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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 Social Action Film Series. We organize participants for marches like the Women’s March and Protesting Gun Violence. We support the Cleveland Food Bank and Betsy Hutcheson, hutch5280@att.net coordinates volunteers to help at the Food Bank on the 3rd Thursday and 4th Wednesday of each month.  We support 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 nation-wide program promoting mutual civility and understanding in our politically divisive world.

We meet on the first Monday of the month at 7:00 pm. Please contact Gloria Bemer at mrsb112@aol.com for more information.

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.

Generally, we meet the third Sunday afternoon at The Urban Hope Store Front at 4241 Lorain Avenue. UU members and neighbors meet for a meal and fellowship. 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 help prepare and serve meals and to engage with the community. To volunteer, contact Jillian Cook at jilliancook55@gmail.com.

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 Inter- generational school across the street during spring planting and fall harvesting seasons. In the summer, we work with neighborhood children. Each session offers hands-on gar- dening (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 estrogen05@yahoo.com.

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. Contact Kelly Pinkas at kelly.pinkas@gmail.com for more information.

FaCT Task Force

West Shore FaCT promotes clean air, clean water, healthy soil, and a quick, equitable tran- sition 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 pm. To find out more, contact Linda New at westshorefact@gmail.com or check our website at westshorefact.org.

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, bi-sexual, transgender and queer persons are not only welcome at West Shore, but expected to participate fully in all church activities.

In the late 1980’s, 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 jerryknase@aol.com or Kathy Little at drkdlittle@aol.com 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 the third Tuesday of the month at 7:00 pm. We would love to have you join us! For more information, contact Kathy Kosiorek at katkay39@gmail.com.

A special project of Undoing Oppressions is working with Denison United Church of Christ—Volunteer work includes monthly food distribution, gardening, office work, and helping with special projects at the church located at 9900 Denison Avenue. Contact Linda New, newlinn09@gmail.com, for more information on the garden program or Pastor Nozomi Ikuta for all other activities (pastor@denisonucc.org).

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 formerly called “Widening the Circle.” The Listening Project was promoted in 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, Mass.

Greater Cleveland Congregations

West Shore is a founding member of Greater Cleveland Congregations.  GCC includes over 30 dues-paying congregations and organizations from across Cuyahoga County.  It is Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and secular.  We are one of three Cuyahoga County UU congregations who are active GCC members.

Our West Shore Core Team supports 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.  GCC is led by clergy and lay leaders from across its member institutions.

Core Teams like West Shore’s listen and act in concert with their sister institutions to make social change.  A GCC staff of four paid organizers support clergy, lay leaders, and member institutions to carry out its mission of being a catalyst for social justice.

For more information, contact Joe Schafer at 440 785-1092 or jschafer99@aol.com.