2015 Social Justice Award Winners’ Citations

2015 Gala Carmelita Carter-Sykes2015 Beloved Community Award
Carmelita Carter-Sykes, Paint Branch UU Church

Coordinator Carmelita Carter-Sykes (left) and all members of the Community Learning Center at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church are recognized for their work in providing ongoing English As A Second Language classes to adult learners in their neighboring community. Each member of the CLC has worked to promote relationships that support our UU principles.



2015 Gala Eric Goplerud2015 Collaboration Award
Eric Goplerud, UU Congregation of Fairfax

Eric Goplerud (center) is recognized for his work with other UUs, Green Leaders of other faiths and non-faith organizations in the greater Washington area to witness to the moral and spiritual concerns of global climate disruption. His establishment of the Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions and his successful collaboration has led to broad, increased awareness and understanding of climate issues.



2015 Gala Accotink UU SJ Team2015 Congregational Social Justice Program Award
Social Justice Committee, Accotink UU Church

The Accotink Social Justice Committee is recognized for its ongoing, multi-faceted social justice program, leading the congregation to an outward focus of more than 20 programs which help those in need. They work in the local community, supporting disabled, disadvantaged, low-income, and at-risk populations, promoting peace, and advocating justice for all.



2015 Gala Walter Ellis2015 Emerging Leader Award
Walter Ellis, Cedar Lane UU Church

At the 2015 General Assembly, Walt Ellis (right) used his leadership skills to work with the GA Youth Caucus to propose an Action of Immediate Witness, supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. When the wording of the resolution ran into trouble, Walt found a way through the impasse by interacting with the UU Moderator and crafting wording that secured the passage of the AIW.




2015 Gala Kerridwen Henry2015 Emerging Leader Award
Kerridwen Henry, UU Congregation of Columbia

Kerridwen Henry (center) is recognized for her work with “Black Lives Matter” in her congregation and community. She leads in remembering those that suffer and ensuring that we all recognize that discrimination and prejudice exist. Kerridwen has been serving as our voice, encouraging us to pay attention to the world around us and to speak aloud against injustice.



2015 Gala Natalie Pien2015 Environmental Award
Natalie Pien, UU Church of Loudoun

Natalie Pien (left) has provided inspirational leadership in manifesting the UU 7th Principle: Respect for the Interdependent Web of All Existence. As Chair of the UUCL Green Team, Natalie has brought forward a broad array of changes, covering reducing waste, pest management, energy management and green space, that have helped the congregation and its members become better stewards of the environment.


2015 Gala Gene MulliganGene Mulligan, UU Church of Arlington
2015 Lifetime Achievement Award

Gene Mulligan (left) has been a leader for our faith for almost 60 years, serving in many roles in his own congregation and with the wider UU and interfaith community. He matched his skills and influence with his passion for social justice—working for civil rights locally and for human rights beyond our borders. His example has influenced generations of children and youth.



2015 Gala Doris Marlin and ALC Team2015 Special Recognition Award
Doris Marlin (second from right) and the Act for a Livable Climate Team

The Act for a Livable Climate Action of Immediate Witness organizing team members, under the leadership of Doris Marlin, are recognized for securing the passage of an AIW at the 2015 General Assembly. Doris led the team that drafted the AIW, marshaled a clipboard team that garnered supporting signatures, and delivered a convincing message to delegates. The result is an AIW that supports climate action nationwide.



2013 Social Justice Award Winners’ Citations

Helen Lounsbury Jerry Konohia2013 Affordable Housing Award

Helen Lounsbury,  Mount Vernon Unitarian Church

 Helen Lounsbury is recognized for her dedication to homeless persons. She brings hope back into their lives with the contributions to the VIC-HOP program on the Richmond Highway corridor and the placement of 20 chronic homeless in permanent homes starting in the fall of 2013. Helen is tireless and energeticin running the program, generating support and mobilizing volunteers.

2013 Collaborative Social Justice Award

Rev. Kate Walker, Lisa GillipsieLisa Gillispie, Mount Vernon Unitarian  Church

Lisa Gillispie is recognized for her partner church work in Romania and India, with UUPCC in our area, and other churches in Northern Virginia. Her successful collaboration on numerous programs impacted disadvantaged populations in two countries, and enhanced awareness among American UUs about conditions in other nations. Her work has eliminated cultural barriers and
helped create lasting partnerships.

Rich Dean2013 Economic Justice Award

 Rich Dean, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia

Rich Dean is recognized for effective and dedicated leadership in overcoming educational disadvantages.  Nine years ago, he inspired his congregation to create a high quality, affordable, nonprofit childcare center to serve their diverse Owen Brown neighborhood. In addition to the accredited Cradlerock Children’s Center, Rich developed the unique and successful Preschool and English Immersion Program for Children of Recent Immigrants, providing critical skills and scholarships.

Rev cathy Rion Starr Paula Cole Jones James Ploeser2013 Emerging Leader Award

 James Ploeser, All Souls Church, Unitarian

James Ploeser is recognized for his initiative and leadership of a highly successful town hall meeting with 250 attendees at All Souls Church on August 28, 2013. The forum, a kick-off for the JPD social justice signature project on mass incarceration, may be a prototype that can be replicated to help other UU congregations build multiracial community partnerships and  collaborate on social change.

Arlington immigration award2013 Immigration Award

accepted by Marilyn Baker and Amy Grenier on behalf of
the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington is recognized for its comprehensive and collaborative educational, service, and advocacy activities on behalf of immigration reform. The congregation has been changed by ongoing service to its neighboring Buckingham community, financial support for partners in Guatemala, advocacy on state and  federal legislation, and education and witness through classes, films, and detention center visits.

alsmeyerj_131020_58882013 Innovative Social Justice Program

Annette Scarpitta, Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church

Annette Scarpitta is recognized for her years of initiation, devotion, and creativity in addressing global human needs. She worked with seventh graders to find a personal connection to an international need, based on UU principles, to provide aid and empowerment for marginalized people.  She inspired the Cedar Lane Congo Kids program that enables 150 formerly stigmatized children to gain education and social acceptance.

Paula Cole Jones and Rev. John Crestwell22013 Journey Toward Wholeness Award

 Rev. Fred Muir, Rev. John Crestwell, and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis

 Rev. Fred Muir and Rev. John Crestwell are recognized for more than a decade of dedication to antiracism work leading the UU Church of Annapolis into a multicultural future.  Annapolis was not only a Breakthrough Congregation in 2006, but also is now breaking through cultural and theological barriers with new, contemporary worship, AWAKE Ministries.   Annapolis is acknowledged for the transformation process that is underway.

Lavona Grow and Elizabeth Fogarty2013 LGBTQ Award

Elizabeth Fogarty,  Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington

 Elizabeth Fogarty is recognized for her collaboration, dedication, leadership and perseverance in LGBTQ rights. She inspired the UU Church of Arlington to increase its support of LGBTQ rights and increase the personal support the church provides to families and LGBTQ youth. She worked with Northern Virginia Network of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia. With UUSJ, she provided meaningful outreach through a coordinated UU presence at the Pride March.

Lavona Grow and Don Chery

2013 Lifetime Achievement Award

 Don Chery, River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation

 Don Chery is recognized for thirty years of successful work on behalf of human rights. He has shown Unitarian Universalists the way to challenge and change the whole immigration reform movement regionally, nationally and internationally. We salute and honor his quiet perseverance, compassion for others, and continuous commitment to living UU principles.

First Unitarian SAC2013 Mid-Sized Congregation Social Justice Program Award

First Unitarian Social Action Clearinghouse  Baltimore

The Social Action Clearinghouse is recognized for promoting social justice in Baltimore through helping students from William Paca Elementary School believe they can realize their dreams, its Homeless Neighbors Outreach Project, support for ex-offenders, public policy advocacy and organizing church-wide support for numerous organizations addressing homelessness and poverty in the city.

Lavona Grow and Rev. Lynn Strauss2013 Minister’s Award

 Rev. Lynn Strauss, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Rockville

Rev. Lynn Strauss is recognized for pastoral, prophetic and decisive leadership of the UU Congregation of Rockville and the broader Montgomery County community in confronting violence and replacing brokenness with a commitment to build beloved community.  With the new Faith Community Working Group there is an emerging vision for healing and hope in the County.

2012 Social Justice Award Winners’ Citations

2012 Collaborative Social Justice Award
Social Justice Committee
Accotink UU Church

The Social Justice Committee is being recognized for outstanding collaboration with several faith-based and non-religious organizations. They developed and conducted a comprehensive program of homelessness-related activities including education, outreach, and positive action. As a result of significant partnerships, Accotink’s successful, first-time experience hosting a Hypothermia Shelter benefited the homeless men and women served as well as the congregation.


2012 Minister’s Award
Rev. Carlton E Smith
UU Church of Arlington

Rev. Carlton Elliott Smith has worked passionately and diligently to foster better insight and advocacy on behalf of immigrant justice. He is recognized for personal action including the DREAMers worship service, visiting a detention center, initiating book readings and a film series, demonstrating solidarity with immigrant advocate groups, meeting with legislators, and hosting a UUA RadioBlog, Journey Toward Phoenix.

2012 Innovative Social Justice Program
Jennifer Langer Smith
Interfaith Youth for Climate Justice Program and All Souls Church, UnitarianJennifer Langer Smith is the founder and Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth for Climate Justice (IYCJ). While climate justice is IYCJ’s social issue, the program is recognized for its unique integration of interfaith dialogue, environmental education, and action for social justice. IYCJ is an innovative approach to youth empowerment and building multicultural, interfaith community.
It is a model worth emulating.



2012 Journey Toward Wholeness Award
Group Award – CLARITY
Cedar Lane

CLARITY is recognized for steadfast efforts to raise awareness of the continued existence of racism in our society. The “Tree of Life” Coffee Houses provided a place to share music, poetry, and other forms of expression on the topics of freedom and diversity. The film discussion series and workshops created opportunities for the congregation to embrace a diversity of cultures, races, ethnicities, and religious backgrounds.



2012 Journey Toward Wholeness Award
Individual Award – Kathy Harris
Joseph Priestly District and the UU Congregation of Columbia

Kathy Harris is recognized for her leadership and commitment to the Journey Toward Wholeness Transformation Team in the JPD. Her work as JTW Communications Director was vital to strengthening the work of racial justice and inclusion in our congregations. With her husband, Kathy initiated A Dialogue on Race & Ethnicity at Columbia and influenced its leaders to get involved in antiracism work.



2012 Economic Justice Award
Terry Steichen and Adam Wasserman
UU Congregation of Fairfax

Terry Steichen, initiator of the UUCF Social Inequality Project, and Adam Wasserman, initiator of the UUCF 99 Searchers, are recognized for their ongoing programs and outreach efforts increasing awareness of income inequality and the effects of special interest political influence on income inequality. Their work in planning and presenting the February UUSJ Program is also recognized.



2012 Emerging Leader Award
Adriana Brigatti
UU Congregation of Rockville

Adriana Brigatti is recognized for initiating and leading a UUCR team to serve as the focus for immigrant issues providing opportunities for education, witness and service and for partnering with Action in Montgomery (AIM) and other Unitarian Universalists to advocate for immigrant justice and for immigrant youth state-wide.




2012 Affordable Housing Award
Michael Burski
Cedar Lane
Michael Burski is recognized for his five years of inspiring and leading Cedar Lane’s work with Rebuilding Together in Montgomery County and New Orleans. Mike’s deep commitment and avid enthusiasm enable him to engage like-minded volunteers. Together they repair and improve the residences of low income and elderly homeowners to assure they are safe, warm and dry.


2012 Special Recognition Award
Lisa Firth-Johnson
Bull RunLisa Firth-Johnson is recognized for her passion and expertise as an immigration attorney. She brings this passion to the UUSJ Immigration Oversight Group and to UUs in the National Capital Region. Her excellent presentations at three Immigration Programs and an immigration program at the Joseph Priestly District Assembly can only inspire compassionate action to ensure that human rights are respected and protected.

 2011 Social Justice Awards Citations

Affordable Housing Award

UU Congregation of Fairfax

Affordable Housing Task Force Rev. Mary Katherine Morn, Renee Jakobs, Jerry Konohia The Task Force made up of four committees, is recognized for an ongoing, innovative,  comprehensive program of direct service, education, advocacy and fund-raising activities.  Their model, providing multiple affordable housing related opportunities under one task force, gives the maximum number of members opportunities to provide immediate help and to increase the supply of affordable housing opportunities long-term.

Collaborative Social Justice Program Award

Cedar Lane UU Church

Action in Montgomery OrganizersCedar Lane AIM Team

Nancy Janssen, Alexander Shaw, Helen Strang and Deborah Trent are recognized for their effective leadership in Cedar Lane’s 10 years collaboration with Action In Montgomery.  AIM is a multi-faith and multi-racial community organization that uses the power of organized people to achieve changes including all day kindergarten, affordable housing in Montgomery County and the MD Dream Act in the state.


 GLBTQ Award

Stephen Colgan, Marge DimondCedar Lane UU Church

                                                                                                                                                          Stephen Colgan and Marge Dimond

Stephen Colgan and Marge Dimond are recognized for their six years of inspiring leadership at Cedar Lane by engaging members in providing support, education and advocacy for and about LGBTQ people. Highlights of accomplishments are: 2008 UUA certification, “Living the Welcoming Congregation”; organizing a film and discussion series and a bus for area congregations annually for Lobby Day; and leading efforts regionally through UUSJ.

Immigration Award

Accotink UU Church

Social Justice CommitteeRev. Scott Sammler-Michael, Claire Brown, Jerry Konohia

The Committee is being recognized for developing and conducting a comprehensive program of immigration-related activities including education, outreach, and positive action, that offers a model for other UU churches and positions the congregation to play a meaningful role in future action on immigration issues, particularly at the local and state level.

Mid-Sized Congregation Social Justice Program Award

Mount Vernon Unitarian Church

Social Justice Program
Georgetta Pourchot, Rev. Kate Walker, Jerry Konohia

The Social Justice Program leaders are recognized for church-wide efforts in social, economic and environmental justice for the past decade. Their outstanding work includes: advocacy to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, installing Solar Geothermal technology, Route 1 and Green Sanctuary Task Forces collaboration, Partner Church work in two countries, and collaborative work with other organizations such as universities, local, state and federal agencies.




2010 Social Justice Award Winners

Linda Collyer

Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church

2010 UU Interfaith Advisory Committee Affordable Housing Award
and UUs for Social Justice Honor Award

For seventeen years, Linda Collyer has provided leadership, pro bono accounting and wise counsel in support of social justice. In recognition of constancy and commitment to the UU Affordable Housing Corporation and the Washington Area Housing Trust Fund, which merged to become the OpenDoor Housing Fund, and to the Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice. This award is in appreciation for being invaluable to our success.

Montgomery Health Care ACTION

River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation

2010 Collaborative Program Award

Since 2002, team members have worked tirelessly and collaboratively with local, state and national organizations to achieve affordable, high quality, accessible health care for all. This award is in appreciation for efforts that contributed to access to health care for thousands of children, uninsured young adults and those with “pre-existing” conditions.

Reverend Scott Sammler-Michael

Accotink Unitarian Universalist Church

2010 Social Justice Minister’s Award

Reverend Sammler-Michael has led the congregation into more active involvement in social justice efforts, including participation in numerous interfaith and public-private collaborative efforts. This is in appreciation for personal action including TUUL-Belt Ministries, VOICE, Crop Hunger Walk, a JPD Anti-Racism Conference, Senior Center Without Walls, and Friday Night Films.

Diversity Anti-Racism Transformation Team

Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church

2010 Journey Toward Wholeness Award

For three years you have worked to transform yourselves, your congregation, your neighborhood, your district and the world through monthly diversity dialogues, newsletter articles, periodic worship services, covenant groups, film and book discussions. This award is in appreciation for being a model in raising congregational awareness and for outreach to the larger community.

Carel Hedlund

Towson Unitarian Universalist Church

2010 Environmental Justice Award

Carel Hedlund has proven to be a champion for the environment. The congregation recently received a $5000 national prize for the most reduction in energy use. This is in appreciation for Carel’s leadership and example through which members are aware of the need to consider the effect on the environment in all they do, from energy use to ethical eating to justice for growers and farmers.

Michele and Jeff Kuhn

Washington Ethical Society

2010 Lay Leaders Award

For a decade, Michele and Jeff Kuhn have promoted and coordinated the participation of volunteers to provide and serve home-cooked meals every month to residents of Luther Place Memorial Church Shelter in Washington, DC. This is in appreciation for ensuring that volunteers understand the needs of the residents for good nutrition, kindness, respect, friendship, and encouragement.

Rainbow Youth Alliance

Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockville

2010 Innovative Social Justice Program Award

The Rainbow Youth Alliance provides the youth of Montgomery County a safe, welcoming place for those who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Tansgendered, Queer, Questioning or Intersexed. This is in appreciation for the co-founders and principal organizers who originated, developed and maintain this unique program so that youth can learn, ask questions, and find mutual support.



The 2009 Winners Are:

Larry Platt

                                                                                                   K & L Gates

UU interfaith Affordable Housing Award                                                                                                                      

Larry Platt of K&L Gates is honored for 20 years of leadership, pro bono legal advice and wise counsel in support of affordable housing. He has demonstrated commitment and constancy to the UU Affordable Housing Corporation, OpenDoor Housing Fund and the Montgomery Housing Partnership and their leaders. His efforts saved the organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars and were invaluable to their success.


Children in the Fields Committee

River Road UU Congregation

UUSJ Collaborative Program Award

The Children in the Fields Committee is recognized for efforts over nine years to protect vulnerable children of migrant farm workers. The committee is honored for drawing on four congregational task forces, partnering with knowledgeable NGOs, advocating action to other congregations, taking direct action and preparing an Action of Immediate Witness at the 2007 UUA General Assembly.


Joan Darrah

Mount Vernon Unitarian Church


Joan Darrah is recognized for her campaign to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. She is honored for her powerful momentum to repeal this unjust law including sponsoring an Action of Immediate Witness at the 2007 UUA General Assembly, conducting workshops, testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, and appearing on national radio and TV programs.


John and Chris Sutton

UU Church of Arlington

UUSJ Giraffe Award

Through their example and ongoing investment of time and energy, John and Chris Sutton have led their congregation on a journey that supports UU principles, particularly the commitment to honor the worth and dignity of every individual and to affirm and promote peace, liberty and justice for all. They are honored for their energetic, creative, and highly effective work supporting human rights monitoring and advocacy in Guatemala and building bridges of alliance with new immigrants in the nearby Buckingham neighborhood.



Ending Global Poverty Task Force

UU Congregation of Fairfax

UUSJ Economic Justice Award

Economic poverty transcends national boundaries. As long as two-thirds of the world’s population lives on less than a dollar a day, all of us will experience unnecessary spiritual poverty. Ending Global Poverty Task Force members are recognized for enriching all our lives. They planned and executed a spectacular fund raising campaign raising over $30,000 for the education of children in refugee camps in Uganda.


YRUU Class of 2009

UU Congregation of Columbia

UUSJ Youth Award

The Young Religious Unitarian Universalists are recognized for their service work both within and far beyond their community, and their efforts to institutionalize youth social action trips in their congregation. They are honored for the lasting impact on those they have aided in New Orleans, Appalachia, and New York City as well as the congregation itself and its local community.

The 2008 Gala Winners Were

UUSJ Minister’s Award: Rev Phyllis Hubbell Paint Branch formerly at 1st Unitarian Baltimore

Reverend Phyllis Hubbell is recognized for her fierce love and steadfast advocacy for the rights of LGBT Marylanders over many years. Rev. Hubbell caught the attention of the media, grew the advocacy for equal rights amongst citizens and has provided an embrace of justice for all. She led the UUSJ Marriage Equality Task Force and led the effort to create the first marriage equality curriculum.

UUSJ Racial Justice/Multicultural Award: Barbara Johnson, Ann Ulmschneider, Phyllis Dogan, & the Arlington JTW Team

Barbara Johnson, Ann Ulmschneider, Phyllis Dogan and the Journey Toward Wholeness Team are recognized for having enabled the congregation at the UU Church of Arlington to make strides in raising their awareness of racism and oppression. Through several years of persistent, patient education, the community has learned about structural racism and internalized white privilege. All of the team’s efforts, building on one another, are beginning to bear fruit

UUSJ Collaborative Program Social Justice Award: KUUMBA Players of All Souls  Group Award

The KUUMBA Players are recognized for using theater as a tool for social justice and community engagement creating a platform for Unitarian values for over six years. They have worked with hundreds of church and community members to create their productions. Their original and adapted, intergenerational and multicultural collaborations have creatively examined important issues of social conscience within and beyond All Souls Church


and Marilyn Thorn  Towson Individual Award

Marilyn Thorn is recognized for her many years of leadership in increasing awareness of poverty and homelessness and finding solutions in Baltimore County. She led members of the Towson Unitarian Universalist Church in an interfaith coalition to create and expand services. She worked tirelessly with congregations, the county and organizations to improve the lives of the homeless by expanding shelter capacity and services, providing food, obtaining life and employment skills and homes.


UUSJ  Environmental Justice Award: Dr. Jackson Harper Bull Run

Dr. Harper is recognized for his lifetime dedication and leadership in advancing environmental awareness and justice. He has informed thousands of Unitarian Universalists and others in the Joseph Priestly District and the UUA with sermons, presentations, plays, workshops and writings about our planetary emergency. He led the founding and certification of the first Green Sanctuary in the JPD at Bull Run. He wrote and defended the Global Warming Statement of Conscience.


UUSJ Young Adult Award (18-35) Beth and Todd Harrison River Road

Beth and Todd Harrison are recognized for their social justice leadership and their dedication to the Racial Justice Task Force at the River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Beacon House Community Ministry in Washington DC and the RRUUC College Access Fund. Their commitment from their first days at the congregation in 2003 is an inspiration to all ages.

UUSJ/Open Door UU Interfaith Advisory Committee Affordable Housing Award:

Mary Fenelon formerly of UU Church in Reston

Mary Fenelon exemplifies Unitarian Universalist ideals of commitment to the beloved community through her work on behalf of economic justice. Mary has generously donated countless hours and significant financial support to help create housing for those most in need. Her tremendous leadership has inspired people within and outside of the UU community. We salute and pay tribute to Mary Fenelon as a shining example of Unitarian Universalist principles in action.



Photo Credit: ericmcgregor





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