Social Justice Update

Updated: July 1, 2020

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Social Action Committee Mission: To promote, facilitate, and directly engage in social and environmental action and witness in accordance with Unitarian Universalist principles and with the Mission Statement of
the Church, calling for “service to the broader community and the world.” The Committee monitors the activities of ongoing work groups and identifies, initiates, and promotes new social action efforts for congregational involvement over the long term.
For more information on any of WBUUC’s justice activities, please contact the co-chairs of the Social Action Committee: Jane Bacon or Al Mitchell.

Active Projects

Project Home
Coordinators: Sue Will and Margie Schmidt

Project Home, a program of Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul, in conjunction with 24 faith communities, provides up to 40 beds of emergency shelter to families in Ramsey County who are experiencing homelessness. For the tenth year, WBUUC provided evening and overnight space capacity for 20 beds, serving nine families during the month of September. Families were bused to our church by 6 p.m., settled into assigned rooms in our religious education wing, ate a snack, and socialized in an environment of safety and caring. Overnight hosts set out a light breakfast, and the guests were bussed to the Project Home day facility in St. Paul where children caught their school buses and the adults went to work or assistive appointments. More than 100 WBUUC volunteers participated in Project Home in 2019. The program also receives considerable assistance from the church office staff, ministers and custodial staff.

Although we will not be hosting overnight guests during the month of September as we have for the last 10 years, we will continue to support families experiencing homelessness through Project Home. Providing food needed for meals and snacks as well as financial support of the program will continue. We hope to recommit to evening and overnight emergency shelter in the future.

People Incorporated Monthly
Contact: Kate O’Reilly

People Incorporated is a nonprofit organization founded in 1969 that serves over 6,000 people with mental illness in the metro area. WBUUC started a new program in January 2014 to help people served by this organization. Once a month, volunteers cook a healthy lunch at church and deliver it to the People Inc. facility in St. Paul. About 25-30 people who are homeless and have mental illness are served each month. Clients and staff deeply appreciate the lunches. Valued friendships have evolved as we gather monthly to cook together.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the way we make and deliver meals has changed. For the safety of our members, WBUUC volunteers now make sandwiches in their homes and deliver the sandwiches to the People Inc. facility. The People Inc. Staff then distribute the meals to the clients. We hope to be able to resume the cooperative meal making at church and distributing the meals ourselves in the future.

Active Committees

If interested in joining these ongoing committees, please contact the coordinator listed.

Global Climate Action Committee
Coordinator: Kirk Cobb
This committee provides education through forums and encourages advocacy on the issue of climate change.

Details of the past year’s programs and activities:

  • October 9, 2019 – Guest speaker, Dr. Jay Coggins, UMN – “The Economics of Climate Change” – what is cost of expanding solar, wind, biofuels; but what is cost if we do nothing?
  • The GCCC – 2007 to 2019 – presented ~ 50 excellent programs on climate change;
  • Let’s “Turn Talk into Action” – change name to “Global Climate Action Committee” (GCAC).
  • GCAC developed plans for WBUUC “Carbon Offset Project”, expand WBUUC solar panels from 10 KW to 30 KW. Received proposals from 4 solar contractors;
  • “Carbon Offset Project” finances, based on contractors quotes, estimated at ~ $60,000; financed by PACE loan – Spire Credit Union; $8,000 per year / 10 years; paid with “carbon offset” funds for vacation travel based on airline/auto emissions, from 100 to 200 WBUUC “Carbon Offset” participants; $40 to $80 / year / participant. WBUUC to benefit ~ $200/month electrical savings.
  • “Carbon Offset Project” – presented to WBUUC Board – Nov-2019, approved for phase 2 – invite WBUUC members to join the “Carbon Offset Project”.
  •  “Carbon Offset Project” to be rolled out Earth Day, April-2020, put on hold March 2020 due to Coronavirus. Hope to re-activate project in future.

Gun Sense Action Group
Contacts: Lori Delahunt and Victor Urbanowicz

Founders Barb Flo and John Paquette having withdrawn, the chair now rotates. We staffed information tables at church and took part in the Wear Orange Sunday service on June 9, 2019. Moms Demand Action chapters in the East Metro provided us with a forum last October on gun safety in the home. In February, we attended Welcome Back to the Capitol Day, organized by Moms Demand Action, and Broken Hearts Day, organized by Protect Minnesota. During the latter, we met with our legislators to lobby for effective gun legislation. Two important bills passed in the House that day. The Senate remains a challenge. We were investigating public venues outside church to host our next speaker when Covid-19 changed how we operate.

Active Partnerships and Advocacy

WBUUC partners with the following organizations through memberships, fees and advocacy. 

Minnesota UU Social Justice Alliance (MUUSJA)
Representative: Jane Bacon
MUUSJA is our statewide UU justice organization. Goals are to connect all the 20+ congregations in the state, especially smaller congregations in Greater MN, and to promote justice issues by encouraging involvement by congregations and individuals.

MICAH (Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing)
Representative: Janet Urbanowicz

An interfaith organization
of faith leaders, housing advocates and affordable housing developers that works with congregations
and community partners to increase awareness and understanding of the need for affordable housing, thus creating advocates who fight for changes in public policy to encourage all communities to preserve and build affordable housing. MICAH’s active Northeast Chapter has been recognized for their advocacy on behalf of Hoffman Place and the Piccadilly project. Each year the group holds a bus tour of affordable housing in the area.

Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul
Their mission is to “unite the people, resources, and voice of the faith community to build a more just, safe and livable East Metro for all.” WBUUC participates in the MLK, Jr. Breakfast and Project Home, programs coordinated by this organization.

Joint Religious Legislative Coalition (JRLC)
The JRLC is the largest and most inclusive interfaith public interest group in Minnesota. JRLC now has 
an extensive body of public policy statements and continues to influence Minnesota legislation in many areas. Members are encouraged to attend the annual “Day on the Hill.”

Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless
Their mission is “to generate policies, community support and local resources for housing and services to end homelessness in Minnesota.” Our congregation has worked on housing issues in conjunction with this organization.

Protect Minnesota
This is the only state-based group working to end gun violence through education and legislative initiatives. WBUUC is now a member of its Interfaith Alliance caucus and the Gun Sense Action Group has been working closely with this organization.

UU The Vote
UU the Vote is a non-partisan faith initiative, in partnership with broader justice movements, to engage our neighbors, educate our communities, mobilize voters, and rally around key ballot initiatives. It invites us to join with our UU community to create a future defined by love, justice, and faith.

A multi-racial, state-wide, nonpartisan coalition of faith communities, Isaiah Minnesota fights for racial and economic justice in Minnesota. It provides information and support for social justice in current Minnesota legislation. WBUUC’s Love Lives Here/Sanctuary group (see below) works closely with Isaiah MN.

UnRestrict MN
A community-based public awareness campaign, UnRestrict Minnesota aims to educate Minnesotans about the current laws that restrict reproductive rights and access to abortion care.

Active Church-wide Commitments

WBUUC has an ongoing commitment to the following organizations and ministries. Each coordinator or contact person reports directly to the WBUUC Board of Directors.

Love Lives Here/Sanctuary
WBUUC is a Sanctuary Church. Our congregation is among others in the Twin Cities invited through Isaiah Minnesota to provide Sanctuary to undocumented people facing threats of detention and deportation. We are called to this work by our faith, which insists on the worth and dignity of every person requires justice, equity and compassion; calls the human family a beloved community, and bound within an interdependent web of sacred existence. When WBUUC was called by organizers in local immigrant communities, our Lead Minister and Board unanimously said yes to host a sanctuary family. From 2018 to 2019, a mother and two children from Guatemala lived in our church. We continue to support that family in independent living in 2020.

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
Started in April 2018, the Poor People’s Campaign calls for Moral Revival with the release of a Moral Agenda and Declaration of Fundamental Rights. This presents a comprehensive response to the systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism, war economy and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism plaguing our country today. As a nation, we are at a critical juncture and this campaign strives to shift the moral narrative, impact policies and elections at every level of government, and build lasting power for poor and impacted people.

Social Action Committee Projects Temporarily Suspended due to COVID-19

North Star Youth Outreach Center:
Coordinators: Dan Wachtler and Ron Ofstead
The North Star site at the Maplewood Mall opened officially in June of 2018, following the opening of the Tubman East Center in 2016. These are daytime drop-in resource centers focused on homeless and at-risk youth, and the Mall site is a continued collaboration with the Harriet Tubman East Center in Maplewood. The Center is managed by Tubman with substantial volunteer and financial support from our congregation. The location of this site has been extremely successful in easing access to the Center for youth who often lack access to cars or the funds to use public transit – e.g., over 1000 visits by clients and community members in the first year, 80 client visits in the first two months of 2020 – and resulting in the decision to close the Tubman East site and focus on the Center at the Mall. The Center now provides laundry facilities, computer workstations, a food shelf, a range of clothing and personal care supplies, school supplies, and, importantly, access to a wide range of Tubman’s support services. Two significant improvements during 2019 were the addition of high-quality laundry facilities, through the support of the WBL Rotary Club, and weekly fresh and shelf-stable foods coming from the WBL Food Shelf!
When the Mall reopens, we will be able to continue this important effort, and ongoing support, both financially and via donated items, will remain critical.

Habitat for Humanity
Coordinator: Rick Gelbmann
Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, creating opportunities for all people to live in decent, durable shelter. WBUUC volunteers work with other faith communities to build, renovate, and preserve homes in the Metro Area. Last summer we had 17 WBUUC members volunteered for 34 days of construction during one week of construction in Hugo. This huge increase in volunteers was due to early notification of the build date, announcements made at services and a signup table. Unfortunately volunteering for a Habitat build this year has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We will continue to coordinate with Habitat as well as support the program financially as Habitat turns its focus to helping new homeowners keep their homes during these high unemployment and hard financial times.

Solid Ground
Coordinator: Mary Bolton
This local nonprofit provides safe, affordable housing and innovative supportive programming for families in transition in Ramsey and Washington counties. WBUUC members volunteer in various capacities at Solid Ground, as well as serving on the Board of Directors. WBUUC youth support Solid Ground through the Birthday Box program.

Century College Bag Lunches
Coordinator: Amy Peterson Derrick
This year, junior high and high school youth, together with volunteers from the congregation, continued their partnership with the student resource center at Century College by making sandwiches for Century College students who are experiencing food insecurity.

Food Shelves
Coordinator: Cynthia Tomlinson
WBUUC supports The Mahtomedi Area Food Shelf, the White Bear Area Emergency Food Shelf, and the Century College Food Shelf equally with an annual plate collection. Food collected at church is donated to the Mahtomedi shelf. Many congregation volunteers support food shelves by volunteering on a regular basis, and at special events, such as the annual Stamp Out Hunger postal carrier collection, the Mahtomedi Tree of Lights event, White Bear’s Bonus Saturday distribution, as well as their summer Saturday produce distribution through Second Harvest Heartland. All of these efforts help support hundreds of area families facing food insecurity.

MLK Holiday Breakfast
Coordinators: TBD
Our church is the host site for the Northeast Suburbs for the annual Martin Luther King Holiday Breakfast. The Metro wide event is sponsored by the General Mills Foundation, UNCF (United Negro College Fund) and Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul. This year our local speaker was Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the MN chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN). The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr., who served as the 82nd Attorney General of the United States, was the main event’s keynote speaker. Well over 100 people took part in the program this year. A free will offering raised money for the United Negro College Fund.
The purpose of the WBUUC planning committee for the MLK Breakfast is to arrange, advertise and conduct the event. We are seeking additional members for the planning committee. The committee starts work in September each year, culminating on the MLK Holiday.

Twin Cities Pride Festival
Coordinator: Debra DeBroux
Our church continues to be a strong advocate for LGBTQ issues. We have represented WBUUC in the Minneapolis Pride Parade for many years. Parading with several other UU congregations from the region has been a good way to meet other UU-LGBTQ allies. Unfortunately, as of late April, 2020, the parade has been postponed, if not cancelled, due to the pandemic.