UU Fellowship of Boca Raton 2013-2014
Free in Faith-Diverse in Thought-United in Caring-Committed to Action
Outreach, Learning, Sharing
PEACE: (P)eople (E)ngaged in (A)ctive (C)ommunity (E)fforts is the largest grassroots organization in Palm Beach County addressing issues of social justice. This interfaith group has member congregations as far west as The Glades, as far north as Jupiter, and as far south as UUFBR. Members of UUFBR serve on the board of PEACE, participate on committees with active justice campaigns, and attend public actions to create positive change in Palm Beach County. The largest action of the group takes place in the spring, and UUFBR runs a bus to it. 63 members turned out for the Nehemiah Action in March 2015. 1 congregation member attends PEACE Board meetings, and 3 congregation members lead the PEACE justice network within UUFBR. In 2014 UUFBR paid $1,000 in membership dues to PEACE. Members of UUFBR contributed an additional $800.
Program started: Creating a Restorative Justice pilot program in communities plagued by youth crime, funding affordable housing, getting a wage theft docket in Palm Beach County so workers’ who have not been paid can be heard in court in a reasonable time frame, affordable housing, and improving enrollment in county health care plans are recent accomplishments of the group. Current work is on: Criminal Justice System Improvement (2 UUFBR members are currently providing committee leadership on a statewide DART campaign on Criminalization of Youth that grew from local initiatives); Out of school suspension reduction; Stimulation of job growth in The Glades. To learn more about P.E.A.C.E see: http://www.yourpbc.org/organizations/detail.dot?id=51869
Another access point: Facebook page link https://www.facebook.com/pages/People-Engaged-in-Active-Community-Efforts-PEACE/433780343367971
Details about PEACE:
Wage Theft: Two years ago, PEACE won an effective way for victims of wage theft to recover their owed wages – free of charge & quickly! This process, a contract with Legal Aid and a Court Docket Day, has been incredibly successful! In two years, 300 victims have received almost $300,000 in owed wages and gotten that money back in their pockets within, on average, 39 days!
Jobs & Unemployment in the Glades: On January 13th, PEACE turned out approximately 60 people to the meeting of the Board of County Commissioners. They unanimously passed the Glades Employee Incentive Program, which provides a 30% salary reimbursement incentive to employers who hire Glades residents for County projects. We met with County staff in February, and they are doing significant outreach to employers and expect the program to have great results.
Neighborhood Accountability Board: Three years ago, PEACE was successful in getting Mayor Jeri Muoio to establish a Neighborhood Accountability Board in the city of West Palm Beach – a program of Restorative Justice. The program is now up and running, and will have a graduation ceremony for 10 children this coming Friday.
Family Promise of South Palm Beach County is the faith community’s unique response to homeless families. It is a network of area twelve congregations who open their doors to families in need. Families receive hospitality at each congregation for a week at a time four times per year. Family Promise provides immediate but temporary shelter, meals, and support services to homeless families, with the goal of helping them re-attain long-term self sufficiency. This is one of UUFBR’s major Social Justice projects. It takes 37 volunteers at least to help with host week. These hours can be counted as community service hours for those who need them. To learn more about Family Promise, go to http://www.familypromisespbc.org/ Details: The church was host for 5 weeks in 2013-2014- one “extra” week because our church hosted during the December holidays. The number of family units varies from 1 to 4 usually. Family Promise does the intake & only accepts families w children. The family has to have goals, and the social workers associated w Family Promise help them reach those goals.
A large percentage of the families are comprised of single mothers with children, but occasionally, families that include both parents enter the program. Some parents are employed, but often under-employed and therefore in need of a second job. Some parents are without work and spend time during the day, at the Day Center, honing their resume and making applications. Once the parent(s) have been employed long enough to save for the deposit on an apartment, and have some savings, they begin looking for a place to move to. The goal of the program is to have the families no longer than 3 months, but it frequently requires more time for families to be in a financial position to leave the program.
The number of volunteer hours on each hosting comes to approx. 325 hours, miles driven by volunteers usually range from 400-500 per hosting. Money spent on food by volunteers and to fill the pantry varies widely from hosting date to hosting date but, generally speaking, between $300-500, but can be more if there is a special occasion like a birthday or holiday party.
Issues of the Environment
Green Sanctuary Committee: The Green Sanctuary Committee is seeking Green Sanctuary accreditation for UUFBR. The former Climate Change Working Group is now on this committee, and provides leadership for The Climate Action Coalition of South Florida. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Climate-Action-Coalition-of-South-Florida/605199476162712 As such, it is undertaking two environmental justice projects.
Florida Earth Festival: An annual celebration of sustainability, which showcases community groups and businesses that are working to promote sustainability. Programming includes education, outreach, and advocacy on environmental issues, including climate and sea level rise. Information and press archive for the first Florida Earth festival 2014 is here http://www.uufbr.org/florida-earth-festival-2014/
Events take money, stuff, information booths, product booths and community support. Getting supporters, sponsors and contributions in 2013-2014, the first year, was very labor intensive. There were only 3 lead organizers who could go out into the community with no marketing materials and bring in sponsors and community partners, so it was a lot of work. See Florida Earth Festival section in 2014-5 Justice page to read how preparation and marketing changed between year one and year two.
Some of the Community Partners Florida Earth Festival 2013-2014:Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Boca Raton (UUFBR)
First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Palm Beaches (1stUUPB)
League of Women Voters of Palm Beach County
Sierra Club Loxahatchee Group
MoveOn Council of South Palm Beach – North Broward
Organizing for Action of Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast
US Green Building Council of South Florida
Interfaith Family Council of South Florida
FAU Engineering Dept.
Romano Law Group
Pine Jog Environmental Education Center and Elementary School
Broward County Emergency Operations Center
Delray Beach Public Library
Boynton Beach Public Library
St. Andrews School
Palm Beach County Zoo and Conservation Society
etc. (basically everybody the core group could rope into participating)
Funder: We had a $2,000 grant from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Boca Raton Endowment Committee
Sponsors: These are the 2014 Florida Earth Festival Sponsors that were on the Festival Guide and website. There were in-kind contributions from community partners. A partial list is: BlueSky Communications,Steve’s Healthy and Frozen Chillers,Delray Motors, LLL&S, Robert N. Hartsell, Esq., P.A., Kimberly Fisher Services MSOT,OTR/L Holistic Occupational Therapy,KAWA Orthodontics & Oral Surgery, BikeCultureRising.com. Local law firms also contributed.
Sea Level Awareness Pole Project
SLAP Poles were created by Religious Education students as a project they chose after studying climate change. The RE students presented the poles at several locations to request that the poles be placed in public places to raise awareness about sea level rise. The poles were placed at UUFBR, The Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton, and The Youth Activity Center in Veteran’s Park – West Boca Raton. One SLAP pole was retained to use as a traveling SLAP pole at community events and conferences. A poster about the project is here:
Beyond church and into community and government:
Environmental and Youth outreach expanded slowly to the community, to the area, beyond education to public education, advocacy and government involvement. Briefly, the following describes expansion of message and commitment:
Sea Rise, Climate Change and Environment-An Evolving and Expanding Commitment
How Fellowship Concerns become Community Concerns: Some UU Fellowship of Boca Raton members used their leadership skills and energies to advocate for and provide public outreach on the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Action Plan at community events, and cooperated with other organizations to raise public awareness about the impacts of climate change that are already being felt in our Southeast
Florida communities. These same members in 2013, made an effort to focus denominational advocacy efforts toward climate action plans at General Assembly http://www.uua.org/ga/past/2012/business/200224.shtml A precipitating event in this community education toward action process was the “Southeast Florida Regional Climate Action Plan” Partnering Workshop in March 2013. It was attended by UU’s from congregations from Miami to Gainesville. See more information about that Workshop at http://www.uufbr.org/sfl-climate-action-partners/
Subsequently, the Climate Action Coalition of South Florida was formed https://www.facebook.com/pages/Climate-Action-Coalition-of-South-Florida/605199476162712 UUFBR, First UU Congregation of the Palm Beaches, and Quaker Earth Witness participate in the coalition, which includes many secular groups.
Healing Justice: The UUFBR Healing Justice Group grew out of a Second Hour Class discussion of Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Several who took that class were motivated to learn more about the problems Alexander highlighted and to turn study into action. To date, the goals of the Healing Justice group are education and advocacy for those who experience injustices. Outreach activities to both the UUFBR congregation and our community to help create justice that heals. The group is opening a community dialogue about racism and our justice system. Building on the momentum of having read and discussed Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness under the leadership of the Reverend Harris Riordan, Healing Justice formed to find ways to impact the difficulties highlighted in the book. To continue to raise awareness of the problems inherent in the US Justice System, on January 19, 2014 Pat Beall, Palm Beach Post award winning investigative journalist addressed the congregation. Healing Justice also sponsored the viewing of several documentary films for the UUFBR congregation and the wider community during the spring of 2014.
Social Action Share the Plate Program: One half of the money from the plate each Sunday goes to work in the world. This committee researches how and where this money will be spent. Among other causes, funds have been spent on relief efforts in Haiti, at our local food bank, our local Early Childhood Development Center for underprivileged youth, and both PEACE and Family Promise.
Children’s Religious Education: Social Action an integral part of Children’s Religious Education: Special Sundays: Special Sundays bring the children together as a community and sometimes as an inter-generational community for social action projects, seasonal events, and Just Fun! Special Sundays are scheduled during holiday breaks and three-day weekends (Palm Beach County school calendar). Social Action: During the 2013-4 year, the children voted to center their Social Action projects on “Animals.” They visited a no-kill animal shelter and made cat-serving dishes, fleece kennel blankets, and adorable fleece catnip “mice.” Another project: The children collected items for women and children who need the safety and assistance of battered women’s shelters to escape being bullied at home. The children also collect for UNICEF and the UUA’s Guest at Your Table campaign. A theme is selected each year.