Welcome to Social Justice
The Unitarian Church in Westport serves as a beacon of justice in and beyond our community. Founded in 2005, The Social Justice Council with the Social Justice Director leads the congregation’s efforts and provides assistance to our social action committees.
Time sensitive, effective volunteer opportunities exist for those interested in advocating, educating, organizing, serving and witnessing for social justice. All are welcome.
The best way to stay “connected” with our Social Justice activities is to join our e-mail list, a weekly posting of programs, events, films, advocacy, action alerts, committee meetings, and other announcements. To join please contact David Vita, Director of Social Justice/Director of Membership, or call 203.227.7205 x14.
SOCIAL ACTION COMMITTEES
Advocates for Prevention of Gun Violence: Contact: K.C. Senie
We have been active in gun control since members of our congregation were founders, 20 years ago, of Connecticut Against Gun Violence and have consistently advocated for gun safety ever since. While the Connecticut General Assembly passed legislation on April4, 2013 in response to the tragedy at Sandy Hook there is still much more to be done both on the state and federal levels.
Beardsley School Committee: Contact Mary Beth Mollica
In the year 2000, our congregation voted to adopt this struggling inner-city school in Bridgeport, CT. Since then, church members have supported the staff and students of Beardsley Elementary School through volunteer work and financial donations for special projects and urgent needs. Most importantly, our volunteers become mentors, tutors and readers for grades K-6. Over the past 12 years, our congregation has provided bi-annual Read Aloud Days, opera and theater, job coaching, financial seminars, art, book clubs, myriad school and teacher supplies, winter coats, backpacks, clothing, many new and used books, scholarships, swimming lessons, musical instruments, anti-violence training, Principal for a Day, speakers, participation in work days, an annual Pot Luck Supper and a Teacher Appreciation event.
Environmental Action Group / Green Sanctuary: Contact: David Vita or phone 203.227.7205 x14.
In support of our 7th Universalist Principle, “to Honor the Interdependent Web of All Existence” The Green Sanctuary Committee, after 4 years of work, acquired Green Sanctuary status for our congregation in 2009. At that point the committee changed its name to the Environmental Action Group.
Some of our environmental successes include: establishment of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), a yearly Earth Day Service, signing up 105 families within the congregation for “clean energy”, an Inter-Religious Earth Day, active involvement in environmental justice legislation in Hartford and banning the use of plastic bags in Westport, and eliminating the use of paper and plastic dishes, cups, glasses, cutlery from our kitchen.
The committee has also organized events involving expert speakers, film showings, “healthy food” potluck dinners at the church, and environmental programming for our children in Religious Education.
We work with GVI (Green Village Initiative), the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network (Hartford), the Environmental Justice Coalition (Bridgeport), and other local and state-wide organizations.
This year we hope to create our own edible garden on the church grounds. This garden will be incorporated in the Religious Education program for children to learn about growing food, nurturing plants and sharing nature’s bounty.
Overall there is plenty of work still to do, and we can always use new members. It’s good to see the amount of activity generated from our small groups and heartening to see the changes that have taken place. Won’t you join us?
The Immigration Committee’s mission is to help immigrants in their struggle to integrate into the community, to work for more just and humane immigration policies, and to engage as many volunteers as possible in the process.
KIVA Microfinance Committee: Contact: Julie Kennedy
The Microfinance Committee lends funds to entrepreneurs in developing nations through a web-based organization called KIVA. On their website, the founders of KIVA describe the service as, “the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend to unique entrepreneurs around the globe.” Its mission is “to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.”
The loans made through KIVA are uniquely risk-free and transparent. We can track exactly who receives our loans, what they are doing with the funding, and when they pay it back. The KIVA website deducts no fees so all loans have 100% pass-through to recipients, whose repayment rates are exceptionally high, averaging 98%.
You can join the UU Westport KIVA lending team by going to the website: kiva.org. Once you are on the site, select the “Community” box then enter “Westport” in the box entitled “Search for a lending team”. The site will then prompt you to request to join the “KIVA/Social Justice Council–Unitarian Church in Westport CT”. From there, you can make donations as part of our team. Alternatively, you can make funds available to the committee to lend for you. You may also want to join the KIVA Committee, which meets on the first Tuesday each month, and help us raise and distribute funds.
Mercy Learning Center Committee: Contact: Sharon Poole Bittenbender
The mission of the Mercy Learning Center (MLC) Social Action Committee is to raise the visibility of MLC within the church community and to provide avenues for the congregation to support this worthy organization.
Mercy Learning Center is a women’s literacy center that endeavors to break the cycle of under-education and poverty in a compassionate and holistic environment. Mercy provides education for more than 850 women and 160 of their infant to pre-K children, along with numerous support services.
Racial Justice Committee: Contact: Catherine Onyemelukwe
The Racial Justice Committee plans and implements initiatives to make the Unitarian Church in Westport more welcoming to people of all races.
Members of the committee prepare and present a special service for Martin Luther King Sunday and help to expand the congregation’s awareness of the real and harmful effects of racism through ongoing reading and discussion groups, film showings, and speakers. We are also connecting with community groups working on racial justice.
For starters, please join our e-mail list and we’ll keep you updated on area events, book discussions, and other awareness raising projects.
Rainbow Task Force: Contact: Arnela Ten Meer
Our mission is to continue to be a Welcoming Congregation providing an affirming, safe place for all—where Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning (hereinafter referred to as LGBTQQ) people feel truly included and valued. We seek to advocate for the full equality and acceptance of LGBTQQ people in the broader society.
United Nations Committee: Contact: David Vita or phone 203.227.7205 x14.
The United Nations Committee supports the work of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO) in educating UUs about the structure, function, and actions of the United Nations. We attend briefings at the United Nations, participate in the Annual Intergenerational Spring Seminar, promote membership in the UU-UNO, and organize a yearly UN Sunday Service. We also take up UU-UNO initiatives like Every Child is Our Child and opposing the genocide in Darfur.
Westbridge Coalition: Contact: Sherry Jagerson
Westbridge is a coalition of six local churches and synagogues that repair and renovate homes and community buildings for families and organizations that can not afford to or are otherwise incapable of have the work done. We work with ReBuilding Together in an effort to maintain existing housing.
Volunteers, teenagers and adults, no matter what your skill level are welcome. We have skilled crafts people who are excellent teachers. You’re guaranteed to leave knowing more than when you started. We primarily work on Saturdays.
We can always use your help in construction, family and beneficiary selection, telephone and e-mail communication, photography, and fundraising. Or you can donate materials (or the money to by them) including windows, doors, insulation, programmable thermostats, grab rails, paint, CFL light bulbs, lumber and plumber and electrician supplies.
Youth Outreach: Contact: Cal Wacker or phone 203.227.7205 x17.
The Religious Education Program at The Unitarian Church in Westport supports social justice initiatives for youth, including maintaining homes of neighbors in need; working on community gardens in Bridgeport; participating in an annual multigenerational service trip (New Orleans for Gulf Coast relief, program for the homeless and hungry in Washington DC) cleaning up Long Island Sound, toiletry kits for shelters, and much more. Youth Outreach supports these initiatives through Sunday Soup Lunch sales and other fundraisers.
ADDITIONAL PROGRAMS: Please Contact: David Vita or phone 203.227.7205 x14 if you’re interested in more information regarding these programs.
Cell Phone Recycling: Everyonewho has a cell phone eventually gets a new one. Why not recycle your old phone and generate income for our youth social action programs?
Connecticut Food Bank: We collect food every Sunday for the Connecticut Food Bank, over 3,000 pounds last year.
REEL Justice Film series: The REEL Justice Film Series began in December, 2007 and continues to offer thought provoking, award-winning feature, foreign, indy, and documentary social justice films every month. The films are often connected with the work of our social action committees.
Share the Plate: The first Sunday of the month we split our collection plate with a local social service organization. What could be better than selecting a local community organization that is the recipient of funds that literally “drop from the sky?”
Project ReEntry: November/December toy and clothing collection for children of inmates.
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee: Started in 1939 to help rescue victims of Nazi oppression, the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) (www.uusc.org) continues to work for human rights and social justice throughout the world by protecting civil liberties and democratic processes, defending the rights of vulnerable people affected by disasters; protecting the right to safe, affordable drinking water and advancing workers’ rights, including the right to a living wage.