Social Justice Mission & History

The mission of the Social Justice Action Team (formerly the Social Action Council) is to illuminate opportunity, facilitate personal involvement, and inspire social action in the congregation and social justice in the community. The team encourages Society members to reach out to the larger community “to serve humanity in fellowship, that all may grow in harmony with the good.”

The Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady has played a strong role in creating Schenectady’s network of community services. Planned Parenthood in Schenectady grew out of a clinic established by our Women’s Alliance. UUSS and the Women’s Alliance continue to have a strong commitment to Planned Parenthood Mohawk Hudson, an affiliate with 12 sites. The Law, Order and Justice Center started with the “Lewis Tonks Revolving Bail Fund,” which was started by Dr. Tonks and later supported and managed by the Society. RID (Remove Intoxicated Drivers) grew out of the concerns of Society member Doris Aiken and a $50 grant from the Council. RID now has over 135 chapters in 35 states and France. The Society also established a “Schenectady Peace Site” on its premises in 1986, and sponsored the formation of “Solidarity,” a support group for people who are HIV positive.

Some of our ongoing Social Justice Activities

The present team provides opportunity for political and social involvement by sharing information on activities and programs in the community and by sponsoring specific programs.

Social Action Sundays:  With an occasional exception, UUSS donates its 3rd and 5th Sunday of the month collection plates to a vetted social justice program. This has amounted to over $10,000 per year or financial support to local, regional or world causes. Since the congregation began accepting offering donations via credit and debt cards in 2016, the amount we collectively generate for these worthy programs has increased.

One of the Social Justice Action Team’s primary activities is to recommend organizations to receive funds these Social Action Sunday collections. Social Action Sundays, which started in 2007, raises money for worthy local (and sometimes national and international) non-profit organizations which help out people in need, in keeping with our second UU principle: “Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.” Through this program, UUSS has raised money for a whole host of organizations, including Planned Parenthood, Roots and Wisdom, Girls Inc., Bethesda House, Schenectady Home Furnishings, Schenectady Inner City Ministry, Lincoln Reading Mentors, the Capital District Community Loan Fund, the Pride Center of the Capital Region, Schenectady County Embraces Diversity, Things of My Very Own, and many more.

Members of the Society also continue to support SICM (Schenectady Inner City Ministry) with generous donations of food, money, and children’s books to the Food Pantry. UUSS is a partner in the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen program; Society volunteers have prepared and served lunch every seventh Tuesday since 1983.

The Social Justice Action Team has been successful in raising funds and social awareness through participation in Martin Luther King Day Marches, Crop Walks, and AIDS Walks. Members of what was then called the Social Action Council organized the first meeting of the Schenectady Chapter of Habitat for Humanity. In 2002, we completed our first Habitat for Humanity construction project on Albany Street.

In partnership with Temple Gates of Heaven, UUSS held a benefit concert in October 2010 to raise funds for relief in Darfur. UUSS members have been active in helping resettle refugees from foreign conflicts in the capital region. Through the Third Saturday volunteer program, UUSS members volunteer at Schenectady Home Furnishings, assembling furniture for families transitioning from emergency situations such as fire and homelessness. And UUSS members began an Alternative Gift Project for the winter holidays, a project in which congregation members buy gifts for local and national charities.

Many members of the congregation have also contributed knitted and crocheted squares to be made into afghans. To date, four have been donated to residents at a local women’s shelter.

Members of the Social Action Justice Team take turns staffing a table at the coffee hour after the Sunday worship service. There, congregation members and visitors can talk to someone about the social and political issues of the day. Fair-trade coffee and chocolate, products for which the grower receives a fair share of the proceeds, are sold after the service. Funds raised from sales of coffee and chocolate are donated to provide funds to purchase food for the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen as well as to other worthy organizations.

Society members donate time and money through many other avenues. Their personal efforts also define their commitment to Unitarian Universalism’s principles. You do not have to be a member of the Social Justice Action Team to come to social action events or to attend our meetings — anyone is welcome to participate!