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Social Justice and Outreach

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    Each week at Sunday services we end the lighting of the chalice with our expressed "hope to make this a better world."  This holiday season seems a fitting time to take stock of some of the ways we fulfill this aspiration collectively and in our personal lives. Two of the most visible ways we collectively fulfill this aspiration is by helping those in need in our community through our ongoing partnerships with the Interfaith Federation of Greater Baton Rouge and its primary program, the Holy Grill; and the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, through donations of staple food items to the Food Cart. We also make significant financial contributions through a shared offering and membership dues paid to the Interfaith Federation; and to the Baton Rouge Food Bank, through a shared offering and the offering taken at the Annual Christmas Eve Candle Light Service.  We also do hands-on volunteer service projects at least twice a year at the Holy Grill and the Food Bank; and occasional services at St. Vincent de Paul's daily dining room meal service, it's Bags of Hope program, and in preparation of meals for it's Sweet Dreams Women's and Children's Shelter.

    But we also support a variety of other agencies through our monthly shared offerings.  These agencies - recommended by the Social Justice and Outreach Teams - serve a wide range of needs in our community, described in the Social Justice column in the newsletter of the month that the agency is the recipient, and in the order of service on the Sunday of the shared offering. 

    We do advocacy to promote social justice, promote equity, and improve the lives of the citizens in our community through participation of large numbers of our members in Together Baton Rouge.  We also provide financial support to TBR through annual dues, a shared offering, and individual financial contributions.

    In this season of giving, our members eagerly and generously provide joy and happiness to recipient families and children of the Kids Cafe Annual Christmas Gift Program.  Kids Cafe is an adjunct program of the Holy Grill, which also provides a variety of enrichment programs throughout the year.  See the Social Justice column for more information on how you can assist and participate in this long-time annual Christmas project of which our church is one of the major providers and supporters.

    A team of walkers represented our church in the recent Annual Hunger Walk, which provides support to the Federation's Holy Grill feeding program and the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. Special thanks to Sylvia Martinez for her faithful recruitment of participants each year, and to members of the Social Justice Team who assisted.

    Merry Christmas and abundant thanks for all that you do to fulfill our "hope to make this a better world" both individually and as members of our Unitarian Universalist faith community.

    We begin another year of outreach with the first of two scheduled volunteer services at the Holy Grill.  Sign-up for five servers for each day of our service from January 15 to 19, 2018 will begin on Sunday, December 10th.

~Becky Cureau, Director of Outreach

    Our shared offering for the month of December is the Baton Rouge Food Bank, a nonprofit organization that solicits, procures, inventories and warehouses donated food and other products.  This food is then distributed to a variety of community agencies such as pantries, meal sites, homes, shelters and soup kitchens.   The work of this amazing organization is a credit to our community and a project dear to our church.

    Our annual gift drive for the Kids Cafe Christmas party is being chaired by Tam Le and Nancy Kunen.  The actual Kids Cafe Christmas Party will be December 15 at the Cadillac Park, so feel free to donate time or money for that party which UCBR will be hosting this year.  When it is time to deliver the gifts to the Interfaith Federation office, we will need a truck, another volunteer opportunity.  The sign up table created by Tam and Nancy includes not just the gift list, but an envelope for cash donations toward the party and a sign up sheet to help with the party and/or delivery of the gifts around December 11-12.

    Following the successful Fundraising Seminar held for Together Baton Rouge and hosted by our church, a committee was established by the organization to improve and develop its fundraising skills.  Mija Thompson has become active with this effort and will be sharing those future plans and ideas with Social Justice in 2018.  In the meantime there will be a fundraising effort during the month of December providing individuals a chance to make a personal donation to TBR as they have in the past.  Watch your email from TBR and look for information at the Social Justice table regarding this effort.

    The two meetings at University Baptist Church which sought to expand the thinking of TBR with respect to ITEP funds were a success and both were well attended by UCBR particularly due to Janet Moulder's efforts with advertising and sign ups after the Sunday services. The governor appeared to agree with the thinking of TBR at the second meeting in November and has committed to continue to seek transparency in the process with good local input on this critical issue of exemption from taxes for school boards, parish governing authorities and sheriffs.

    Sylvia Martinez is happy to thank all for joining the Hunger Walk which seeks to raise awareness and financial support for food access programs in our community.  Janet Moulder again did a wonderful job setting up the table and getting signatures for the walk as well as the Food access rally and it paid off.  Becky Cureau and Kathy Smith also helped with PR for the RE classes and it was great to have the Elsea teens with the adults.  It was our best year attendance-wise and we received a certificate for having the largest congregational group.  Please check out the framed certificate at the SJ table.  The sweetest things about that certificate are the signatures of the children who regularly eat at the Holy Grill.

   Marcia Shannon reports that our new UCBR Days for Girls (DfG) team is being mentored by the Ingleside UMC established team.  They are teaching the skills needed to create sustainable feminine hygiene kits for distribution in developing countries.  Seven women from UCBR have gathered twice a week to practice making the kits.  The UCBR team would like to continue to collaborate with Ingleside UMC during the weekdays and also begin to host "Sewing Days" at the church during evenings or weekends beginning in January 2018.  During the month of December we will be recruiting volunteers to help with this new Social Justice Ministry.  Please stop by the table in the Fellowship Hall and learn more about the UCBR Days for Girls team.

     The next meeting of the Social Justice Team will be Sunday, January 7, 12:45 - 1:45pm.

~Jane Webb, Co-Chair with Bobby Thompson, Director of Social Justice