As part of my 14-year ministry as senior minister at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock (Long Island), I served on our Veatch Board of Governors which made annual grants totalling approximately $12 million to social justice organizations throughout the country. One segment of grant making important to us was faith-based community organizations which bring people together across racial, religious, and socioeconomic lines to pursue social justice in their communities. From reviewing grant proposals, taking part in site visits to national and local organizations, and personally participating in two such organizations in New York and Florida I have a good deal of experience in this area.
On the basis of this experience, I want to share with you how positively impressed I am with Jacksonville ICare, a local affiliate of the national CBO DART (Direct Action and Research Training). Last Monday evening I took part via Zoom in ICARE’s Nehemiah Assembly which celebrated the success of a restorative justice program in schools which calls for student accountability after infractions without debilitating out-of-school suspensions (down 4,000 so far this year vs. 9,000 last year). Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene was present and pledged continued support for the program.
State Attorney Melissa Nelson was present and was thanked for her efforts in establishing a civil citation program which calls for accountability by youth for minor legal infractions without saddling them with a crippling criminal record. She agreed to work with ICARE and Sheriff Williams (not present) to develop such a program for adults. Additional requests of the sheriff involved developing a more effective mental health crisis intervention team for law enforcement and establishing a group violence intervention program. We can be assured that ICARE will follow up with the sheriff on these issues.
There were more than 500 people present at the Assembly(exact figures to come) and several congregations represented. More than 100 people from our congregation pledged to attend. This is remarkable support. I want to thank our ICARE team, led by Lois Hoeft for their efforts.
Our congregation contributes to ICARE through our budget and an additional $6,000 is contributed directly by our members. Again, I want you to know how impressed I am with this total effort and how pleased I am with our congregation’s part in this community ministry.