Social Justice

It’s about…Transformation!

Putting our Faith into Action

Unitarian Universalists are fond of saying that we are “a denomination of deeds, not creeds,” so it is not surprising that social justice activities and opportunities abound here at First Unitarian.

Look at the program descriptions of the various activities going on and we bet you’ll find one, two or several things that match your own passions and interests. All our activities are open and we are eager to have new members. We’ve included a contact person you can go to directly, but if you prefer, contact us and we’ll help you get plugged in. Well, what are you waiting for? Read on!

John Keevert, Social Justice Council Co-Chair | email
Paul Minor, Social Justice Council Co-Chair | email

Task Force Application Form


The First Unitarian Church of Rochester has been dubbed by a former City Historian “Rochester’s alert conscience and hospitable roof,” in recognition of its social concern and activities over 100+ years. As the congregation has grown, so have the number of programs and participants hoping to make a difference.

A Short History

Our church gained a reputation for social action during the ministry of William Channing Gannett. In 1890 our building began serving as a settlement house for immigrant families with programs such as the Boys Evening Home and a similar one for girls. In 1934, under Rev. David Rhys Williams, Gannett House became the three-year home of the Mothers’ Consultation Center (later a branch of Planned Parenthood).

In 1961, a Social Action Committee was formed. The Committee chose to focus on: Substandard housing, segregation of housing and schools, Capital punishment, and Disarmament.

Our church continued to work on these and other issues. In the ’70s, with Rev. Gilbert’s assistance, the church adopted the task force system to focus on a few key issues.

Another of Rev. Gilbert’s suggestions was the formation of a grant program. Our Grants Panel receives applications and conducts interviews each winter. Recipients are notified after the panel makes recommendations to our church Board and at the fall Congregational meeting.

In January 2003, a consultant challenged our generosity by suggesting we give away the plate collection. We donate three of every four plate collections to outside groups, using criteria similar to those for receiving grants.

In 2004, our ministers Rev. Scott Tayler and Rev. Kaaren Anderson worked with the Social Justice Council to add new initiatives.  Our church now houses homeless families several times a year under the Rochester Area Interfaith Hospitality Network (RAIHN) program and the Youth Group has raised money to send members to the area across the Mexican border to learn about family life there and the effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  Rev. Kaaren Anderson have inspired us to contribute over $500,000 to the Greater Good project since 2006.  Check the First Unitarian Weekly Connections and the lobby bulletin boards to our current initiatives.

Our Mission

Our Mission

In 2005, our church board led the congregation through a process of clarifying our mission and vision. This resulted in the Social Justice Ministry Mission Statement that inspires and guides our work:

“We work together to create lay and ministerial acts of social justice that engage our hands, voices and money to put our liberal religious values into action locally, nationally and around the world.”

We strive to be most known by our actions, believing that the holy and our deepest selves are known best by serving and giving to needs greater than our own.


A Welcoming Congregation

Since 1993, we have been a Welcoming Congregation of the Unitarian Universalist Association. This is our denominational term for congregations that declare and affirm inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in all aspects of our church life.

Standing on the Side of Love
Our work for LGBTQ+ rights is rooted in the simple belief that love and commitment in any form should be celebrated, protected and encouraged. We also believe that diversity of self and sexual expression is something that is natural and enriches us all.

We are thrilled to live in a state that recognizes equal marriage. If you are planning to get married or have a ceremony so your existing marriage can receive legal standing in New York, we’d love to officiate and celebrate with you.  Find out more here.

Ministerial Marriage “Boycott”

Before marriage was legal in New York State, our ministers took a stand of conscience and stop signing marriage licenses for all couples until same-sex couples had the same right.  We are proud of our ministers and grateful for their stance.  We are even more proud and grateful, that they can now sign licenses for all!

Rochester Pride Parade

This event celebrating the LGBTQ+ community of Rochester has been held annually since 1990.  Our church has been represented by a delegation nearly every year, often joined with GUUSTO (Genesee Unitarian Universalist Societies Together), a collaboration of local UU congregations that strengthen religious, administrative and social justice efforts.


Our Task Forces

Honduras Partnership

The Honduras Project Task Force had its beginning in our church’s holiday Greater Good project.

Our Greater Good gift has developed a relationship between our congregation, the Global Health Program of the University of Rochester Department of Family Medicine and the people of San Jose, Honduras.  Together, we are working to improve the quality of life for this 2000 member community.  In 2007 and 2008, new initiatives included scholarships for students to travel to a larger town for seventh grade, micro-finance projects, a gift toward the construction of a volunteer house, improved cookstoves, and ongoing water projects.

The Honduras Project Task Force has launched education initiatives ranging from creating curriculum for use by Honduran teachers, to the collection of school supplies, and a letter exchange between our school children and children in Honduras.  There are many opportunities to get involved with these projects here in Rochester and possible travel to San Jose!

In 2010, we began a Student Sponsorship Program, through which individuals and families can sponsor a child to continue in school beyond seventh grade.  A full share of this sponsorship costs $460; half shares are also available.  If you would like to sponsor a child, please email MJ Curry at  Donations can also be made to the Seventh Grade Scholarship Fund.

Barbara Gawinski, Honduras Partnership Chair | email

Additional Links

Curriculum for Honduras Schools
Spring 2012 Trip Report
Fall 2012 Trip Report
Fall 2012 Trip Presentation
2013 Social Justice Congregational Meeting Report 
Fall 2013 Trip Report
Spring 2014 Trip Report
Fall 2014 Trip Report
Spring 2015 Trip

Our Clean Water Work

The Department of Family Medicine (DFM) at the University of Rochester operates a Global Health Program. The Department has partnered with a non-governmental organization called Shoulder to Shoulder and a rural community called San Jose San Marcos de la Sierra in the Southwestern state of Intibuca, Honduras. The needs of the target community are great. By listening to the concerns of the local community members and performing qualitative community assessment, the DFM is creating interventions designed to address the common problems. The following are a summary of the problems and possible solutions related to water.

The San Jose Area

San Jose San Marcos de la Sierra is a poor mountainous rural community. The San Jose township is composed of 7 villages that are spread over 5 square miles. An estimated 2,000 people live in the area. There is no local industry so most people farm small plots of land and work as migrant farm workers during the harvest season picking coffee. The majority of people live on less than $1 US a day. The 5 main problems identified by community members are: lack of water, malnutrition, limited education, limited access to health care, and poverty. In most people’s minds, water is the biggest problem. The DFM is addressing each concern, but our church’s Greater Good Project donated $30,000 to help address water specifically. Here is how our money is helping.

Micro-Finance and Urban Development

The mission of this Task Force is to support economic growth in the City of Rochester by partnering with small and developing business enterprises that lack access to traditional financial capital.

The purpose of the Task Force is to provide micro-financing and related financial assistance along with mentoring services to help empower individuals and to rebuild and revitalize targeted urban communities in the City of Rochester by designing and building an adequately funded micro-financing program.  Ancillary to our mission, but vitally important to it, is creating opportunities for members of our church to participate in the program at many levels and strengthen our church’s historical connection with the City of Rochester.  We have partnered with the Genesee Co-op Federal Credit Union.

On January 19, 1982 Genesee Co-op Federal Credit Union (GCFCU) accepted its first deposit.  Since that time, GCFCU has loaned more than $30 million to its member-owners to buy homes and cars, pay for education and start or expand businesses.  The GCFCU is committed to community development initiatives such as increasing affordable housing, assisting micro-enterprise and small businesses with services and loans, and providing financial counseling as a core part of its mission to serve its members.

For more information please contact Terri Goldstein, Chair, at, 585-506-7423, or 585-324-0548.

Environmental Climate

We will educate the congregation on environmentally responsible activities, including considering divestment from fossil fuel companies.

Co-chairs: John Keevert,, 585-473-0295, Judith Cartisano,, 585-355-4815.

Photos from the Climate March in NYC in September 21, 2014.

NYC-PCM Standing on the Side Of Love at People Climate March UU youth at march2

Our Ongoing Projects


Rochester Area Interfaith Hospitality Network

First Unitarian hosts local homeless families who are our guests for one week at a time. Every 14 weeks, classrooms on the second floor are turned into bedrooms, and Gilbert Hall becomes a hospitality room where guests relax, socialize, do homework and enjoy leisure activities.

The RAIHN network is composed of 36 local congregations, with a Day Center and Director who provides supportive services with the goal of getting families “back on their feet” and achieving a sustainable independence.  RAIHN serves single fathers with children, same sex couples, and does not segregate families by gender.

This volunteer program at First Unitarian is for all of us – singles, couples, families, elders, teens, classes and small groups. Please contact if you are interested in helping with a future rotation or for more information about RAIHN.

Some Examples of RAIHN Volunteer Opportunities at First Unitarian:

  • Turn classrooms into bedrooms on Welcoming Sunday
  • Prepare part of a meal and/or join the guest families for dinner
  • Spend 2 hours providing company, perhaps sharing in an evening activity
  • Be an Overnight Host, sleeping in the building to assist guests
  • Help do shopping, kitchen set up or break down
  • Make welcoming gift baskets for the five families
  • Help do laundry after the group leaves
  • Volunteer at the RAIHN Day Center

UU/Schools Partnership

We work together with The Children’s School #15 and Lincoln School # 22 to help kids succeed.  We match caring volunteers with various opportunities to help in the classroom and 1:1.  We support field trips and special events at the schools.  We also collect donated school supplies, clothing and warm items for the children.  Last year, we had almost 100 volunteers supporting students at our partner schools.

Our Schools:

School 22 (Abraham Lincoln)

  • Located at the Franklin Campus on the corner of Hudson Avenue and Norton Street in northeast Rochester
  • K-6
  • High percentage of low-income and minority students
  • Significant population of Spanish-speaking students; bilingual class at every grade
  • Extended learning time school; 7:45am–3:30pm

School 15 (Children’s School of Rochester) 

  • Temporarily housed at School #6, 595 Upper Falls Boulevard, just north of the inner loop
  • Home building at 494 Averill Avenue in southeast Rochester is being renovated
  • K-6
  • High percentage of low-income and minority students
  • Half of the students at School 15, by design, are refugees and recent immigrants

Tutoring - Dan

Our history:

The Partnership was initiated by the Urban League’s call to action in 1985, which asked churches to support better education for Rochester’s children.  In 1988, First Unitarian Church’s Social Responsibility Committee advertised for volunteers.  Both prospective volunteers and teachers from inner city schools responded, and our program was born at School 22.  In 1991, our partnership expanded to include Children’s School 15. The committee is currently chaired by Joe Simson and Andrea Porter and meets monthly.

It is easy to be a good candidate for volunteering!

  • Are you between the ages of 16-90?
  • Does working with youth bring a smile to your heart?
  • Ever consider being one person making a small change in the lives of city youth?
  • Or ever consider being a member of a group making a large change in lives of youth?
  • Do you have 1-2 hours available – even just once a month – between 7:15am-3:30pm?

If you said YES, you could be a volunteer!  Read on for more details.

How to Volunteer: 

To become a weekly volunteer, complete a volunteer application form.

To become an occasional volunteer or just to get the UU/Schools Partnership Newsletter, click here.

Returning volunteers complete this form.

What do volunteers do?

We try and match a volunteer’s skills and interests with teacher and student needs.  Volunteers work from 1 hour/week to several days per week.  Some volunteers support the whole classroom and help out as directed by the teacher.  Others work with students on math, literacy, science or social studies in small groups.  Others work 1:1 with one or more students to give them that extra attention that can really make a difference.  The HOSTS (Help One Student To Succeed) program and Enrichment clubs are additional opportunities.  All volunteers receive a volunteer orientation.

HOSTS (Help One Student To Succeed) program:

The HOSTS program is offered to second grade students during the extended learning time from 2:00–3:30pm at School 22.  Students meet with a volunteer for ½ hour Monday–Thursday.  Each day of the week has a unique lesson plan.  Some days focus on reading fluency, while others focus on comprehension or writing.  Volunteers can work 1 to 4 days.  Our goal for 2015-16 is to support 20 students.  We provide training for HOSTS volunteers so that you learn how the curriculum fits together.

Enrichment Clubs:dominoes summer

During the Extended Learning Time students at School 22 have the chance to participate in Enrichment Clubs.  These typically meet once per month and can run all year, for a set number of weeks or for one week.  Two or more adult volunteers partner to lead a club.  This is an opportunity to share your passion.  Clubs can be a math club, or legos, or chemistry, or hula hooping, or story telling or… Enrichment time for grade 3-6 is 7:15-9:00am.

Monthly option:

For people who want to commit to helping monthly rather than weekly, the Spino Literacy Foundation has a once a month reading program at School 22.  It requires one hour at lunchtime on the first Wednesday of each month.  Volunteers read a book to a young child and contribute $2 toward the cost, and the child keeps the book.

Short-term and after school option:

Some volunteers can’t commit to a regular weekly time, but still want to help. Occasionally, we have a need for help at special events (cultural event, field trip, holiday store) or short term projects.

BackPack Food program:

We sponsor a BackPack Food program at School 22, which provides the neediest students with a bag of nonperishable food each Friday to eat at home over the weekend.  People ages 8 and older can volunteer for one or more food-packing parties, held about once a month on a Thursday night or a Saturday morning at Foodlink.  Watch the First Unitarian Weekly Connections for information.


We welcome donations! Contact Andrea Porter ( with questions.

  • School supplies: pencils, crayons, markers, glue sticks, spirals….
  • Lightly used clothing for the students PreK-Grade 6
  • If you like to knit, join our church’s Uknitarians to help provide hundreds of warm, handmade and purchased hats, gloves, and scarves. Having enough warm items means a class can go out for recess even in the winter.
  • Arts and crafts supplies
  • Small toys for prize boxes
  • Gently used gift items for the holiday store
  • BoxTops for Education
  • Baked goods for muffin sales and First Muse; soups and goodies for Benefits Boutique
  • Crafty items for our holiday table


  • The committee holds monthly bagel/muffin sales after worship on Sundays
  • We have a table at the holiday Benefits Boutique with donated handmade items
  • Help us host a First Muse reception
  • Cash donations are always welcome; they’re used to fund field trips and learning enrichment

Sunday Suppers at St. Joe's

Help provide and serve a hot meal to needy people in Rochester.

What happens:
Volunteers from our church cook and serve supper two to three Sundays per month for 75-100 guests at St. Joseph House of Hospitality.

Dinner is served promptly at 4:00pm. Volunteers arrive by 3:15pm and finish by 5:30pm. Volunteers who decide to cook together at our church start at 1:00 pm.

St. Joseph House of Hospitality is at 402 South Ave., Rochester, NY 14620.

What’s needed:
Volunteers from our church collaborate each Sunday.  The team decides what to buy, make, and serve.  Cooking is done at our church, at St. Joe’s, or each volunteer can take on part of the meal and meet at St. Joe’s ready to serve.

How do I sign up?
Contact Pat Swinton, If you’re new to St. Joe’s, she will help you find one Sunday when you can join experienced volunteers.

Connect and Breathe

An unbiased talk-line staffed by people trained to listen to people after an abortion. Volunteers simply listen without judgment and provide other resources in the callers’ area – both religious and non-religious – to connect callers with their decision in an affirming way. Connect & Breathe is a separate 501(c)(3) not for profit organization. It originated as part of the social justice efforts of First Unitarian Church and in 2013 the congregation decided to continue supporting it as an on-going project. To learn more about Connect & Breathe click here. Contact: KaeLyn Rich.

Denominational Projects – UUSC

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee:


Gilbert Spirit Fund

The Gilbert Spirit Fund was created to honor the 32 years of service of Richard and Joyce Gilbert to our church and community.

Richard Gilbert served as Parish Minister of the First Unitarian Church from 1970 to 2002, and Joyce Gilbert, his wife, was very active in the church, especially in the field of music. Both of the Gilberts were deeply involved in the betterment of society beyond the walls of the First Unitarian Church.

The Gilbert Spirit Fund will lend support to programs/projects that reflect the special interests of Richard and/or Joyce Gilbert, giving preference to fresh ventures and new initiatives with existing endeavors. The funded programs/projects will:

  • Contribute to social or economic justice; or
  • Promote art and music as integral parts of a responsible search for meaning in life; or
  • Build or revitalize partnerships that support the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.

Groups receiving funds must be nonpartisan and not-for-profit. Preference may be given to programs/projects that involve the interest and support of a significant number of congregants of the First Unitarian Church.

The goals of the funded programs/projects must be specific, measurable, achievable, and congruent with the interests, commitments, and vision of Joyce and/or Richard Gilbert and with Unitarian Universalist values.

Each organization receiving funding is asked to complete an evaluation report and forward it to the Gilbert Spirit Fund Awards Panel no later than eleven months after receiving funding. If the program/project is not completed within eleven months, an interim report is expected no later than eleven months after receiving funding with the final report due when the program/project is concluded.

Grant recipients are asked to announce receipt of the grant or implementation of the funded program/project through their internal publications as well as appropriate news media. These announcements should indicate prominently the Gilbert Spirit Fund’s participation in providing the funding. Copies of the announcements should be included with the evaluation report documenting completion of the program/project.

The fund was chartered in December 2001 and made its first awards in June 2002.

How To Apply

Organizations receiving funds must be nonpartisan and not-for-profit.

Proposals will be considered if they meet the criteria of the Gilbert Spirit Fund. Specifically, proposed programs/projects must: contribute to social or economic justice; or promote art and music as integral parts of a responsible search for meaning in life; or build or revitalize partnerships that support the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.

Materials required to be submitted:

  1. The completed and signed grant application;
  2. a budget for the organization for the current year;
  3. a budget for the proposed program/project for which funding is sought;
  4. the organization’s financial statement for the preceding year;
  5. the organization’s latest annual report, if one is available; and
  6. a copy of the organization’s 501(c)(3) approval letter.

Each selected organization will receive an evaluation form to be completed and returned eleven months after acceptance of the funds. Copies of announcements, news releases and/or feature articles about the program/project that appear in local newspapers and newsletters should be included with the completed evaluation form.

The recent grants have ranged from $200 to $2500. There is a simple application form to submit. In it you describe the project that you would like to have funded and how it would impact the community.

Please phone or email any of the Gilbert Spirit Fund Grant Team:

Carolyn Dancy, Chairperson 585-381-5369
John Steepy 585-752-6892
Vicki Schwartz 585-223-1718
Jane Tuttle 585-242-8918
Kathy Dear 585-544-6897
Christine Gordon 585-377-9002

The fund was chartered in December 2001 and made its first awards in June 2002.

Amount Recipient Organization Project of Recipient Organization
2015 ($)
2014 ($9,400)
$2000 Rochester Education Fund “Spring for Music Opportunities” To establish a new music fund for providing higher quality instruments to talented students and financial aid for students who cannot otherwise attend local/regional performances, music camps, master classes or competitions.
$2000 Seeking Common Ground “Lots of Food” To establish a new community garden for city residents and provide free perma-culture training.
$1500 Children’s Film Festival To provide free film screenings for children at various branches of Rochester Public Library.
$1400 Interfaith Impact of New York State Foundation To help fund participation in Advocacy Day (May 12) when members gather in Albany to discuss their positions with NYS legislators.
$1000 Boriquen Dance To purchase tickets for 35 students to attend a Garth Fagan Dance performance.
$1000 Greentopia I Film Festival To purchase new equipment needed for screenings at new venues.
$500 Women’s Foundation of Genesee Valley To expand the after-school literacy program for female students in Rochester public schools.
2013 ($8,225)
$1500 Safer Monroe Area Reentry Team (SMART) Work with individuals in reentry from prison/jail and family members. SMART provides housing, treatment, employment, education counseling, and legal counseling.
$1825 Greenovation Strengthen local communities through environmentally conscious initiatives, waste diversion, and education. The focus is on the artistic re-use of materials rather than sending them to landfills.
$2500 Creative Arts Therapy – Veterans Outreach Center Pay for materials and costs associated with the creative arts therapy program and the Our House Gallery. The programs intent is to heal the minds of wounded warriors returning from military service.
$1200 Interfaith Impact of New York State Foundation Help fund participation in the annual advocacy day in Albany. They bring members from around the state to get briefed and then discuss their positions with NYS legislators.
$1200 Gandhi Institute Support their non-violence training project with local schools. This includes communications skills at Wilson Foundation Middle School, U.S. Civil Rights learning experience for 10th graders at five Rochester City secondary schools, communication/interpersonal skills for male students in alternative placement (I’m Ready Program), and mentoring for males at School #19.
2012 ($7,100)
$700 Spiritus Christi Prison Outreach Support for men and women transitioning from incarceration
$765 St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center in partnership with the Regional Community Asthma Network Fill a treatment gap for children with asthma
$2,000 Center for Youth – Strings for Success Provide students in grades 3 – 7 at Charles T. Lunsford School 19 with the study of violin in weekly individual and group lessons
$400 Madrigalia Perform a concert for the incarcerated women at the Albion Women’s Correctional Institute
$500 Interfaith Impact of New York State Foundation Help fund participation in the annual advocacy day in Albany
$735 Rochester Childfirst Network Purchase musical instruments along with relevant books and complementary CD’s
$2,000 Connect and Breathe Produce and distribute 25,000 brochures/business cards and table top displays to 100 new abortion providers and women’s health care facilities
2011 ($6,000)
$1,250 Partners In Restorative Initiatives – Peace Circles Reduce bullying in grades 2-4 at School 44
$1,250 Horizons at The Harley School Summer enrichment program for City of Rochester low-income students K-8
$2,500 Urban Steel Band Support student partnerships with musical mentors in Antigua
$1,000 Friends of School of the Arts Bus travel to visit colleges outside the Rochester area
2010 ($4,700)
$1,000 Generation Two Expand the Program To Another City School
$1,200 NYS Interfaith Impact Support Communications For “Democracy In Action”
$2,500 ArtPeace, Inc. “Peace Through Art and Music” at School Without Walls
2009 ($6,750)
$700 Baber AME Church You Bet I Told
$730 First Unitarian Church Children’s Choir Director’s Salary
$2,000 First Unitarian Church Summer Concert Series
$200 NYS Interfaith Impact Legislative Briefing
$500 School of the Arts Piano Tuning and Repair
$400 Social Justice Committee of GUUSTO Migrant Farmworker Art Project
$1,720 Spiritus Christi Prison Outreach Prison Outreach Program
$500 St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene Richt On School Artist in Residence
2008 ($7,420)
$1,450 Finger Lakes Restorative Justice Center Train Community Leaders
$1,800 First Unitarian Church of Rochester Outdoor Summer Concert Series
$1,450 Metro Justice Education Fund Anti-war Education Efforts
$220 NYS Interfaith Impact Legislative Briefing (3/16/08)
$500 St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene Church Artist in Residence for Right-On School
$2,000 United Church of Bristol Hazel and Leighton Gilbert Scholarship Fund
2007 ($7,300)
$2,000 WXXI Reach Out Radio Sub-carrier Receivers
$2,000 Social Welfare Action Alliance Reality Tours Coordinator
$1,500 Life Now Radio Laptop Computer & Software
$1,300 Rochester Area Interfaith Hospitality Network Diversity Training for Volunteers
$500 NYS Interfaith Impact Interactive Email Service
2006 ($7,000)
$2,000 Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley Unrestricted
$1,200 Alternatives for Battered Women Arts Project for Victims of Violence
$2,500 Center for Disability Rights Arts Scholarship
$1,000 Poor People United Renovations to Residence
$300 NYS Interfaith Impact Legislative Briefing (3/06)
2005 ($6,400)
$3,000 WXXI Reach Out Radio Computer & Software for Blind Operator
$1,500 Prague Partnership Czech Cultural Event
$1,600 Sojourner House Henrietta Hammonds Institute for Life Skills
$300 NYS Interfaith Impact Legislative Briefing (3/20/05)
2004 ($11,600)
$5,000 Horizons Student Enrichment Scholarships
$4,000 Judicial Process Commission AmeriCorps Workers
$2,600 NYS Labor-Religion Coalition 2 UU Youth to Mexico
2003 ($9,500)
$4,500 NYS Interfaith Impact
$3,000 Southeast Ecumenical Ministry CHAPP
$2,000 Regional Center for Independent Living
2002 ($8,000)
$4,000 UU Musician’s Network Children’s Choir at the UUA General Assembly
$4,000 22/UU/CS Partnership Saturday Academy

First Unitarian Grants Panel

An opportunity for local projects to receive funding to promote peace and social justice in the Greater Rochester Area.

Unitarian Universalist values:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of each person;
  • Justice, equality, and compassion in human relations;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

In addition, we declare and affirm our deep commitment to include all people and our special responsibility to encourage the full participation of all in our activities, honoring diversity of race, national origin, disability, gender, affectional or sexual orientation, age and socioeconomic status.

Each year the First Unitarian Church awards grants from each of two funds:

  • Social Justice Outreach Grants
  • The Josephine and Paul Wenger Fund for Peace through International Understanding

Who Is Eligible To Apply?

General criteria for applicants to any of these funds include the following:

  • Groups receiving funds must be local (Greater Rochester area), nonpartisan, and not-for-profit. The applicants for these grants need not be 501(c)(3) corporations, in compliance with the IRS provision allowing for giving small donations to non501(c)(3) entities that support the mission of our church.
  • Proposals from individuals will not be considered.
  • Each proposal must be sponsored by a member of the First Unitarian Church who is knowledgeable about the organization and the requested program/project. A church member may sponsor only one proposal. One copy of the sponsor form should accompany the application.
  • Proposals must be for activities that are specific, measurable, and achievable.
  • The proposed use of funds must be congruent with the Unitarian Universalist values reflected above.
  • Preference may be given to requests for one-time expenditures that advance the goals of the organization or help it launch a new initiative. However, because we are well aware of the funding difficulties currently faced by all organizations, we will consider funding operational or staff costs as well. Repeat requests for operational costs are discouraged.

What Are The Two Funds and Their Criteria?

Social Justice Outreach
Proposals must focus on social service, social education, social witness or social action. Examples of activities funded in the past include expansion of youth programming, purchase or repair of equipment, advocacy services, and conference costs.

The Josephine and Paul Wenger Fund for Peace through International Understanding
Requires that the activity or project promoting peace through international understanding include a program that occurs locally.

What Is The Application and Award Process?

Application Form
Sponsorship Form

  1. Applications are due to Jim Bowman via email by 4:00pm on March 23, 2016. No extension of time for submission will be given. Applications must include the following:
    • The completed Application Form in electronic format (PDF, Word, scanned document, etc.).
    • One copy of your organization’s audited statement (or your next best alternative) for the last fiscal year. Please provide an electronic or scanned copy. If this is not possible, submit a hard copy to the Grants Panel mailbox at the First Unitarian Church, 220 Winton Road South, Rochester NY and notify Jim Bowman in your email.
    • One completed electronic copy of the Church Sponsor Form.
    • Include electronic copies of any additional literature you wish to submit.
  2. Each application is screened to ensure that it is complete and meets the criteria listed above.
  3. Applications are then reviewed by a Grants Panel. This review process may include a ten-minute presentation by a representative of each applicant organization and an opportunity for the panel to ask questions. Each applicant may be contacted to schedule a presentation appointment for the evening of Wednesday, April 13 and Thursday, April 14. Church sponsors are encouraged to attend the presentation or make arrangements for another church member to attend in their place. Applicants are expected to address how their application meets the specific criteria of the fund applied for.
  4. The Panel will present its recommendations to the Social Justice Council, to the Board of Trustees, and to the congregation for a vote at its June meeting.
  5. Letters informing applicants of funding decisions will be sent by out in late June.

What Are the Responsibilities Of Grant Recipients?

  • If for any reason a recipient is unable to use the funding in the way specified in the application, we ask that you notify Jim Bowman at
  • A report evaluating the project and describing how the money was spent must be sent to the Grants Panel by February 10, 2017.
  • If this funding source is acknowledged in any way, it should be identified as:
    • “A Social Justice Outreach Grant of the First Unitarian Church” or
    • “A grant from the First Unitarian Church’s Josephine and Paul Wenger Fund for Peace through International Understanding.”

How Much Is Typically Awarded?

Three awards (2 Social Justice Outreach Grants and 1 Josephine and Paul Wenger Grant for Peace through International Understanding) of approximately $3000 will be made in 2016.