Impacting Our World Beyond Our Walls

by Jen Ciolino

Every Sunday at Heritage UU Church, we gather not just for ourselves but to give back in a meaningful way. We take up an offering, not intended for ourselves, but to be shared with a charitable organization in our broader community.  One of those organizations is Inter Parish Ministries (IPM), an organization dedicated to combating hunger and providing relief to those in need.  In addition to our giving, many of our members and friends regularly volunteer at IPM.

In my professional life, I am fortunate to be able to carry forward the spirit of giving that we cherish at Heritage. At my company, I lead an initiative that to strengthen our engagement in the communities where our employees live.  Through our “ADM Cares” arm, we have been able to provide volunteers, grants, and scholarships to local organizations and schools.  ADM is targeting a number of goals to create sustainable communities including food security and health and well-being.  Well-being goes beyond the health of individuals and extends into healthy communities, where there is economic opportunity for all.

This opportunity allows me to bridge my values as a UU and as part of Heritage with my role at a large organization that has access to resources I wouldn’t have on my own.  As I identified organizations to support through ADM, our Heritage connection to IPM made them a natural choice.  I reached out to Bob Drake, a member of Heritage who is deeply involved with IPM, and he put me in touch with IPM leaders.

This connection resulted in ADM providing a monetary grant to IPM that will provide 30,000 meals to people in need.  We also provided volunteer service; dozens of ADM employees signed up for a packing event where we packed 1,000 “power packs,” ensuring that children in our community would not go hungry over the weekends.  We also packed 50 backpacks for unhoused people, each filled with food, blankets, and personal care items.  Our employees did this over a lunch hour and returned to work inspired by the impact they were able to have with a relatively small investment of their time (and a little bit of sweat).

The breadth of this impact is something I hold dear, as it exemplifies what we can achieve when we bring our full selves to the service of others. The numbers speak loudly—thousands of meals, hundreds of children fed, dozens of lives touched more directly. But beyond the numbers, it’s the shared experience of making a difference that truly resonates.  I am living my life goal of bridging my spiritual self with my professional self, finding ways to impact our world from my UU values.

I know many of our members and friends are deeply engaged in our community beyond our walls.  I want to offer sincere gratitude for that work.  Some of us feel that our personal lives are too busy (because they are!) to extend ourselves further.  I invite you to consider how you might find opportunities to use the platforms already available to you—whether at work, in your community, or in any other aspect of your life—to live out the values that define us as a congregation. Together, we have the power to extend our reach far beyond what we might imagine, creating waves of change that start within the walls of Heritage and ripple out into the world.  Look for those small opportunities to say yes; small efforts combine to be large ones.  Transformation in the world starts with transforming ourselves. It gains momentum when we bring people together, united in our persistence to make a difference.