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West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church

Social Action Committee

Grounded in our UU principles, we strive through education, advocacy, and action to make our church a force for justice on a local, state, national, and global level. We maintain the Food Pantry at West Shore and are responsible for the popular Social Action Film Series, which is open to the community. We organize participants for marches like the Women’s March and Protesting Gun Violence. We support the Cleveland Food Bank (see below) and the Inter-Religious Task Force to help immigrants. We work with Urban Hope (see more on this below) and with NEOCH, the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless. We promote voter registration and often provide information about ballot issues. We are beginning to work with Braver Angels, a nationwide program promoting mutual civility and understanding in our politically divisive world.

We meet on the first Monday of the month at 7:00 p.m. Please contact Gloria Bemer at for more information.

Cleveland Food Bank

The Greater Cleveland Food Bank serves Northeast Ohio providing food for the many who desperately need it.  Twice a month, the 3rd Thursday and 4th Wednesday volunteers from West Shore carpool to the Food Bank to help with sorting, repacking, or whatever needs to be done. We leave the church parking lot at 8:20 a.m. and return by 12:30 p.m.  If you wish more information or would like to sign up for a shift, please contact Betsy Hutcheson (  There is no long-term commitment. You sign up when the date suits your schedule.

Urban Hope

In 1998, Urban Hope began as a West Side inner-city community outreach program and store-front presence that was conceived by Rev. Mary Grigolia. Doris Matthey, a West Shore member, was the Chairman of the Steering Committee and a guiding force of the new movement. Members on the committee were volunteers from five local UU churches. West Shore’s Social Action Committee has volunteered and helped to support Urban Hope throughout the years. Currently, Debby Purdy, Cathy Ross, and Jillian Cook are on the Steering Committee and represent West Shore. West Shore member Jean Kosmac serves as the Steering Committee chair.

We meet on the third Sunday at The Urban Hope Store Front at 4241 Lorain Avenue from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. During non-Covid times, UU members and neighbors meet for a meal and fellowship. Members are asked to volunteer to help serve a hot meal, assist with shower coordination, hand out undergarments and toiletries. The neighbors also can take showers when the storefront is open. West Shore volunteers say that their one-on-one connections with neighbors have been meaningful and even personally profound. We are always looking for new volunteers to join us in sharing and caring!  To volunteer, contact Jillian Cook at

Check your E-News for program updates. You can watch the program video by clicking here.

Urban Hope Children’s Garden

The Children’s Garden is a neighborhood program of Urban Hope, a UU outreach to low-income residents on the near west side of Cleveland. Our goal is to show urban children where our food comes from, help them discover how delicious fresh veggies can be, and nurture a love of the outdoors. We work with children from the Near West Intergenerational school across the street during spring planting and fall harvesting seasons. In the summer, we work with neighborhood children. Each session offers hands-on gardening (including weeding), cooking with the veggies we grow, and a craft. The garden is located in Kentucky Community Garden at West 38th and Franklin.

We meet seasonally and are always looking for extra helping hands! To get the latest schedule, and to volunteer, contact Cathy Ross at

Task Force for Reproductive Justice

Decisions about children, families, and sexuality are some of life’s most profound. Our Unitarian Universalist faith holds central the inherent worth and dignity of all people, which includes a belief in the sacredness of all bodies, and the importance of self-determination and human agency. As part of a liberatory Reproductive Justice movement, we affirm our commitment to building a world in which all people are able to make choices about their bodies, their health, and their families within safe, thriving communities. In practice, this commitment looks like working to ensure that:

  • people of all identities and experiences have access to affirming, affordable health care, including reproductive care and abortion;
  • people of every age can access comprehensive, sex-positive, fact-based sexuality education;
  • people are empowered and supported to choose when, how, and if they will have children;
  • our institutions and communities actively work to eradicate sexual violence, abuse, and coercion, and to heal the wounds of such harm;
  • that people are supported to make informed, values-aligned decisions about their sexual and reproductive health throughout their lives.

We advocate for the ability of all families and communities to realize a sense of wholeness with regard to their sexual and reproductive lives. We create safe and healthy environments for children in our faith communities and campaign publicly for just and compassionate laws for family planning, reproductive and sexual health, and gender equity. For more information, contact Kelly Pinkas at

West Shore FaCT: Faith Communities Together for a Sustainable Future

West Shore FaCT promotes clean air, clean water, healthy soil, and a quick, equitable transition to renewable energy sources and just, sustainable living. We create opportunities for education, advocacy, and action. We are part of FaCT Ohio: Faith Communities Together for a Sustainable Future, collaborating with more than forty faith groups from sixteen counties in Ohio, and three in West Virginia. Locally, WS FaCT works with community groups for environmental justice.

Come and join us in confronting the problems that unsustainable practices cause for com- munities and families in rural, suburban, and urban areas. Your ideas and your energy are welcome to help address issues of environmental justice!

WS FaCT meets on the second and fourth Sundays monthly, from 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. To find out more, contact Linda New at or check our website at

Queer & Allies Task Force

Our first Principle as Unitarian Universalists states, “We affirm the inherent worth and dignity of all persons,” and so it goes without saying that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer persons are not only welcome at West Shore, but expected to participate fully in all church activities.

In the late 1980s, West Shore voted to become a “Welcoming Congregation” which means that the church took seriously its commitment to educate its members on LGBTQ justice concerns, and serve as active advocates for, and with, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. We advocated for marriage equality before it became a reality, celebrated the victory, and support all new efforts to achieve LGBTQ equality.

West Shore’s Q&A group is composed of LGBTQ people and their Allies. This group meets monthly beginning in October through June, and once each summer for a special picnic. Please check your E-News or contact Jerry Knasel at or Kathy Little at for meeting times and location.

Undoing Oppressions

Since 2001, Undoing Oppressions (under various names) has worked to educate ourselves and to provide information and resources to the congregation and the community about the devastating effects of societal and systemic racism. Affecting all of us in different ways, our knowledge of racism is a challenging, but important issue to address with courage, care, and compassion. With a willingness to learn (and unlearn), we are taking steps to undo the harm that is being done and to live our Unitarian Universalist principles more fully.

We meet on the third Tuesday of the month at 7:00 p.m. We would love to have you join us! For more information, please contact Mary Jo Maish at or April Stoltz at


The Listening Project

This project provides opportunities for congregants to tell their racial journey stories to another congregant and a trained facilitator. This nonjudgmental session was designed in 2020 by West Shore members Dorothy Faller and Mary-Jo Maish and was formerly called “Widening the Circle.”

The Listening Project was promoted at a national UU conference of new social justice programs called New Day Rising. Dorothy and Mary-Jo just updated the program and trained a group of facilitators at First Parish Church of Framingham, MA.

Greater Cleveland Congregations

West Shore is a founding member of Greater Cleveland Congregations. GCC follows the community organizing strategies of the Industrial Areas Foundation. It includes over 30 dues-paying congregations and organizations from across Cuyahoga County. It is Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and secular. West Shore is one of three Cuyahoga County UU congregations that are active GCC members.

Core Teams like West Shore’s listen and act in concert with our sister institutions to make social change. We support GCC in connecting individuals and organizations to multiply its power and mobilize its members by the thousands to make our voices heard to build a better community for all county residents.   A GCC staff of four paid organizers supports clergy, lay leaders, and member institutions to carry out its mission of being a catalyst for social justice.

The West Shore GCC Core Team generally meets on the first Tuesday of the month at 7:00 p.m. For more information, contact Joe Schafer at