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.