Desert Notes November 16, 2023
Tuesday night I co-chaired a regional VIP action meeting that focused on our work with Chandler Unified School District on mental health supports for students and with Chandler City Council on affordable housing strategies. We had 92 VIP participants, largely members from VUU and St. Matthews Episcopal here in Chandler. Many other member organizations were represented as we reported on our successes and the ongoing challenges of these issues. We heard compelling stories from folks impacted by shrinking affordable housing stock and soaring prices–2 from VUU members and 2 from St. Matthews members. VIP leaders also taught us about this issue and shared statistics and research they had done. We heard responses from CUSD leaders and Chandler Council member Christine Ellis. We also began planning for a Delegates Assembly on Dec 12 (who can come?) and we are developing a rapid response team of folks responding to affordable housing policy opportunities to work with elected officials and attend meetings. I was inspired by our shared work, as well as the dedication and relationship building held by it. So many VUU folks worked together over the last year to get to where we are now! Last year I attended a week long training with VIP and this year I can see our work building and growing. THANKS!!! I hope more of you will get involved as you are able.
Also of note, a small group of staff and members are working on a grant application for funds to help us identify and respond to campus safety needs. We have been learning with other congregations about safety strategies and about opportunities to help build a safety plan that prepares us for many different emergency situations.
Thursday I will be at the Chandler Senior Center with AZCEND board serving a holiday lunch. Participating on the AZCEND board is helping understand our community better and be part of the efforts to respond to needs in our community. This is also important work, and I know many of you are involved with this organization as well.
Last week I spent several days with Borderlinks and with other UU colleagues in AZ learning together and planning how we will deepen our work with people crossing our borders and with organizations supporting migrants. In addition, we are thinking about how we do this work together, as a coalition of congregations who are theologically and communally connected.
Finally, we had a beautiful “homegoing” celebration of life for Debbie Dinyes with her family and friends, celebrating her role as a beloved elder at VUU and her deep values as a lifelong UU. It was an honor to lead this ritual, and to hear the stories about her life and the things she brought passion and commitment to. What a beautiful thing to be in community.
Rev. Sarah Oglesby-Dunegan