We have had an amazing year of sharing, giving, and supporting at Cincinnati Friends Meeting. The giving for projects, drives, and events has been generous and filled with heartfelt care and love, thanks to all our members, attenders, and volunteers. Those we have been honored to serve must surely feel the sincere love and care we have for them.
While it is so important to support our Meeting’s annual budget, perhaps there is no better time than the holidays to remind ourselves of what we give beyond the budget, especially in community outreach through our Peace and Social Concerns Committee. What a busy year for us!
In October, our Committee hosted Voices for Valeria, a community outreach candlelight vigil that brought us together to speak, sing, and pray for social justice for the separated families and children at the center of our country’s immigration crisis. During our event, we asked for a social justice offering, and that call was answered generously. That offering, along with some additional Peace and Social Concerns funds, have been given to the Ubry-Terrell family of Wilmington Yearly Meeting as they adopt three young brothers from an orphanage in Mexico. Truly life-changing!
We spent much of the year filling our jars with coins (and paper money as well) in support of Wilmington Yearly Meeting’s commitment to provide funds to rebuild and give new life to a building in Puerto Padre, Cuba that had originally been a Quaker school. With Barb Napier leading the local effort, we joined with other Meetings not only for the coin collection, but also for yard sales and other activities, coming together with a goal to raise $12,000 throughout the Yearly Meeting. Working together, we raised more than $30,000, and the construction is complete. See what we have built by working in community!
The old school in Puerto Padre before reconstruction
The reconstruction that turned the old school into a community center that is now being used by Cuba Friends Meeting and local residents
We continue to support our two ongoing ministries that are under the care of Cathy Barney and the Ebner family, Artsy Fartsy and the Eco-Garden. How grateful we are that the Peace and Social Concerns Committee could give funds to Artsy Fartsy so that all of "Cathy’s kids" received sweatshirts with the Artsy Fartsy logo on them, a great way to build connections within their group.
We answered the call as part of the Sanctuary Movement when the request came for support for immigrants who were passing through Cincinnati. Together we donated more than $1,100 in gift cards to the Cincinnati Immigrant Transit Assistance and Welcome Alliance, an underground assistance and volunteer group. Our cards, along with other donations from the community, provided food, water, diapers, and more necessities.
We have also been collecting gift cards for Bethany House to provide holiday gifts for teens and women. Through the Peace and Social Concerns Committee, our Meeting supports Bethany House on a regular basis, including our collections of cleaning supplies two times each year that help families when they are moving into new homes. Bethany House is a shelter for displaced and homeless women and children.
We continued our long-standing support of Tender Mercies, a shelter serving people with mental illness. Our volunteers provide food and also go to Tender Mercies to serve dinner and spend time with those in the shelter.
The plastic bins that sit on a bench in the foyer most of the time are reminders to us that the Cincinnati area has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, which means more people needing food. Together we have filled those bins to overflowing with our donations. For so long we watched as the bins filled and our wonderful Allen and Sharon Riley delivered the food to the Free Store. That giving of their time was a source of joy for them. Our memories of Allen will most surely always include his many trips to the Free Store. Jim and I now have that blessing of delivering our donations, knowing that someone has something to eat because of our Meeting.
It was a joy to have enough funds in our Peace and Social Concerns Committee budget this year to provide some funds beyond our allocated amount to the American Friends Service Committee and Friends Committee on National Legislation, as well as some additional funds to the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center of Cincinnati.
Through each of these actions, we have lived our Quaker testimonies throughout 2019. We would most likely be amazed at just how much each of us has given monetarily beyond what appears in our annual budget, if we counted all these things up. Yet the members of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee know that is not the accounting in dollars that motivates us to plan events, to organize holiday drives, to collect those cans of food and take those meals down to a shelter, to buy sweatshirts for young people we don’t know, to support hope and a new beginning for three little boys from a Mexican orphanage, and to remember one little girl named Valeria whose life changed us. We do these things so that those who feel forgotten or neglected can instead feel accepted and loved.
Our Committee is filled with gratitude to each member and attender who has been beside us this year and who will be with us as we work together in community in 2020. Tidings of comfort and joy!