The members of Thoreau UU feel that community outreach and social justice are high priorities for our congregation. Social action is an important part of living our principles; it also fulfills our goal of being a transformational force in Fort Bend County. We long for a better world and intend to be peacemakers -- to do the work of justice. Together, through our deeds, we spread the word of liberal religion within and beyond Fort Bend County.
On a personal level, we also feel that doing good for others can be a spiritual experience. Because of this, we try to offer a wide variety of outreach opportunities in the hope that every member or visitor will be able to find something that interests and energizes him or her. Our goal has been to help all of us find our own personal mission -- to find our own outreach that can make us feel connected to our community and feel that we are making our corner of the world a better place. We have a number of community programs that we support long term, plus we often hold one-time events to benefit local groups or charities.
The Thoreau Scholarship was started in 2002 as a way to fund low-income students in the local area who are the first in their family to attend college. The scholarship pays for all four years of college at area community colleges and public universities. At any given time we have from 12 to 14 students in local colleges. Our graduates have degrees in fields ranging from engineering, to business, to education.
Thoreau's Prison ministry was started in 2003 as a prisoner correspondence and writing workshop. That program has evolved into a creative writing workshop inside the prison, a program to use prisoners as college writing mentors, and a quarterly creative writing publication "The Midnight Special" that is distributed nationally. The program has received recognition throughout Texas and nationally and the member who started the program has published a book about the prison ministry.
Thoreau is one of the supporting churches for Fort Bend Family Promise, the local chapter of a national project to help homeless families. Local churches take turns "hosting" homeless families several times a year. Family Promise is not a shelter, but rather a counseling and support system that helps families get back on their feet.
In addition to these congregation efforts, during the service every
week we collect food for the Fort Bend Food Pantry. Twice each year, we
participate in Hearts and Hammers, a community effort to repair homes
for the elderly or disabled. We support SEARCH, a Houston project to
help the homeless. We hold toy drives during the holidays. We collect
school supplies and clothing for Fort Bend's low-income children. In
the past we've also sold environmentally-friendly shopping bags and
given away saplings for Earth Day, we've collected items and then sent
care packages to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we've
participated in voter registration drives.