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Local Service Project for General Assembly

2014 Service Project

The 2014 Service Project will address hunger and homelessness in Rhode Island. Local organizers are planning an Empty Bowls project for General Assembly. Collections will benefit two local organizations, Housing First RI and McAuley House.

Empty Bowls is an international grassroots effort to fight hunger. Potters and other craftspeople work with the community to create handcrafted bowls. At General Assembly, a booth in the Exhibits will display the bowls made for our Unitarian Universalist (UU) Empty Bowls project. It will also provide an opportunity for discussion of the issue of homelessness with representatives from the two local organizations. In exchange for a cash donation, guests will be asked to take home a bowl as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world. The money raised through donations will be split equally between Housing First RI and McAuley House.

Housing First RI (HFRI) is a program of Riverwood Mental Health Services that serves the chronically homeless in Rhode Island. Begun as a 50-person pilot project in 2005, the program’s success has resulted in substantial expansion. By the end of 2012, HFRI operated 175 units of permanent supportive housing for more than 200 formerly homeless persons and families, and provided outreach to hundreds more. In 2012, Opening Doors RI, the State of Rhode Island Plan to End Homelessness, established the housing first approach as its primary vehicle to end chronic homelessness.

Based on a national evidence-based model, Housing First has several features:

  • Access to housing is given as quickly as possible.
  • Housing is considered permanent, not transitional.
  • A variety of services are offered to help the individual remain permanently housed, but the use of services is not a requirement of tenancy.

McAuley House is a meal site and house of hospitality for people who are homeless or struggling to get by. Food, emergency assistance, and a sense of community are provided to those who live with addiction, mental illness, and poverty. A hot lunch is available five days weekly and one Saturday monthly, in an atmosphere of love and respect. Lunch is served to as many as 300 people each day. Guests are given lunch "restaurant-style," one plate at a time.

In partnership with Housing First, McAuley House offers daily enrichment programming, which offers support, healing, and engagement through activities such as art and crafts.

At the Service Project booth in the GA Exhbit Hall, General Assembly participants may sign up to take a bus tour to a local shelter, where they will see what a congregate shelter actually looks like and hear from individuals who have stayed in the shelter and now are housed. Videos will be screened showing the services offered at McAuley House and a formerly homeless individual in a new home.

Past Service Projects

The Sunday Morning Collection for General Assembly (GA) 2013 was given to the Kentucky Branch of Interfaith Power and Light, a national organization that has local and state chapters that provides an interfaith religious response to global warming. They offer support to over 14,000 congregations in 40 states. The mission of Interfaith Power and Light is to be faithful stewards of creation by responding to global warming and the social injustices it creates by promoting energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. This campaign intends to protect the earth’s ecosystems, safeguard the health of all creation, and ensure sufficient, sustainable energy for all.

The 2012 Service Project was a Naturalization/Citizenship Fair, where Unitarian Universalist (UU) Volunteers assisted permanent residents who were eligible for citizenship in completing their final citizenship applications, while others performed support tasks.

The “Beat the Heat” Backpack Project provided the children of the Dysart Community Center with books, hats, water bottles, other necessities, and treats, packed into a backpack for each of them. Area children spend much time indoors during the summer heat, and the backpacks will help them through the summer.

Donations from the Sunday morning service at GA were shared between two Phoenix-area recipient organizations this year. The two organizations are: theComités de Defensa del Barrio (CDBs) and Puente AZ.

The 2011 Service Project wasIn Our Own Back Yards youth summer camp. Over $32,000 was raised in donations. In Our Own Back Yards is an interfaith, service-based summer camp experience designed to open the eyes of campers to the harsh reality of poverty in the Charlotte Mecklenburg community.

Our 2010 Service Project with nearby Hope Community offered opportunities for hands-on service as well as donations. General Assembly attendees participated in a wide range of tasks including gardening, landscaping and painting. In addition, over $40,000 was raised in donations.

The 2009 service project raised $30,000 for the Utah Pride Center. The Utah Pride Center provides support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth, adults, and families through a variety of programs. With the money raised from Unitarian Universalists at General Assembly, the Utah Pride Center will expand their services for LGBT youth.

Hispanic Unity was selected as the 2008 service project; $23,000 was raised. The purpose of Hispanic Unity of Florida is to serve immigrants and their families from varying ethnicities, by empowering them to be successful in the United States.

In 2007, General Assembly raised $42,000 for Village Gardens, a sustainable urban agriculture program in Portland, OR.

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