Sanford U-U Church Responding to Local Needs

by Lee Burnett

The Sanford Unitarian Universalist Church is mobilizing its own resources to fill gaps in Covid relief efforts locally. The church’s Covid Relief Team has been meeting weekly to consider requests for assistance and to learn about unforeseen hardships created by the pandemic. The team is issuing checks from a fund created from church members’ donations.

In responding to requests, the team tries to live up to its principles, explained Rev. Shay McKay. “The church’s first priority, of course, is keeping everyone in our community as safe as possible right now,” said Rev. McKay. “From there, we turn to our Unitarian Universalist values, which call us to honor the inherent worth and dignity of every single person we meet and to respect our interconnectedness with those who society least respects. “By doing what we can to help meet the needs of our Sanford and York County communities, we hope to build resiliency and hope in ways that strengthen all of us.”

To date, recipients have included frontline agencies – such as the Meals on Wheels program and York County Community Action – that have seen growing requests for traditional anti-poverty and meals programs. Local restaurants and Sanford Farmers Market vendors are benefiting from groups that have bought vouchers for clients. Recipients also include organizations dealing with brand new needs, such as:

  • Project CommUnity received funding to buy tents, tarps and social distancing gear so members of the homeless
    community don’t have to share tent space with non-family members.
  • Eastside Youth Center and Sanford School Department received funding to buy lanyards for young students prone to
    losing face masks.
  • Stuff the Bus received funding to buy school supplies. Normally supplies for needy families are financed through a
    community fundraiser, but the fundraiser was canceled this year due to the pandemic.

The team expects to respond to more individual requests in the weeks and months ahead. They are also exploring ways to support people through skill building rather than just immediate relief.

Team members say they are learning more about Covid’s myriad impacts on the community as the weeks pass. “Personally, I need to be more open-minded about how we help people,” said team member Pat Herrick. Team member Diane Whiteside-Peck said she was gratified to provide funds to the Stuff the Bus program that “literally saved her program. “I have learned how isolation has impacted the homeless, seniors, businesses and students in unimaginable ways, and how our funds help fill he cracks these people would have fallen through.”

Team member Lindsay Bellissimo said the creation of the fund has helped combat some of the powerless she felt at the outset of the pandemic, knowing “it was going to have a vast effect on the people and communities we love…We have used our UU principles to support our beloved community through this difficult time. It’s often been the beam of light I needed to remain positive through all this uncertainty and darkness,” she said.

Individuals and agencies seeking assistance must fill out a simple form explaining who will benefit from the assistance and how the need was created by Covid-19. Follow up reporting is required. For more information, contact Pat Herrick at pherrick1@maine.rr.com.