Shining a Ray of Hope on Philly Neighborhoods

RayofHopeEach spring, Main Line Unitarian Church organizes an all-church service event focused on improving the local environment and communities. This year, the congregation teamed up with The Ray of Hope Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing hope to those who cannot afford urgently needed home repairs.

On April 13, two teams from MLUC spent the day in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia, working together with Ray of Hope volunteers and local residents to clean up several lots along Cambria St. in anticipation of upcoming home repairs. Church members of all ages got involved, instilling in our youngest members the importance of giving back and helping others. See the photo album on Facebook.

In addition to working with The Ray of Hope Project for the spring service event, Main Line Unitarian also chose the organization as its Offering Outreach recipient for the month of April. The program directs half of the congregation’s Sunday collection to a different charity or non-profit each month whose values correspond with those of Unitarian Universalism.

The Ray of Hope Project was co-founded by Raymond Gant in 2002 to address one of the many serious needs for Philadelphia communities—the rehabilitation of damaged and unsafe homes. The work of Ray, his contractors, and his volunteers transforms lives and neighborhoods, providing a sense of hope and unity.

Gant and The Ray of Hope Project were recently featured in the book Everyday Heroes: 50 Americans Changing the World One Nonprofit at a Time (Welcome Books, 2012). In it, Gant shares his story, including some tough times and bad choices, and details the reasons he now works for positive change.

Rev. Morgan R. McLean visited Gant to present him with a donation of $1,723. She said, “Ray is a shining example of someone accomplishing great things once they commit themselves to helping others. His work of restoring hope to homeowners and communities is exactly what Philadelphia needs more of.”

To support The Ray of Hope Project, visit www.therayofhopeproject.org/Help.htm

Photo: Rev. Morgan R. McLean, along with MLUC member Bruce Pappas, presents Raymond Gant, President of The Ray of Hope Project, with a donation check in the amount of $1,723. The Ray of Hope Project rehabilitates unsafe homes through a network of contractors and volunteers.

Announcing Interim Senior Minister Evan Keely

EvanKeelyIn August of 2013, the Reverend Evan Keely will begin his service as the Interim Senior Minister at Main Line Unitarian Church. Rev. Keely has previously served Unitarian Universalist Congregations in Massachusetts, Texas, New Jersey, Virginia, and Maryland, five of them as an interim minister. His most recent work was two years as Interim Senior Minister of Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda, Maryland.

Raised on Long Island, New York, in a UU home (his parents remain active at the UU Fellowship of Huntington), Evan is a graduate of Harvard Divinity School and lives in Reston, Virginia with his family. His wife Sarah is a psychotherapist, and they have two elementary-school-aged sons. Evan and Sarah met in the mid-’90s when they were active members of a UU church, the First Parish in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They both take great joy in this liberal faith.

Evan has a bachelor’s degree in Music History from Boston University. He enjoys composing and arranging music and has been known to do some singing. He also describes himself as “an avid (but not very good) chess player.”

MLUC plans to have an Interim Senior Minister from August of 2013 through July of 2015. In accordance with standard practice for UUA congregations (as well as in many other denominations), Rev. Keely’s contract ends in July of 2014; it can be renewed for the second year if Evan and the Board agree that that is in MLUC’s best interests.

You can learn more about Evan on his website, evankeely.net, by following him on Twitter @evanvwk, and by reading his Frequently Asked Questions.

Sober Students at The Bridge Way School

BridgeWaySchoolHigh school just may be the most difficult years of a young person’s life, made even more so when substance abuse and addiction enter the picture. Rather than vilifying this all-too-common occurrence, it is much more productive to support these teenagers in recovery and sobriety, an outlook that has been integrated into an academic setting at The Bridge Way School, Philadelphia’s first recovery high school.

Rebecca Bonner, M.Ed, MUPP, and Head of School at Bridge Way, helped open the nonprofit in September of 2011 after experiencing the pain of substance abuse within her own family and realizing that there were no local schools dedicated to recovery. She works alongside well-trained teachers who are certified in their content area and have knowledge of drug and alcohol prevention and treatment.

Members at Main Line Unitarian Church heard about the important work being done at The Bridge Way School when it was nominated for the church’s Offering Outreach program, which directs half of the congregation’s Sunday collection to a different charitable organization each month. As a result, Rev. Morgan R. McLean recently paid a visit to the school, located in Manayunk, to present a donation check in the amount of $2,336.

McLean said, “The Bridge Way School is an amazing example of what can be achieved when passionate and caring individuals face a challenge head-on. The students here are blessed to have such a supportive and knowledgeable community around them as they build lives of sobriety and academic success.”

Studies show that 80 percent of youth who return to their previous high schools after substance abuse treatment relapse within the first year, so organizations like The Bridge Way School are crucial for students trying to make a fresh start. In addition to developing tools and strategies to stay sober, students engage in rigorous academics and community service opportunities.

Bonner said upon receiving the donation, “We are still a very new nonprofit, and the contribution made through the Offering Outreach program at Main Line Unitarian Church is significant to us. The funds went straight to helping defray tuition expenses for one of our students on scholarship, and a portion of it was earmarked for our music program. Our music teacher was able to purchase three drums to use for drum circles. Thank you so very much for the contribution.”

This type of collaboration is exactly what Unitarian Universalists believe in: working with compassionate and justice-oriented groups to promote personal and spiritual growth in all aspects of life.

To support The Bridge Way School, visit www.thebridgewayschool.org/giving/donate.