Frequently Asked Questions…
What is the Mission/Vision of the In the Neighborhood Initiative?
The mission of the ITNI is “to become ‘one neighborhood’ by embracing the beauty, diversity and unique strengths and challenges within our collective neighborhood through the talents, knowledge, and experience of all neighbors. Together, in partnership with one another, we empower and equip our community with opportunities for education, economic stability and spiritual wellbeing.”
Who is our “neighbor”?
When we began the ITNI, we started by identifying an area that we thought best fit the immediate vicinity of the church, while also making sure we incorporated our existing connections with the families of University Hills Elementary School and students/faculty of New Mexico State University. That is when we were presented with some statistical information based on the geographical area shown below.
[NM Small Area 52; UNM Geospatial and Population Studies (GPS) Program, 2018]
Based on this map we began to structure what the “neighborhood” of University UMC looks like. We realize that a majority of the current congregation who attends and are members of University UMC do not live within these boundaries. That is why we also recognize the reality that when we speak of neighbors we do so in a manner that is inclusive of all God’s children. Therefore, as we focus our attention on the needs and desires of the people and families located immediately around us, no one will ever be excluded from the table who wants to be a part of God’s kingdom.
Why are we limiting the focus of this initiative to the physical neighborhood around UUMC?
The “In the Neighborhood” Initiative was born out of a matching grant offer from a long time member of UUMC and prominent family in the community, the Carruthers family. As part of that agreement, the family felt that actions initiated locally would eventually have a ripple effect that will ultimately reach far outside of the immediate UUMC physical neighborhood. Even now, the task force is considering programs and approaches that could potentially be duplicated and implemented in other neighborhoods and locations.
The passion of the Carruthers family is to encourage home grown initiatives. Governor Carruthers and his wife both came from humble beginnings, but through programs offered locally, they were able to attend college and embark on careers which have positively impacted many citizens in New Mexico and the United States. Thus, their wish to focus the efforts of the In the Neighborhood Initiative close to home are envisioned as bearing fruit that will enrich lives far beyond the physical boundaries identified by the task force.
What is the difference between charity and partnership?
First, both are helpful, both are necessary, and both are Biblical. Our common understanding of charity is to give something to someone in need. Charity can often be an effective way to assist with a short-term problem, an emergency situation, or help with a specific need. However, charity is not usually an effective solution when someone is caught in an ongoing crisis situation – for example, being un- or under-employed, dealing with an abusive situation, or grappling with the logistics and long-term impact of surviving a pandemic.
Partnerships take a slightly different approach and invite the person in need to be part of the solution. Partnerships acknowledge that the person in need has the better understanding of the problem, and of what is most needed to remedy the situation. In partnerships, both parties are equally respected as part of the solution. In addition to providing assistance, partnerships strive to restore dignity and instill self-sufficiency.
UUMC has a long and rich history of generosity, often shown through tremendous acts of charity toward others. We operate a food pantry for people who are experiencing food insecurity. We offer scholarships to our pre-school for people who need assistance with childcare while they are at work. And we stand willing to provide whatever help we can to folks when various emergencies occur.
One of the goals of the In the Neighborhood Initiative is to extend UUMC’s strong heritage of charity into developing partnerships. This is captured in part of the mission statement, “Together, in partnership with one another, we empower and equip our community with opportunities for education, economic stability and spiritual wellbeing.” We believe by partnering with our neighbors we can begin to alleviate long-term situations that often result in the need for ongoing charitable assistance. When we partner with our neighbors, we all flourish; and then those who have received assistance are equipped and invested in extending the same assistance to others.
There is an adage, originally credited to Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie, which states, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” By implementing the In The Neighborhood Initiative, our hope is to teach others to fish.
Can I still give donate towards the In the Neighborhood Initiative?
The short answer is yes! A permanent endowment was established from the initial funds raised, so that the church can continue to add to the principal and thus help to increase the expected earnings. Because we only use a portion of the gains earned from this investment fund to help fund the efforts we are envisioning, we can assure you that every little bit helps. Please know that if you do choose to donate further to this fund, you simply need to designate that donation on your offering envelope or on your online contribution.
Who is serving on the taskforce for the neighborhood?
The ITNI Taskforce is composed of UUMC members, community partners, and hopefully soon several individuals from the neighborhood. It is our hope that all those on this taskforce will use their knowledge, experience and expertise to provide guidance to the church in identifying actions, projects and specific initiatives that will advance the mission of the ITNI. To find out more about each of the ITNI taskforce members and the role that they play, head over to the taskforce page.
How can I stay informed about the In The Neighborhood Initiative (ITNI)?
Read the excerpts posted in the church Bulletin every week, or listen to them during services – they will be read during both online and in-person services each week. You can also visit the ITNI website, or go to the church website any time, and scroll down to the In the Neighborhood Initiative section. There you will find buttons you can click to learn more about the initiative and to meet the task force members.
As always, you may also reach out to the committee co-chairs. Shelly Stovall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; Carol Owensby can be reached at email@example.com.