during the Thirty Days of Love by sponsoring a Valentine Party for Everyone which included a potluck, a screening a GLBT movie and a relationship commitment ceremony for all.
Martin Luther King Day is celebrated annually with breakfast and a march with the NAACP at their Clearwater Martin Luther King Day celebration. 20- 25 people usually attend.
In 2013 the congregation partnered with Pinellas National Organization for Women and United Women.org to organize the Women Make A Difference Conference in March 2013 which included the local county commissioner giving the keynote address and planned six workshops on various women issue topics.
In 2014 the UUA’s course on Reproductive Justice was offered and led by a UUC member, a retired nurse. The participants decided to show the film, Choice at Risk to the public.
Members of the congregation joined other churches to work on a Habitat for Humanity house in Clearwater.
Beacon Community Garden:This community garden continues to flourish. The community had our second “permablitz” in February 2013 and the garden almost doubled in size and still continues to grow. In the winter of 2014 the garden expanded with a children’s butterfly garden. The garden is a learning experience for the children and adults in the congregation and our community.
In 2012 the UUC was awarded the official designation of Green Sanctuary. The social hall has been changed to make recycling more visible and effective.
The monthly Environmental Justice Film Series has educated our community on sustainable living. In fall 2014 UUC collaborated with The Bridge of Tampa Bay to have a film/discussion series about sustainability and environmental justice. This collaboration was really helpful as problems with copyright have been a difficulty. Donation jars have been helpful in providing funds for licensing fees, but attempts are made to find free materials.
Free Trade Coffee has been publicized by our UUSC representative and the monthly sales of coffee, tea, chocolate, and other foodstuffs have increased.
One unique fund at UUC is The Better World Fund. This was started by a legacy from a member who had been active in social justice work, but has been added to over the years. It fluctuates but is around $9,000. Its purpose is to be able to react to sudden emergencies like the earthquake in Haiti, Hurricane Katrina, the refugee situation in Syria. Each fiscal year starts with a donation of $1,000 to the Minister’s discretionary fund and $1,000 to Safe Harbor, a homeless shelter. Dispersal depends on events but it is there to enable us to move quickly in an emergency.
Share the Plate is collected twice monthly. See our website for the procedure for selection of organizations. In the summer months when the congregation is smaller Share the Plate is sometimes collected twice in one month for the same organization to ensure that the organizations get an adequate amount.
Education goes through the various committees. We have had no common reads but there is a book group that often focuses on books with a justice issue. Every Sunday morning the church holds Open Issues before services and there are usually at least twenty people attending. On topics of interest there many as many as thirty to forty.Social Justtice often uses this forum as well as inserts in the Order of Service.
River of Grass UU Congregation 2013-2014
Service and Social Justice Committee (SSJC):
Mission: Dedicated to promoting justice and serving our local and global communities.
Provides members and friends with a variety of opportunities to express their faith through service that includes working with community service agencies.
- Monthly volunteer day second Saturday. Food is packed for needy families, Incoming food is put on shelves. A total of about 120 members volunteer each year. One half of the offering plate`s undesignated funds go to LifeNet4Families. Yearly fundraiser: Empty Bowls where participants make a bowl, eat a simple meal and donate to LifeNet4Families. About 25 volunteers go to a local post office for the Postal Food Drive in May each year.
- Habitat for Humanity: Yearly workday. In October 2014 twenty members volunteered.
- Christmas Angel Tree: Participants take a tag from the tree and buy a present for a child from ChildNet. Fifty participants.
- UUSC Guest at Your Table. About 35-40 members contribute every year.
- Abilities Venti: Two Fundraising folks concerts with David Roth to promote the 501c nonprofit created by and for adults with disabilities. The organization advocates for people with developmental disabilities (DD), provides community inclusion activities, opportunities for employment and educate the community, people with DD and families. This is an educational opportunity for the clients and their families.
- Amendment Forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters at the local library.
- Common Reads: Books read: Behind the Kitchen Door, The New Jim Crow and Reclaiming Prophetic Witness. Discussion groups led by the minister.
- Move to Amend The congregation voted to accept a Move to Amend Resolution at its Annual Meeting in June, 2014. Move To Amend Forum in May, 2014 with Michael Greenman from the Ohio Interfaith Move to Amend Caucus speaking.
- Voter Registration Events: Biannual event in 2012 and 2014 at Broward College and Davie Senior Center. Approximately fourteen registered at each event. The Social Justice committee received a “Get out the Vote” UUA grant in 2012 to fund that event.
- SE Cluster presented the Move To Amend Conference titled Unplug Corporate Power in May 2014 at River of Grass.
Service and Social Justice Committee at work
The Service and Social Justice Committee won the Florida District`s Jim and June Barrett Social Justice Award in April 2013 for Social Justice Activism.
- The committee had approx. 50 people from River of Grass sign the Water and Land Legacy Constitutional Amendment petition.
- The committee led the congregation to become a dues paying member of UU Justice Florida.
- The Green Sanctuary Committee was formed in the spring of 2014 and is developing an Action Plan to lead eventually to the Congregation`s accreditation as a Green Sanctuary.