Photo: Jana North, President of the UUCSR and Terry Bain, Member of UUCSR’s Board of Trustees.
When the pandemic struck in March 2020, the generous and caring members of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock (UUCSR) wanted to provide immediate financial assistance to local organizations that were impacted by the crisis.
They asked congregation members to suggest their favorite nonprofits and then set up a committee to vet the nominees. Fortunately, many UUCSR members were familiar with the lifesaving work of North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center.
After reaching out to us and hearing about our COVID-19 response efforts, UUCSR donated $10,000 to the Guidance Center and then an additional $50,000 in support of our work at a time when our services are needed more than ever. Over the course of their granting periods, UUCSR awarded $670,000 to a variety of local nonprofits to help them respond to the pandemic.
According to Terry Bain, a member of UUCSR’s Board of Trustees, the grant guidelines focused on food insecurity, homelessness, loss of parents or guardians, mental health and educational disadvantages.
“We wanted to address the areas where we thought the need would be the greatest, and in the beginning, everyone thought about food banks,” says Bain. “But by the time we got to the second round of funding, so many nonprofits were telling us about mental health issues that came out in their clients. PTSD was surfacing because the long, grinding time of the pandemic has caused such stress on everybody.”
Jana North, president of the UUCSR, says, “Of all the names that were proposed, your name rose to the top immediately. The Guidance Center is well known for doing this important work to provide services to families struggling with depression, anxiety and other issues related to COVID.”
Faith in Action
In describing UUCSR’s philanthropy efforts, North says, “We believe that with great wealth comes great responsibility. Part of what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist is to put our faith into action, and with each grant we give, we see our faith going out into the community.”
North adds that UUs “believe strongly that we are only a small part of the world around us, and our principles respect and honor the worth and dignity of each individual. We are here on this Earth only for a short time, and in that time we want to take care of each other and the planet.”
A Multifaceted Congregation
UUCSR (uucsr.org), which has about 500 members, has been holding its Sunday services virtually since the beginning of the pandemic, though some recent services have provided an onsite, outdoor option.
The congregation is a very active one, with a variety of programs, committees and events, some open to the public. For example, on the second Friday night of each month, UUCSR presents “Soulful Sundown,” a musical collaboration between Rev. Jennifer L. Brower and the Cosmic Orchestra, often with special guest musicians.
Of its many opportunities for involvement, UUCSR features a Women’s Group, Social Justice Group, Green Sanctuary Committee and LGBTQ+ Group, among others. Activities range from yoga and quilting to book discussions and bridge.
“Unitarian Universalists believe in offering respect and dignity to everyone and this includes those in a mental health crisis situation,” says Rev. Dr. Natalie Fenimore, Lead Minister. “The congregation has long sought to support mental health, spiritual health, well-being and healing.”
In fact, the UUCSR Mental Health group holds programs and discussions to broaden general awareness and increase the understanding of mental health issues and sponsors a mental health support group which met at the congregation pre-pandemic. Additionally, the congregation has provided funding for training the police in mental health crisis intervention.
Kathy Rivera, the Guidance Center’s Executive Director, says, “We are so grateful to the members of UUCSR for choosing us as a grantee. Their awareness of the importance of the mental health of our children and families during the pandemic is clear evidence of their dedication to the community, and we are proud to call them one of our valued donors and partners.”
Bain of UUCSR’s board says, “It’s very challenging for parents to know where to turn for help. The fact that the Guidance Center is out there helping people is just remarkable and so needed.”
To learn more about supporting North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, contact Director of Development Lauren McGowan at (516) 626-1971, ext. 320.
From SAMHSA, the Substance and Mental Health Services Administration
For many parents having their child return to school feels more significant this fall, with many schools opening for in-person learning following COVID-19 related closures or disruptions over the past 18 months. And while schools adapted to bring students back into the school building, parents and students had to navigate the challenges and emotions that accompany this transition.
As a parent, you may still be helping your child to process their feelings and concerns as they adjust to being back in school. By keeping the lines of communication open and giving them a safe space to share how they feel and ask any questions they may have, you will give your child the support they need to adjust to their new routine and thrive in the school environment throughout the year. SAMHSA has resources available to help parents, teachers, and schools navigate the transition back to the classroom.
Regular and open conversations with your child are beneficial any time of year and are an opportunity to address a variety of important issues. The month of October is recognized as National Youth Substance Use Prevention Monthand is an opportunity to join a broader effort to reduce substance use among our Nation’s youth. As a parent you can make a real difference by talking with your child about these issues and keeping the lines of communication open for continued conversations. Although it may not always seem like it, children do hear the concerns of their parents and other adult role models, which is why it’s so important to discuss early and often the risks of using alcohol and other drugs.
SAMHSA’s “Talk. They Hear You.” campaign recently launched a new mobile app that helps parents and caregivers prepare for some of the most important conversations they may ever have with their kids- conversations about alcohol and other drugs. The app shows parents and caregivers how to turn everyday situations into opportunities to talk with their children, and equips them with the necessary skills, confidence, and knowledge to start and continue these conversations as their kids get older. There is even a feature within the app where you can practice having the conversations, so you feel more comfortable when the time comes.
While alcohol and other drug use may not be your top-of-the-mind issues right now, there is no better time than this month to start having these talks with your kids. In fact, a recent NIH-funded study found that the overall rate of drug use among 10-14 year-olds remained relatively stable during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The study also found that teens experiencing pandemic-related stress, depression, or anxiety, or hardship during the pandemic, were more likely to use alcohol or drugs.
The study also found that youth stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms were all positively associated with the use of any substance, and that several pandemic-related factors increased adolescents’ likelihood of substance use. For example, youth who reported feeling “extreme” stress from the uncertainty associated with the pandemic were 2.4 times more likely to use any substance than youth who reported “very slight” stress.
It’s normal to have some anxiety of your own this time of year, and maybe you feel like you don’t always know the right thing to say to your child about alcohol and other drug use. Remember that you don’t have to do it alone! Check out these resources to help adults start—and keep up—the conversation about the dangers of drinking alcohol and using other drugs at a young age:
- Talking to Kids About Alcohol and Other Drugs: 5 Conversation Goals
- Answering Your Child’s Tough Questions
- Talking with Your Child About Marijuana: Keeping Your Kids Safe (PDF | 1.9 MB)
- Talking with Your Child About Opioids: Keeping Your Kids Safe (PDF | 1.3 MB)
Click link below to listen to the interview.
North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center has a great team, all of whom are dedicated to going above and beyond for each and every client. Ricardo Castillo, one of our social workers, was determined that the organic garden in our Roslyn Heights office would not be a victim of pandemic neglect.
He explains: “We use the garden to help kids learn lessons about responsibility, self-confidence, teamwork and growth. But since the pandemic hit, we have been seeing most of our clients through telehealth, so they weren’t able to be onsite to tend to the garden, and they really missed the experience. I decided to use an iPad and Zoom with them when I planted and harvested from the garden, so they could feel like they were a part of the process.”
Castillo worked on the garden through the summer and early fall, and it was a beautiful sight. “In 2020 and this year, we had a great crop of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, strawberries and even watermelons,” says Castillo, who often dropped by on Sundays to volunteer his time.“We’re truly proud of our organic garden program, and especially grateful to Ricardo for all his work to keep the garden growing and to engage our clients in the process,” says Kathy Rivera, Guidance Center Executive Director. “Our staff always puts the needs of kids first.”