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Archive: SJMT Educ/Lit 2009-2012

Social Justice Theme (2009 - 2012): Education and Literacy

Here are a couple of the past Education and Literacy projects and initiatives:

2011 – 2012

Social Justice Worship Service- On April 22, 2012, First Church had a Social Justice worship service. Education and Literacy volunteers were recognized and thanked, while the new theme, Food Justice, was launched.

Rebuilding Together
Our annual home repair service project -- Rebuilding Together -- was on April 21 and April 28. This year's homeowner was Della Mann, who is a military veteran who needed help maintaining her Germantown home. Our home improvement efforts included painting and minor carpentry.

Lead: Janet Scannell

Cans4Cause - In a joint effort with the Children's Religious Education Program, the Social Justice Ministry Team and First Church is supporting Philabundance, the region's largest hunger relief organization, with our Cans4Cause program. The program will run every Sunday from March 4 through April 8, each week having a different theme, all selected by our children following Philabundance's greatest needs.

  • March 4: SPAMtastic Sunday - SPAM, of course!
  • March 11: PB & J Sunday - Peanut Butter and Jelly (plastic jars only please)
  • March 18: Supper Sunday - Beef Stew, Pasta & Sauce, Beans, etc (plastic jars or cans)
  • March 25: Cereal Sunday - hot and cold
  • March 29: Carnies vs. Veggies Sunday - it's a contest! Who will win?
  • April 1: Comfort Sunday - Mac & Cheese, Canned Pasta, Baked Beans
  • April 8: Easter Can Hunt - bring a can, any can!

Volunteer Librarians
We had a great MLK Day Barcoding Event at the Andrew Jackson School Library! 30 Unitarian Universalists with the help of 16 volunteers from the Federal Reserve Bank worked hard and had fun attaching barcodes and call numbers to 950 books. Amazingly in two hours all labels were attached and the books were shelved! What is even more exciting is that some volunteers have continued volunteering at Andrew Jackson as new Reading Buddies, Computer Technicians and Barcoders.
     Lead: Debby Schultz

2nd Annual Holiday Book Drive

The Social Justice Ministry Team thanks everyone who donated books through the book drive, contributing to a total of over 80 books received. The books have been donated to the Andrew Jackson School's library. Together we have helped promote and support education and literacy in Philadelphia! If you would still like to donate books, please contact Debby Shultz ( or Bijan Makarechi


( The Social Justice Ministry Team and the Andrew Jackson School greatly appreciate First UU's help!

Lead: Debby Schultz

Occupy Philadelphia Donations
If you are interested in supporting the Occupy Philadelphia movement, consider donating some winter necessities to the cause. The Medic tent reports needing cough drops, Advil, Emergen-C, hand sanitizer, as well as wool socks and wool blankets. Join us for a visit to the City Hall encampment on Sunday afternoon (Nov 13) to deliver supplies. Questions? Contact Katy at

Lead: Katy Morris

Rebuilding Together: One Day Repair Rebuilding Together has been adding year-round events to repair homes of low-income Philadelphians. On October 8th Cricket Communications sponsored the repair of seven homes on Orianna Street where our church worked last spring. Volunteers were needed on October 8th to do general carpentry and repairs and to install windows and doors. 

Lead: Janet Scannell

Congregation Begins Education/Literacy Advocacy Discussion at Sunday, September 25th service:  Rev Nate as part of his 9/25 sermon on the challenges of our education system provided an opportunity for Congregants to share their views, concerns and suggestions.  Susan Gobreski, Executive Director of PA Education Voters spoke briefly at the service.  A follow-up session for the congregation to work with Susan Gobreski on some areas of  advocacy is being considered.

     Lead: Rev Nate

School Supplies Drive– For the second 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 a delivery of about 2500 school supply items.   Pretty amazing!  Many THANKS to all who contributed and supported the drive.  A special thanks to Ranwa Hammamy for taking the lead on this project!

Lead: Ranwa Hammamy

2010 – 2011

Philadelphia Reads: Books on Tape Project In 2010, Janice Tosto organized the Books on Tape Task Force as a result of her ongoing positive experience participating the Philadelphia Reads Books on Tape program.  Janice and Rev Nate conducted a spring training session for interested participants.  A fun summer afternoon recording session resulted in the submission of 11 books and recordings to Philadelphia Reads. In 2011, Debby Schultz organized a Books on Tape session in March, which had 8 volunteers! Then in the summer, Ranwa Hammamy became the new lead and scheduled sessions in May/June. We are up to 30 books donated!
     Lead: Ranwa Hammamy

Philadelphia Reading Olympics First Church's Julie Orts was at the Philadelphia Reading Olympics competitions in the beginning of May. This annual event was coordinated by PHILADELPHIA READS, the School District of Philadelphia, the Free Library, the Archdiocese and the City of Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Reading Olympics engages fourth through eighth graders, from Philadelphia’s public, parochial, charter, and independent schools in a collaborative reading competition. One hundred seventy-nine teams of up to 12 students were collectively reading 20 books (15 for middle school students) and practicing working together. The competitions bring the teams together to answer questions about the books.  This friendly competition motivates children to read and consequently develops life-long readers as they learn the skills of cooperation and teamwork. In the end they all win!

Volunteers asked the questions (which were provided) or kept score. There was training at the site on the morning of the event. Refreshments were served and every volunteer received an official 2011 Philadelphia Reading Olympics t-shirt.

All events took place from 8:30 AM to 12 PM.  5/3:  Temple Univ;  5/9: St Joseph's Univ;  5/10: La Salle Univ;  5/11:  Community College of Philadelphia;  5/12: Holy Family Univ;  5/13:  Philadelphia Univ

Opportunity to help Andrew Jackson School In addition to the two featured books of the 2011 One Book/One Philadelphia project, there was a companion book for children - The Good Luck Catby Joy Harjo. A hardback book costed $11 and made a good addition to our donation to the new Andrew Jackson Library. Individuals were encouraged to pick up a calendar for themselves and family of all the events designed to deepen their reading experience. Inspired by Native American Sherman Alexie's poems and stories, many of the events were focused on Native American history and culture, including Philadelphia's residents, the Lenni Lenape.

Lead: Ginny Beier

Social Justice Worship Service– On May 15th, First Church had an Education and Literacy service. This included a Social Justice Moments of Literacy presented by the Principal of the Andrew Jackson School.

Moments of Literacy – In its second year, Literacy Moments were shared in our Sunday worship services in April and May by Scott Youmans and his Task Force. 
  Lead: Scott Youmans

Organizing the Andrew Jackson School's new library A very dedicated group (anywhere between 7 and 17 folks over 4 weeks in March/April) led by Anne Slater has been organizing the school's new library - a huge task.

“Waiting for Superman” Viewing and Discussion –Free event on April 10, 2011 to view and discuss this thought-provoking film on the state of education. Questions to Libby Ball or Janet Scannell for details.

Lead: Janet Scannell

Lobbying for Education Funding Much appreciation to Christine Carlson, Janet Scannell, and Kate Connelly, who went to Harrisburg mid-April to advocate for continued robust funding for our public schools.  Check in with them to learn how you can become involved with this important issue.

Focus on Literacy Forum  -  This forum on April 5, 2011 at 6:30 pm brought representatives from the Mayor's Council on Literacy, the Center for Literacy, Achieveability and Jackson School (where members of First Church have been working as Reading Buddies) and neighboring churches together to learn more and consider collaborations to impact the problem.

Leads: Christian Geisler and Luana Goodwin

Rebuilding Together Philadelphia For the 17th consecutive year, First UU participated in Rebuilding Together. We worked on 4 houses in partnership with Unitarian Society of Germantown and UU Church of Delaware County.  The repair work was done on April 9, 16 and 30th. We identified 'room captains' to preview the jobs and an 'energy captain' to get training on weatherization.
     Lead: Janet Scannell

Reading Buddies One of the very best things you can do to support education and literacy in Philadelphia is also one of the easiest and most rewarding. Become a Reading Buddy to a child in Andrew Jackson School (12th and Federal, served by the #23 bus or the Broad Street subway line). All you have to do is listen to a child read or use the school's coaching materials to strengthen reading/writing skills and prepare for the PSSA tests.  Sharon Tomalin and Debby Schultz have organized a group of 20 volunteers, who regularly go to the Andrew Jackson School to read to the children.  The picture is from the February Dr. Seuss Anniversary celebration.

Holiday Book Drive – The greater First Church community presented 104 books at the opening ceremony of the new Andrew Jackson School Library.  The books were gratefully received by the K – 8th Grade Staff of the Andrew Jackson School, who provided a list of their favorite grade-appropriate book titles.  The titles were captured on ornaments and displayed on a tree in the outer lobby.  Members of the greater First Church community selected an ornament containing a book title, purchased the book, personalized and adhered the bookplate, and dropped the book off in the box in the lobby.  Some members donated cash which was then used to purchase books.  Acknowledgement cards were available to send to relatives, friends or colleagues who were being celebrated and named on bookplates.  This was a fun way to celebrate the holiday and to honor First Church’s commitment to Education/Literacy.

Lead: Debby Schultz

Children's RE Makes Scarves for the Homeless– our Director of Religious Education, and the Religious Education Ministry Team make scarves with our UU children to give to the homeless.

Fall School Supplies Drive – To the absolute delight of the Andrew Jackson K-8 School Staff, members and friends of First Church helped kick off their school year with the delivery of hundreds of school supplies.  Using a list of needed school supplies provided by the principal, members and friends purchased and donated various items.  Significant cash contributions allowed the purchase in bulk of some items. 

Lead: Lisa Handy and Connie Simon



Philadelphia Reads: Books on Tape- On Sunday, March 28, 2010 Janice Tosto shared with members how they can record picture books on a tape or CD and submit their recording along with the book to the Philadelphia Reads’ book bank, where teachers and community workers can access them for their literacy programs. 11 books and recordings were submitted.

Moments of Literacy– Scott Youmans led a Task Force that provided several literacy vignettes during worship throughout the year to raise awareness of literacy issues.

Social Justice Blog– Sharon Tomalin and Ed Greenlee  established a Social Justice Blog on the First Church website.

Tutoring course– Sharon Tomalin created and taught a tutoring course for anyone who was interested in becoming a tutor for children and adults in Philadelphia.

Mad-Lib Sermon with RE children– Rev Nate and Joanna Mongelli created a mad-lib activity with our RE children to raise awareness re literacy issues.

Choir musical message– our wonderful First Church Choir chose a musical message re Education and Literacy to be sung during a service. They chose “ABC” by the Jackson Five.

Literacy Freeze– Several congregation members joined Center for Literacy in their event, Literacy Freeze. This was held on Friday, November 20, 2009 at City Hall.  “Choose a pose and freeze when you hear the horn, and the world will watch."

Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference- First Church members and Rev Nate joined with other UU churches in the Joseph Priestley District to organize and support the June 2010 Trans-Health Conference sponsored by the Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia.  First Church provided the tri-fold which shared the UU values of providing a welcoming faith community for the Trans community.   The experience of supporting the UU table proved to be very enriching and enlightening for all volunteers.  The conference had over 100 attendees of which ate least 50 attendees stopped by the UU table. This was an outreach effort to engage with an underserved and often misunderstood population.  

Education/Literacy Worship Service- Service was held on April 25, 2010 to raise awareness of the Education/Literacy theme and encourage congregants to get involved in social justice projects.





April 22, 2012 - Social Justice Worship Service - introducing the new theme: Food Justice

April 21 & 28, 2012 - Rebuilding Together

March 25, 2012 - Social Justice Theme Proposals Presentations

March 4 through April 8 - each Sunday, a different theme in the Cans4Causeprogram, jointly with CRE

February 5, 2012 - Social Justice Theme Proposal Workshop

January 21, 2012 - Participation in State of the Congregation service

January 16, 2012 MLK Day of Service - bar coding of books at the Andrew Jackson School Library and, jointly with the Unitarian Society of Germantown, participated in 24 different programs for the disadvantaged

November 2011 to January 2012 - 2nd Annual Holiday School Book Drive

December 10, 2011 - Philadelphia Reads Books on Tape: December Recording Session

November 24, 2011 - WinterShelter Thanksgiving Potluck

November 6, 2011 - Film Forum Crash

November 6, 2011 - Emancipation and the Continuing Struggle for Racial Justice (worship service)

October 31 - November 6, 2011 Emancipation & the Continuing Struggle for Racial Justice -
First Unitarian Church is partnering with The Moonstone Arts Center and Historical Society of Pennsylvania to present a week of programs exploring the historical facts of emancipation, the significance of citizen action in stimulating public policy, and the central role of Philadelphia as the southern-most northern city and center of the anti-slavery movement.

October 16, 2011 - Congregational Meeting (Social Justice Focus presentation)

October 9, 2011 - Outfest: Organized by Philly Pride and attended by thousands, it is a block party not to be missed! Dozens of community organizations will be showing support for the LGBTQ community. As a Welcoming Congregation, FirstU will be there to celebrate the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

October 8, 2011 - Rebuilding Together: One Day Repair

October 2, 2011 - Day of Dignity: Islamic Relief and the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia present Day of Dignity in Philadelphia. Help provide food, clothing and medical services to over 500 homeless.

September 25, 2011 - Andrew Jackson School Volunteer Information Session

September 25, 2011 - Is Public Education a Public Responsibility? (worship service)

September 11, 2011 - Teamwork Fair - SJMT will have a table with materials and a sign-up sheet

August 7-28, 2011 - School Supplies Drive for Andrew Jackson School

July 31, 2011 - School Supplies Drive Task Force meeting


May 15, 2011 - Education/Literacy service with a Social Justice Moments of Literacy - Andrew Jackson School (presented by the Principal of the Andrew Jackson School)

May 7, 2011 - Books on Tape session

May 2011 (multiple dates) - Philadelphia Reading Olympics

April 30, 2011 - Rebuilding Together Philadelphia

April 10, 2011 - "Waiting for Superman" movie and discussion after Art Show

April 10, 2011 - Social Justice Moments of Literacy - BuildOn(presented by Carlo Makarechi)

April 9, 16, 30 - Rebuilding Together Philadelphia

April 5, 2011 - Focus on Literacy Forum

March 12, 2011 - Books on Tape session

February 20-27, 2011 – Participation in Harper Furness service and related activities

January 23, 2011 – Participation in State of the Congregation service

December 2010 – Holiday Book Drive

November, 2010 – Children’s REMakes Scarves for the Homeless

October 10, 2010 – Education and Literacy Kick-off session

August 2010 - School Supplies Project


November 22, 2009 – Education/Literacy Brainstorming session 

September 27, 2009 – Social Justice Meeting




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