We Are All Philanthropists

Annoyed by end-of-year pleas to “please” give more to those organizations you’ve already given to? If you’re not aware, I can tell you that these requests are based on the established fact that the best people to ask for money are those who’ve given before. So, take a breath and give ‘em a little slack, knowing you are on their “nice” list.

Recently, I had the chance to learn about something new for philanthropies making grants to non-profits. It’s called “trust-based philanthropy.” Rather than require those non-profits to take precious time and staffing resources to create endless reports for the granting agency, the two entities work together to realize the promise of the project. They work in a relationship based on common values, both using their resources to create the social change described/dreamed in the grant proposal.

As I listened to the presentation, I couldn’t help but think of us congregants as philanthropists funding UU Asheville because of our shared commitment to common values. We don’t require endless reporting on what is being done with the money we give because we are at the table, deciding together how best to live out/live into these stated values: connection, compassion, inspiration, justice. They express who we aspire to be as a congregation: connected, compassionate, inspired, and just. They guide what we aspire to do as a congregation: connect to, suffer with, inspire, and enact justice with our community, a community rooted at 1 Edwin Place and extending ever outward to embrace the all-in-all.

Since our congregation is really a group of individuals bound by a covenant, these values are our individual values as well. I see them enacted every Sunday at a worship service where we demonstrate our welcome to all. Do you look around as I do and see, really see, the variety of us?

Our love shines out in many small ways.

Each of us at the table of UU Asheville contributes what we have of time, talent, and—yes—treasure/$$ to realize the good we mutually desire. We have the resources and, as philanthropists, we look for groups that share our values and are dedicated to embodying them. So, we choose The Universalist Unitarian Congregation of Asheville and work in relationship to bring connection, compassion, inspiration, and justice to those in need. the Southeast and beyond.

– Mary Alm, UU AVL Board Member

Birds and a Resolution

I decided to stop feeding the birds this summer, particularly because the feeders draw in the squirrels, which makes my dog go crazy, running and chasing. She ended up with a torn CCL recently and I realized that I was just baiting her into running after squirrels.

To make a long story short, my feeders are being stored for now. I will bring them out to the front yard after the bears go to sleep and a spot far from where the dog can chase the squirrels.

 The upshot of this I’ve made my first resolution for the new year. It’s a bit early, but I’ve decided that I’m going to feed my birds from what I grow, not from feeders. This morning in my perennial bed where I’ve left up all the seedheads were maybe 20 birds, five different kinds. Finches were dancing on the coneflower seedheads, and on the ground were several types of sparrows with juncoes, cardinals and a rose-breasted grosbeak.

They had plenty to eat since I left my garden wild for the winter. These stems and debris also harbor insects including the pollinators we need to keep our planet healthy. And, below the leaf litter are the pupae of caterpillars which will feed the birds in spring when they emerge.

So, my resolution is that next year when the gardening and plant-buying bug hits me, I will concentrate on only growing what provides food for the birds and other wildlife. Of course, in most cases, this will mean native plants as well as some non-invasive non-natives that provide food.

I collected seeds from wild stands of black cohosh (bugbane) and goldenrod, and hyssop, vervain and sneezeweed from my perennial garden. I’ve “winter-sown” them to put out in my landscape next year. And I may simply not resurrect my feeders at all. Feeding birds can be controversial. 

Here is an excellent  source from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service discussing the pros and cons of bird feeding: 



Justice Ministry: Call to Action

Sign Petition to Free James Richardson In 2009, James Richardson was wrongfully convicted of double homicide in Greenville, NC. Despite there being no forensic or eyewitness evidence linking James to the murders, he was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. This week, join UUs across the state in signing the petition demanding Justice for James. You can read more about his case at freejamesrichardson.org

Fall YouthCons at The Mountain

We are lucky to have The Mountain Retreat & Learning Center only two hours from Asheville, and during the school year, kids from our congregation attend Youth CONferences, which are gatherings of UU youth and advisors for a weekend program filled with workshops, activities, good food, a safe environment, and cozy all-gender cabins. This Fall we sent an amazing 30 (!!) kids 3rd-12th grade and 9 adult advisors to attend YouthCons across three weekends. One advisor said, “The kids who were in my van are getting together this coming weekend outside of church – connections were definitely formed so I would say a net positive!”

The YouthCons are a chance for UU Asheville kids to connect with UUs from other UU churches, get out in nature, stay up late, and have fun. These experiences deepen their connections to our faith and to people from UU Asheville and neighboring congregations. Advisors drive down with the youth, stay in a cabin with them, and hang with them at mealtimes and when they’re not in workshops. One person said, “I learned so much!! It was a very positive experience for me.”

Just hear what one chaperone had to say about their experience: “Although it was exhausting, I had a great time and would do it again! I loved getting to know the teens better. They are such an amazing group of humans!!!” There will be another set of YouthCons in the Spring, so sign up today and please also email me (anna.ward.martin at gmail dot com) so I can coordinate chaperones.

Of course, The Mountain has UU-values-based programming throughout the year for all ages at the camp and conference center. Summer camps for kids and adults are a huge hit (registration opens January 1!), and our UU AVL congregation has a retreat weekend every October (save the date: October 11-13, 2024). The Mountain is a treasure and a support for UUs all over the Southeast and beyond.

– Anna Ward Martin, UU AVL Member and The Mountain Board Member