Unitarian Universalist Congregation Announce Winners of its $400 Thousand Grants

Adedamola Agboola

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Shelter Rock announced Friday the selection of four non-profit organizations as winners of its annual “Large Grants Program.”

The four non-profit organizations — two Long Island based and two out of state organizations — will each receive $100,000.

“Two from women’s rights and the others supporting homelessness and they receive a $100,000 check based on how much the organization have approved in the beginning of the fiscal year,” said Arnold Babel, president of the Manhasset-based congregation.

The United Veterans Beacon House, based in Bay Shore and the Interfaith Nutrition Network in Hempstead will each receive this year’s $100,000 monetary grant, officials said in a press release.

A representative from the congregation said the Unitarian Universalist Congregation has had a long-standing relationship with Interfaith Nutrition Network, which operates 14 soup kitchens, three shelters and 19 other housing units for the homeless.

Officials said its members have been cooking and delivering food to INN shelters for three decades.

“We have funded them (Interfaith Nutrition Network) several times and we have been providing long-standing support to the organization,” a Unitarian Universalist Congregation representative said. “We cook for them about six times a month.”

This year’s grant will allow for modifications at the INN’s Donald Axinn shelter for men in Hempstead, including construction of a handicap accessible ramp, a downstairs bathroom, a sun room and laundry and storage facilities. The grant brings the total awarded to the INN since 2010 to $525,000, officials said.

The United Veterans Beacon House, runs 34 shelters for veterans will use the grant to finish renovating a two-story house on Henry Street in Hempstead to house up to eight homeless veterans, officials said. It is the third time in seven years that Unitarian Universalist Congregation has awarded the Beacon House the $100,000 grant.

The grant was also awarded to Washington D.C.-based National Women’s Law Center and the Trust Women Foundation in Wichita, Kansans.

“The $100,000 grant is a small portion of what we do each year. The congregation will probably give away a total of $13 million this year,” Babel said.

Every year, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Shelter Rock donates $100,000 to causes selected and voted on by its 680 members.

“We award the grants  through a democratic process,” Babel said.

Arnold said the process of grant process begin early in the year when its members recommend causes the congregation should fund.

“They put all their ideas on a bulletin board,” Babel said. “The major areas that our members have recommended then go to vote by members of the congregation and we pick a few of the areas to move forward in the process.”

When the topics which are voted on are selected, they are then referred to a committee which is tasked with researching and vetting different organizations that are in line with the topics the congregation have voted on, Babel said.

“The committee then recommends the organizations which it finds and the entire congregation votes on which ones to fund,” Babel said. “Everything is done by membership participation.”

Babel said the organization is able to give out as much as it does because of  “real blessing granted by a member” — Caroline Veatch — who died in 1953.

Veatch’s husband worked as a geologist in Germany in the early 1920s for oil and gas companies, Babel said.

“Germany at the time was an impoverished country and they couldn’t afford to pay him in full,” Babel said.

The companies instead opted to pay him in royalty rights, he said.

At the time of her husband’s death, Caroline Veatch was a member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Shelter Rock, then called the North Shore Unitarian Society.

“She didn’t have much to give but she gave the oil and gas rights to the organization,” Babel said. “The congregation gets royalties from the gas wells in Germany and we take the gifts from this not for our own benefit but for the benefit of others and we have given away over $500 million.”

Babel said the congregation’s Veatch Program has delivered $112,686,632 to progressive organizations around the country over the last 10 years.

The congregation’s “Large Grants Program,” has made 63 grants totaling $6 million to direct service groups since 2007, plus 20 crisis grants for $2.9 million to support causes such as hunger relief on Long Island, Super Storm Sandy relief, relief for Haitian earthquake survivors, relief for Typhoon Haiyan survivors in the Philippines, relief for Ebola victims in West Africa, legal assistance for Central American immigrant minors on Long Island, and aid to Syrian refugee relief organizations.

“When an emergency occurs somewhere in the world and a member is able to gather 30 or more signatures, we will donate to help out,” Babel said. “We gave away $600,000 to organizations in Haiti when the earthquake occurred.”

The congregation at Shelter Rock will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 26 to announce the awarding of the grant at its location at 48 Shelter Rock Road in Manhasset.

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