First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia ~ Welcome home!

Social Justice

The Social Justice Ministry Team (SJMT) is a committee of congregation members committed to help facilitate the congregation in achieving its social justice goal. The goal is to have a coordinated Social Justice Ministry in which:

  • The individual programs offered under the social justice umbrella are part of the whole 
  • We can measure our success and know when we are making a difference in the community
  • The First Church Community as a whole is aware of and engaged in our Social Justice Ministry be it via worship topics, direct work, advocacy and/or education.  

For more information and to get involved contact socialjustice (at)

To read more about our programs and projects click these links or scroll below:

Get Involved

Current Projects

Continuing Social Justice Programs




December 2014 Announcements:

- Participate in the 5th Annual Holiday New Book Drive at First Church (see details below).
- Learn more about the work being done by the Task Force Against Mass Incarceration (see webpage).

Get Involved

If you are interested in Social Justice at First Church, check out our Get Involved webpage.

Current Projects

Holiday New Book Drive - The Social Justice Ministry Team  is organizing the 5th annual Holiday Book Drive, which will run from Nov 30 through Dec 21. The donated books will go to the Andrew Jackson elementary school library and classrooms.  Individuals will select an ornament (or several!) from the tree in the lobby; each ornament will be labeled with a specific book title on the back. Then the donor purchases a new copy of that book, fills out a bookplate and places it in the bin by the tree in the lobby.
    Lead: Amy N.

Achieve Now - The Learning Buddies at Jackson Elementary School (12th and Federal streets) are launching a new reading program called Achieve Now. It is a phonics-based program designed specifically to be used by volunteers. It is a series of scripted lessons requiring no advance reading instruction knowledge on the part of the teacher. The training for administration takes only about an hour. So far the students seem engaged and enthusiastic. If you are available from 10:30 through 11:30 on Wednesday mornings, and are interested in helping city children achieve more, call Sharon Tomalin (215-735-5047) or email Don't delay—the school year is speeding to a close.

    Lead: Sharon Tomalin

Learning Buddies (formerly Reading Buddies) is ready to launch its fourth new school year.  See whether your time and talents fit into their needs:

  • Spanish speakers who will volunteer to teach conversational Spanish once or twice a week to adults and/or children. Class times could be 8:45–9:45 am; 3:15–4:30, and/or 4:30–5:30pm.
  • Spanish speakers to go into class rooms (any day, any time) to translate class instructions, etc. to non-English speakers.
  • Spanish speaking Learning Buddies to assist not-yet-proficient English students with English language reading materials.
  • Additional Learning Buddies to read with and listen to K–2 grade readers. Preferred Wednesdays, 10–11 AM.
  • Additional Learning Buddies to work with 3–8 grade readers to support and develop reading skills (materials and instructions provided by the school). 9:30–11:30 AM Wednesdays and Fridays.
  • Library Assistants who will volunteer on a weekly basis to help support the ongoing operation of the library.

Volunteers are needed at The Andrew Jackson School (12th and Federal and is served by the #23 bus or the Broad Street subway line) and the Greenfield School (22nd and Chestnut). You'll need a child abuse clearance, which entails an easy process and costs $20. See the Social Justice bulletin board for more details, or call or email Sharon Tomalin.

    Lead: Sharon Tomalin

Three Opportunities To Help the Andrew Jackson K-8 School Library
Thinking about daytime volunteer opportunities in the fall? 

  • Ongoing Volunteer Library Assistants are needed.  Library Assistants will work in pairs checking in and out books, helping children locate books and shelving returned books.  Training is provided.  A commitment to work most weeks of the school year is required  Have questions:  How about talking with some of our stellar First Church veteran library volunteers who can give you a first-hand account?
  • Barcoders are needed:  Prefer to have your own schedule for volunteering 2 1/2 -3 hours per week?  Barcoding is for you.  Volunteers are trained to create catalog entries and to print barcodes. The school is open M-F from 8:30 AM to 5 PM.

Please contact Debby Schultz to express interest or ask questions about either of these opportunities.
    Lead: Debby Schultz

  • SJMT is collecting donations of age-appropriate non-fiction books for the library and classrooms at Andrew Jackson Elementary School.

    Lead: Sharon Tomalin

Maps for Andrew Jackson School
Have any world maps kicking around your house or apartment? Lynn Rubin is collecting maps to donate to the Andrew Jackson School. Many come free with magazine subscriptions or even after charitable giving - if you can't use yours, consider donating them to AJ Elementary. Contact Lynn Rubin, or drop of maps on Friday mornings between 10 and noon.

Task Force Against Mass Incarceration:

Tutoring Adults:  The Literacy Project has identified 3 sites for tutoring returning citizens and other adults in literacy and math skills.  For more specific information, go to the web page  If you are interested in joining the tutoring group, please contact Martha Copithorne at 315-751-2124 or or Betsy Wice at 215-864-0612 or .

- Prisoner Visitation, Ruth Crispin has told me of her regular visits with women prisoners at the federal prison on Arch Street, in a program organized by the Quakers. For more information, check out the web site: 
- For more information, resources, and inspiring video clips, check out this UUA web site:  The DVD The House I Live In tells the story of the impact of the war on drugs on our society and is available from Netflix.  Also check out Matt Pillisher's  DVD Broken On All Sides: Race, Mass Incarceration & New Visions for Criminal Justice in the U.S.
- The Sentencing Project has released colorful and compelling graphs and statistics showing incarceration trends nationwide:
- Contact Martha Copithorne ( to get on the email list for future notices
    Lead: Martha Copithorne

UUPLAN involvement - "We are Unitarian Universalists working together in common cause to embrace, articulate, and advocate for all goals of social and environmental justice." For more information, visit: or contact the First U liaison, Ed Greenlee.

    Lead: Ed Greenlee

First U Philabundance Seasonal Volunteer Days (or as frequently as you want to go individually!) -
All of Philabundance’s sorting and packing takes place at the Hunger Relief Center in South Philadelphia. Hundreds of volunteers are needed each week to sort and pack supplemental and emergency food items. We will be signing up for three Saturday mornings to volunteer from 8:30 AM to 12 PM. Volunteers sort and pack food that is distributed through programs and networks to almost 500 food cupboards, emergency kitchens, and shelters. The First U Young Adult Group sorted and packed bread the entire morning we volunteered last year.
- Dates will be forthcoming and throughout the church year; we look to have a max of 10 volunteer slots for the sign up dates. If there is interest of more than 10 individuals, then we may be able to increase to more volunteer slots due to that interest! Review information and FAQ here:

- Contact Renee Di Pietro with any questions or if you want to lead your own volunteer service day!
    Lead: Renee Di Pietro

cyMentor with Mastery Charter Schools Shoemaker Campus - Mentor a student from his/her freshman year to graduation day. It is an amazing opportunity and experience of growth for the students, as well as the mentors. cyMentor is a program at Mastery Charter Schools Shoemaker campus in West Philadelphia. Mentors in the program are a mix of City Year AmeriCorps alumni, business professionals and community members. The program is very similar to the iMentor program in New York City, where most of the engagement is through email (one weekly email back and forth on a topic provided for you) and one monthly meet up with your mentee, organized as an grade level event at the school from 6 to 8 PM. Consider learning more and applying through the link below, or sharing this information and pass it forward to someone who would be a great mentor!
- Please visit to submit a mentor application.
- "There is no such thing as a 'self-made' man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success."  - George Matthew Adams
- Contact Renee Di Pietro with any questions.
    Lead: Renee Di Pietro



Continuing Social Justice Programs

In addition to the Task Force projects above, there are a number of ongoing social justice programs (not connected to the Education and Literacy theme), which have been part of the church’s efforts for many years.


Winter Shelter
Our standard of providing a quality home-cooked meal for the 22 men of  the Winter Shelter continues. These monthly (3rd Fridays) dinners from November until April take place at Trinity Memorial Episcopal Church (22nd and Spruce Sts) as part of The Bethesda Project. It requires a team effort depending on cooking skills and financial abilities to make it happen. Plans may be made to increase our participation for the next Winter season. See sign up sheets in the back of the Church.
     Lead: Ginny Beier

Books Through Bars
Donations of paperback educational, historic and Spanish language books, as well as novels and other non-fiction, are welcome in the bin located in our lobby. Members with cars are encouraged to help transport donated books to the meeting space of this books to prisoners project which meets at the A-Space (4733 Baltimore Ave)  on Tuesday evenings, 7:00 p.m., and first and third Saturdays, 11am-2pm. Visit online for more info at
     Lead: Ginny Beier

Greater Good Site 
Visiting a set of websites can lend support towards important issues without any monetary donation. Go to and click on "Literacy". This click will send free books to children. Additional clicks on the other cites listed will support Hunger, Breast Cancer, Animals, Veterans, Autism, Diabetes and Rainforest. The sponsors of the ads which can be ignored support the causes.

First Church continues its efforts to support the Interdependent Web of all existence which we proclaim in our seventh Principle by Recycling whenever possible. Please deposit your trash responsibly in the correct containers as well as glass and plastics and paper. Also, we reuse covers from the order of service so please place them in the basket in the rear of the church in the provided basket at the usher’s table and not in the trash or the recycling bins. 

New Fair Trade Coffee at Coffee Hour
First U has always supported fair trade coffee we now are promoting a new locally roasted coffee which is also fair trade certified. The current selection for your tasting comes from a cooperative in Honduras which mostly employs women. Philly Fair Trade Roasters is our new coffee supplier. Let us know how you like it! This local company offers a fair trade hot chocolate which we might add to our beverage line up, as well as their decaf coffee. 

Call the church office (215) 563-3980 or check the member directory for contact information.



Here are a couple of the past projects and initiatives:


School Supplies Drive– For the fifth year in a row First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia helped the Andrew Jackson School at 12th and Federal Streets kick off the school year with much needed school supply items.  We raised over $2500 in donations! Amazing! Many THANKS to all who contributed and supported the drive. 




January 18, 2015 - Social Justice worship service

January 19, 2015 - MLK Jr. Day. There are lots of opportunities to participate in service projects!




October 26, 2014 - Social Justice Information Session - we discussed how you can get involved in social justice projects at First Church!

September 14, 2014 - Teamwork Fair - the Social Justice Ministry Team had a table at the Teamwork Fair to provide information on social justice projects at First Church.


If you'd like to learn more about UU social justice efforts on a regional or national level, check out the following websites: 

Social Justice homepage (UUA)

- Social Justice in Unitarian Universalism (UUA)

Social Justice within the Greater Philly Cluster (JPD)


History of the SJMT
2013-2014- Ongoing projects
2012-2013- Food Justice projects and events
2011-2012 - Education/Literacy projects and events
2010-2011 - Education/Literacy projects and events
2009-2010 - Education/Literacy projects and events





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