Each year for our auction, we have a Raise the Paddle segment to raise money for a particular project or need in the congregation. The priority project has typically been identified by the board. Some examples in the past are the redesign of the admin office and the redesign of the nursery. In the last few years, we have focused these funds on bolstering our operating budget. However, with the careful planning of last year’s board and the forethought of our treasurer – Shelley – and the finance committee, we are fortunate to be able to highlight a special project again!
This year, the board began talking about our Raise the Paddle priority in November, around the time we were celebrating the completion of our long-awaited lift. Initially, our lift committee – Patti McCall, Judi Finney, and Mark Olsoe – had been budgeting for other accessibility elements along with the lift, including an automatic door to enter the social hall, and a ramp for chancel access. However, our funds weren’t able to stretch far enough at that time to cover the door or the chancel ramp.
You can imagine that when the board started brainstorming ideas, these two access priorities that had already had some thought behind them, rose quickly to the surface. Then we applied the Equity Decision Making Tool recently developed by the Racial Justice Change Team, to fully consider this decision. The questions from the equity tool helped us to see that there are other access challenges people are experiencing in our congregational life that need to be considered, and that the people most impacted by those challenges might prioritize projects differently than our board would. For example, we learned through conversations with congregants, that our sound system and auditory supports are not working well to allow people with auditory challenges to hear our services.
So — the board has landed with a deep commitment to adopting an overarching focus for our Raise the Paddle this year – the umbrella of ACCESSIBILITY. We would like to go further with this process of learning more about the challenges community members have in accessing our congregational life; we would like to hear what the priorities are from the people most impacted by this decision. We would like to discern a prioritized list of key projects that will make a significant difference for people in this congregation, and we want to establish a line item in the budget for ongoing improvements in this area, rather than a “one and done” project. Others have held this vision also, including our lift team. We are glad to be more inclusive, aware, and systemic in approaching this important priority. And we hope you will choose to join us in these efforts with your contributions to Raise the Paddle this year, for our ACCESSIBILITY fund, which will launch us into our first project this spring!
To contribute to this fund at any time, you can send a check or put a check or envelope in the offering any Sunday, with a reference to ACCESSIBILITY. If you prefer to make an online donation we have a giving account set up for Accessibility on our secure online giving page of our website.
We look forward to seeing many of you at the auction! No doubt, the power of coming together for this goal will improve the access to our congregational life for many people!