As UUFA celebrates its 60th Anniversary, the Social Action Committee (SAC) is alive and well and is the focus of the Diamond JUUbilee in June. Currently, this committee is involved in the following projects:
- Smart Lunch Smart Kids
- Cause of the Month
- CANtributions to the Athens Area Emergency Food Bank
Over this past year, SAC has participated in the Athens Pride Festival, Women in Black, the Justice Sunday Service with UUSC speaker Sarah Benckart, and Moral Monday. Under the umbrella of social action work at UUFA are two additional programs: Our Daily Bread and the Interfaith Hospitality Network.
Everyone is invited to attend the SAC meetings, traditionally held the first Sunday of each month. For further information, contact SAC Chair David Jarrett (Davidj8@charter.net).
Caryl Sundland Looks Back at Justice and Social Action at UUFA for 60 Years
I have been a member of this Fellowship for 31 years and have been lucky enough to know the people I will be talking about. When UGA was integrated, there were many problems, and the road was not smooth. Horace Montgomery helped to make it smoother. In 1961, after Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes became the university’s first black students only to be suspended a few days later after a riot broke out, Horace Montgomery met with some colleagues to draft a resolution condemning the violence and calling for Hunter and Holmes to be re-admitted and protected. Montgomery endured heavy criticism for his stand, including a letter comparing him to Judas Iscariot. He kept that letter framed on his wall.
Janet Pomeroy, along with other members of the Fellowship started the Clarke Community Credit Union, which continues to this day. Ray MacNair and Linda Lloyd started the Economic Justice Coalition. Nancy MacNair was instrumental in beginning and supporting the AIDS Coalition of Northeast Georgia (currently AIDS Athens) and continues to do so. I was lucky enough to get a couple of grants to begin the GED program at Athens Urban Ministries. Will Sheehan continues to coordinate making his fabulous lunches for serving at Our Daily Bread one Friday per month. For many years, we have worked with Interfaith Hospitality Network to provide volunteers, and Julie Sapp coordinates that. Barbara Leissner is our representative to The Ark, and Heather Kleiner works with the Holiday Benevolence Market every year.
While many other people in our Fellowship are involved individually with Social Action, more recently the Social Action Committee has been working on getting our whole congregation involved in projects like our yearlong Pouncing on Poverty initiative, our Smart Lunch/Smart Kids lunch-making project, and our upcoming Habitat Build on October 18th. You are welcome to show up and to sign up for these last two projects.
I know that we will continue our far reaching and all-encompassing Social Action Projects because that is our commitment, to be a beacon in our community. I know it is my religion and my spiritual practice. Please join me and those who have gone before.
As part of UUFA’s Diamond JUUbilee, Nancy MacNair has assembled a listing of the congregation’s social action over the years:
** History of social action with founding by UUFA members of the Clarke Community Federal Credit Union forty years ago, and some members still involved as volunteers.
** Became an official Welcoming Congregation, holding three series of workshops and making necessary changes in policies, procedures, and written materials, beginning in 1995. Certificate granted in 1996, posted in outer lobby.
**Many members participated in the Garden Springs Project after eviction of low income Latino, African American, and white people from a trailer park. Volunteers spent weeks renovating one family’s trailer, and helped them move to a new park. Members followed up individually on health and other needs of the family. (2002)
**Sponsored a Poverty Simulation Workshop for members, public officials, etc. (2003)
**Members founded Athens Women in Black, part of an international organization. Held weekly peace vigils from 2003 through the present, sponsored forums, marches, and other peace related events.
**Co-sponsored “Eyes Wide Open” AFSC display of combat boots and Iraqi shoes and posters, photos, and information on the devastation by the War in Iraq, attended by 1100 people. (2004)
**Total congregation voted to adopt a resolution against the Georgia anti-gay marriage amendment. (2004)
**Workshops held on the proposed establishment of a US Department of Peace. (2005)
**Joined the Interfaith Hospitality Network, providing food and shelter for homeless families in the Fellowship periodically, along with other Athens churches. (2005-present)
**Established the “Cause of the Month” program, with monthly brief presentations during the service by speakers from local non-profits followed by collections. More recently this changed to a separate collection during the service, resulting, for example, in $8357 being raised for eleven different organizations during 2007, and $7146 raised for 12 organizations in 2008. A presentation on the Athens Area Homeless Shelter in January, 2006, generated a large amount from the congregation, and also later, an anonymous $10,000 contribution from one UUFA member. (2005 – present)
**Established can collections at the front of the sanctuary each Sunday, and members volunteered to match the collections once each month. Donations were made to the Athens Area Emergency Food Bank, and $1060 was raised when that organization was the “Cause of the Month.” Collected 6331 cans in 2008 and were in first place among much larger churches. (Continues in the present.)
**Many UUFA members, including Social Action members, participated in Athens’ anti-poverty initiative. (750 people attended the first meeting). Social Action members served on task forces and committees, including those on Living Wage, Teen Pregnancy, etc.
**Social Action representatives helped build support for the Habitat for Humanity “Building the Dream” project, a house honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (2006)
**The committee hosted a dramatic reading presentation at the Fellowship of “The Line in the Sand: Stories from the US/Mexican Border,” with discussion on the plight of immigrants. (2007)
**The Social Action Committee joined the UUA’s “March for Peace,” in March 2008, presenting a service on the costs of the Iraq War by the UUSC, and co-sponsoring a community vigil on the 5th anniversary of the beginning of the war. The UUFA Palms of Fire drum circle participated, and one-third of the participants were UU members.
**The committee over the years has provided consistent support for non-profits aiding the homeless or low income people, for example, the ARK, Our Daily Bread, and the Interfaith Hospitality Network.
**Individual Social Action Committee members have multiple interests and activities related to social action and report on them regularly at monthly meetings.
**Social Action Committee members have recently planned and carried out several services at the Fellowship each year on social justice topics.
**Submitted a grant proposal to the UU Fund for Social Responsibility to partner with the Census Bureau in counting under reported populations, and to continue to develop a worker center with the Economic Justice Coalition. Funded with $12,000 and an opportunity for a $4000 matching grant.
The Social Action Committee suggests honoring these UUFA members who have volunteered in the community in significant roles representing the congregation:
OUR DAILY BREAD Will Sheahan
INTERFAITH HOSPITALITY NETWORK Hank Raichle, Barbara Stewart, John Stewart
CLARKE COMMUNITY FEDERAL CREDIT UNION Janet Pomeroy, Janet King
ATHENS AREA HUMAN RELATIONS COUNCIL Caryl Sundland
ATHENS JUSTICE PROJECT David Jarrett
MENTAL HEALTH COURT PROJECT David Sweat
THE ARK Diana Cerwonka
ECONOMIC JUSTICE COALITION Ray MacNair
WOMEN IN BLACK Ruth Koch, Nancy MacNair
JEANNETTE RANKIN FOUNDATION Heather Kleiner, Margaret Holt, Gail Dendy
To other members and friends who have served the greater community, we thank you.
You can visit the Diamond JUUbilee page here.