A Tapestry of Love and Learning

Deep Roots, Hammers, and Chai

Deep Roots Volunteer 2016

Deep Roots Volunteer 2016

Every year, our outstanding Youth Group, brave and selfless chaperones, and I are excited to travel someplace together to get involved with some justice issues and social action work.

For the past 6 years we have traveled to work for a couple of high need homeless shelters. We really like to spend our energies at a particular homeless shelter for families called Deep Roots, located in Earleville , Maryland.

The things that keep bringing us back to work at Deep Roots are the connections and the immersion we get with the families who reside there, the work ethic ,and the variety of work we can be involved with . Most of all, we feel like we are aligned with this organization’s mission :

Deep Roots works with children, who are disconnected through homelessness or other similar marginalization: connecting hearts. Our program will challenge children to envision a brighter future, to sustain healthy relationships and to navigate a course towards personal and social responsibility through better life experiences, with mentors, providing healthy life-models for all future relationships.


We work closely with an impressive man named John. John is a former resident of the shelter, and has journeyed through homelessness, to shelter dweller, to full-time shelter volunteer. John went back to school, finished a degree and now serves has a Project Manager and Case Worker at Deep Roots. John has his plate full; but always seems to find time to make us feel welcome, informed about projects, and connected with supplies to use and work plans to accomplish.


And we do a lot of “accomplishing” in our two days at this large shelter, set on a farm surrounded by cornfields and soybean fields, horse farms and Mennonite -owned farms. John says that our small group of (usually 16-20 people) accomplishes more work in 2 days than every other larger group can do in a solid week. Why? I know! It’s starts with our skilled and patient volunteer chaperones who sign on every year to make these trips happen.


Bart Hill: the ultimate teacher and trainer of skills involving woodworking, carpentry, precise work, and safety. Bart’s patience exudes all else! During our evening check-in, Lydia, one of his “apprentices” said, “My joy today was working with Bart. Bart is really good at explaining exactly how to do something and gives us the challenge and also the choice to try something new.” Bart, Lydia, and Thalia built a bus stop for the many children at Deep Roots to stand under every school day, to stay warmer and dry. Thank you also, Bart, for being a luggage packer and van diver- to and from Maryland.


Nir Cohen: another wonderfully skilled and kindhearted master carpenter, took many apprentices under his wing. Although Nir had the great fortune of sometimes having too many eager workers under foot ( children from the shelter wanted to join in!) ; he showed ultimate patience and grace. Nir taught Annie, Nathan, Tom, and Carrick the tricks of the trade in laying a laminate floor. Nir also drove a van part way to and all the way home from Maryland.


Annie and Gareth learned how to install siding on a house working with a resident and building and grounds volunteer of the Deep Roots Shelter.


Joe Zawielski- our warm, fabulous and talented electrician (retired but still sharing his “spark” with others!)- had the most important job of keeping all workers electrically safe and giving us much needed light around the various buildings on the property. Joe’s grandson, Kyle , a member of our Youth Group ,and the so-called official “chai- master” ( you’ll have to ask the Youth Group for an explanation on that one!) was his assistant. Joe, Kyle and Lexi eventually moved into another floor installation project at the “Count Your Blessings” Exchange Store, and made the entrance room functional and beautiful. Joe drove a van partway to and navigated to and from Maryland.


Lee Hill: the master of so many skills, picking up more and more with each passing year of volunteering; continues to make this experience of caring for all the people who come on our trips seem effortless. Lee is our official food planner and shopper , baby lover and holder, child wrangler, swing pusher, support giver. Lee and her crew: Lexi and Carrick and Gareth organized the Exchange Store. Lee and her crew: Maggie, Forrest and Nathan cleaned and organized the education center. Thank you Lee for also being a navigator to and from Maryland and the keeper of the medicines!


Me: well, I sat around eating bon-bons (wink wink), and walked many a mile to take a zillion photos. I cleaned-up boo-boos, gave pep talks and lectures, babysat a praying mantis, swept floors , did dishes, and observed and recorded the wonder of all these people, doing all these challenging jobs, with smiles on their faces and humor and love in their hearts. This year, I spent a good amount of time engaged in a project that I hope to publish in a few places. This project will spotlight shelter families and hopefully challenge what we think we know about homelessness and shelter life..I have interviewed and photographed six families this past weekend and will share the honesty and the beauty of their special message to you- it’s coming soon.


I would like to say thank you , thank you , thank you to our Youth Group teens. These young people gave their time, their money, and worked incredibly hard to learn new jobs and to get them completed. In addition to the jobs at hand, they had other things to contend with. On the car rides and in the evenings, I saw their homework spread out in front of them. Still, they were excited to learn new skills, and were focused on our building project goals, yet aware enough to put down their hammers, their lunches, their free time, their phones, and their notebooks– and open their arms to the two dozen children and teens living at the shelter.


Thank you, because you were the rock stars. Thank you because you were viewed as the cool kids and then chose to hang out with a kid who may not be so cool in their own world. You were the ones, then , that they will want to emulate : strive to be like. They will because you gave them a solid boost of confidence , you gave that coveted feeling of worth and dignity. You lifted them up with your kind hearts and your inclusive, respectful actions. They wanted to know how they could be in our Youth Group…and you all met privately to make a plan, and craft a ceremony, to make them honorary members of your group. Oh, the joy you gave them. I look back at the Deep Roots Mission Statement and I know that it was just a natural thing for you to practice their written goals of “connecting hearts and mentoring, and being healthy life models” – yet I am so very proud of every minute that you did.


Deep Roots Playground

Deep Roots Playground


The hand-painted fence that surrounds the Deep Roots Playground reads: “Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Ghandi

I want to thank our whole group for living those words out-loud . To label what you’ve accomplished this weekend as “ life-changing” …. is an understatement .


With Gratitude and Joy,


                         Robin Mitzcavtich – Director of Religious Exploration and Education




We had a fabulous opening Sunday last week.  We continue with the exploration this week!!   Classes are full and fun and in forward motion!   There is still room for friends and family, neighbors and anyone who would like to check us out!  Please spread the word!





I can’t wait to see you – October 2nd  10am!!


Robin image 2016

     Robin Mitzcavitch Director Of Religious Exploration and Education (DREE)

                         Welcome to Religious Exploration and Education at UUCW

Robin Mitzcavitch Director of Religious Exploration and Education UUCW

Robin Mitzcavitch Director of Religious Exploration and Education UUCW

Dear Families,

This year, we begin with a tweak in our program title. It moves from the Religious Education Program to the Religious Exploration Program. As described during the RE Sunday Service in June 2016- we are striving to more accurately name what we do here at UUCW when it comes to “Sunday Schooling” the children, youth and teens.

During the RE Sunday Service in June, we had teachers and parents giving testimonials. One thing that was clear, was the fact that parents bring their children here to explore. They realize that we are not trying to “stamp ideas” on their child’s brain, but are asking children to experience, to wonder, to ask questions and to try ideas on for size.

circle rock outwitted

One teacher ,when giving her testimonial , described how our classes are always set up as a circle. We learn from each other. We learn to respect each other by seeing each other and hearing what the other is saying.

This year’s church and RE Theme is “Circle ‘Round for People, Planet and Peace.” The theme is inspired by the UU hymn, “Circle ‘Round for Freedom” where we sing:

Circle ‘round for freedom,

Circle “round for peace,

For all of us imprisoned,

Circle for release.

Circle for the planet,

Circle for each soul,

For the children of our children,

Keep the circle whole.

On Sundays, children together circle up to live, love and learn together in a place that values exploration. We meet in a circle, we join together for peace. When we discover and practice the Unitarian Universalist sources and principles, we learn how to be strong citizens of a global environment. In our circles , children can search for what is true and meaningful for them, while they understand and celebrate that they are part of the interconnected web, and everything that they do has an impact in that web.

We offer the finest , most comprehensive UUA curricula as well as Our Whole Lives Human Sexuality Programs (OWL), plus a Coming of Age program and a High School Youth Group program that assist children in growing and expanding their circles.

I look forward to an exciting year of exploration !

Come into the Circle!   REGISTER HERE  for Classes

RE (1)

In Faith,


Religious Education News
RE News For Sunday May 29th

Dear Families,
Have you registered for RE 2016/17 yet?   Thank you for REGISTERING HERE!
I would like to thank  Ana Gregory, Jane McKeag , Laura Secor, and Nora Werme for bringing such rich activities, discussion and experience to all of our children during our rotation classroom  “Connection”.  The workshop has commenced, but please continue to weave outside so we can fill in all the spaces .
I want you to know that over the weekend, we had a lot of activity around our community weave- with clients from our Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry actually weaving while waiting to get their food  distribution… and the visiting Muslim Student Association admiring the concept and the work!
We are so proud of our Youth Group as they hosted the Muslim Student Association from Shrewsbury High school for a night of pizza and conversation.  Talk about connection!  We had a night that was informational, inspirational, and full of love and hope .  These fine teens were astounding as they shared openly  together about their faiths.

Youth Group and MSA
Finally- Hip Hip Hooray for our newest Coming of Age (COA) class who had their “Kick Off COA Evening” this past Friday!   The COA Class of 2017 worked to set up our Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry, then enjoyed an evening getting to know about the COA program, talking about their wishes and intentions for going through the program beginning in  September, making special COA Tie Dye Shirts and prepping their special COA materials.
COA Class of 2017
Sunday May 29th – 10 am     Inline image 1
       “Bee Friendly” Sunday–  One Room Schoolhouse Experience-
Furthering our discussions about our connections to nature, we will be talking about  bees and how we can all try to help save the dwindling populations! Children will learn about bees and having bee -friendly gardens,   do some planting here at church and to bring home.
Children will be dismissed to fellowship hall following the children’s collection.
YOUTH GROUP-   5-7pm   Interfaith Hospitality Network  91 June Street,  IHN Cookout and hosting.
Robin Mitzcavitch, Director of Religious Education

RE News For May 1, 2016

Dear Families,
Announcing our Rotation Classroom: Connection!
On May 1, 15, and 22 all children will participate- by age group, in the rotation classroom .  This year’s theme is “Connection. “
We will explore together how we connect as human beings, as humans with nature and the world.  As our UU 7th Principle reminds us:  We respect the interconnected web of life in which we are all a part.
Children will be architects as we build a “web” in the front yard of the church so we can introduce a community weaving project to our whole church.  The children will be preparing materials , weaving, and learning about connection through poetry and humor.
Here is the rotation schedule.  Each Sunday, your child will be experience a new way to look at the theme of “Connection”.
May 1 May 15 May 22
Science of Humor
Fellowship Hall
Spirit Play Age Grades 1 – 5 Grades 6 & 7 Ana
Art of Weaving
Rooms 2 & 3 and front lawn
Grades 6 & 7
construct (helpers)
Spirit Play Age
Grades 1 – 5
Nora and Jane
Poetry and Nature
Room 1 (Spirit Play Classroom)
Grades 1 – 5 Grades 6 & 7 Spirit Play age Robin/La

Please note – May 8th is a multigen service for Flower Communion and Mother’s Day

Watch as we transform our front space into a place of community connection!!  Thanks to Nora Werme, Jane Mckeag and Lee Hill who have helped to prep this exciting experience for all!
Sunday May 1st–  
         10am  –  Happy May Day and Beltane!  Today is the first Rotation Classroom! See schedule above!
                   Children will be dismissed after the story –  follow the Pied Piper to fellowship hall where we will have an opening chalice lighting and then move  to  first rotation classroom.   Children will be picked up at the Maypole .
~~Youth Group will be traveling to the First Church in Salem , MA ! Fri 4/29Sat 4/30
There will be no Youth Group in the evening of May 1st
Robin Mitzcavitch, Director of Religious Education

Calling It Home

Calling It Home
Robin Mitzcavitch, Director of Religious Education
Director Joanne Alley in front of the IHN Shelter
When I was a young mother with a 6 year old and an 8 year old, I suddenly found myself a single mother with no additional support for my children. I was a college educated, intelligent and resourceful person who owned a house in the very nice little town of West Boylston. I had a small business that I was just starting up and a stipend from the UCC church where I was a member and religious educator.
I took another part-time job when I could on the weekends in a friend’s restaurant. Still, I knew deep down in my heart that I was only one sickness or injury away from the potential of not being able to pay my mortgage, and subsequently, I could be that mother with two kids that became homeless.
Can you even picture a person like me homeless? Probably not. But the reality is, most families are not homeless because they are slackers, uneducated, drug addicts, or irresponsible.
It was also about 16 years ago that my kids and I began volunteering for the Interfaith Hospitality Network Family Shelter Program. At that time, they had a day center at the YMCA and every evening, brought the homeless families to a “host” church or synagogue to be fed dinner and given a stay overnight. In the morning, the vans would pick the families up from the church, get kids to school, and parents either to work or to the day center. Each evening the families were driven back to the church in those vans.
At the church, volunteers would cook dinner, help kids with homework, play with babies, and be an ear for the struggling parents. But, every night, I saw these poor children struggling to go to sleep in a new and unfamiliar building. Eventually, after a week in the church, they would start to get used to their family “bedroom” ( usually a classroom in the church), only to be uprooted again, to move to their new host church for another week. It broke my heart, but I knew that this was better than the alternative: sleeping in the car, couch- hopping, or worse, trying to live on the streets.
Back then, it was hard for families to get into state run shelters, today it is even more difficult. Even though the state of Massachusetts is a “Right to Shelter” state, there are still many reasons why a family is not eligible for a safe state shelter. One reason is income requirements, if you have a decent job income, that can sometimes disqualify families. If you are a battered person who walked away with your children from your situation, but can’t prove it, you are not automatically entitled to shelter. If you can’t prove you are a resident- like you don’t have a permanent address or utility bill, you may not be eligible. And the list goes on. So then what happens?
Families are referred to IHN which is a private non state-funded shelter. In central Massachusetts there are 18 spaces for homeless families in private shelters; IHN in Worcester provides 6 of those spaces. As you can imagine, the wait list to get into this shelter is long…and getting longer. Add to that the fact that the availability of affordable housing is diminishing. Rents are going up, and wages are not matching that increase. So, the turnover rate of getting families out of the shelter into housing is slowing, thus the wait list grows longer. In central Massachusetts, the wait to get into rent controlled housing could be upward to 2+ years. Market rate apartments in Worcester have average rents of $1000.00 for a 2 bedroom.
In 2011, I was overjoyed, when IHN was able to pull together funds to purchase a static shelter residence for their program . The house, located on 91 June Street affords 6 families their own rooms, their own kitchen, a consistent and familiar place for little ones to lay their heads, and a place to call home while they try to save for another try at their own place. It is expensive to maintain this old house. Lots of volunteers helped rehab it, but still it is a struggle. With only 3 people on staff, IHN relies heavily on volunteers to help run the shelter. Now they are in the middle of a capital campaign to try to eliminate the mortgage payment, so that funds received can be put into building maintenance, staffing, casework, and advocacy for the families and the growing housing problem.
I support this shelter, because I once looked into my own children’s eyes and felt the fear of what it could be like to not have a place to call home. I am proud to be working for a church who has partnered with this organization to volunteer host at the June Street house 2 weeks out of the year and fulfill an annual pledge of $2000. Now, as the program aims to move into the next phase of advocacy for homeless families, I ask you to consider how you can support.
There are many ways to support this very special work:
Volunteer! Join the task force, volunteer at the house, be a part of “Happy Arts” project, be an advocate or fundraiser.
Help Financially – Mail a check to
IHN c/o Capital Campaign
 91 June Street Worcester, MA 01602
You may make a contribution to Sue Neaz or Robin Mitzcavitch in person or you may click this link  to make a contribution through Simplegive . (click on “Quick Give” and then click on “IHN Grocery Fund”)
Shoe Drive: For the past couple of years, we have been collecting used shoes during the month of May. This year gently used, clean shoes are requested for donation. The shoes will be used to resell in third world micro-enterprises. IHN benefits from $25 per bag of 25 pairs of shoes.
Walk for Homeless- May 15th: We’re looking to form a UUCW group to walk. Sponsor/donation packets will be available in fellowship hall after church.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my story and my passion for giving all families an opportunity to have a place to call home.
With Peace,


Robin Mitzcavitch Director of Religious Exploration UUCW

Robin Mitzcavitch Director of Religious Exploration UUCW

The Bucket

The Bucket

heart bucket

Love is the spirit of this church,
and service its law.
This is our great covenant:
To dwell together in peace,
To seek the truth in love,
And to help one another. – James Vila Blake

At the center of our chalice table stood a bucket ½ full of water. I sat in a circle with young people in grades 3-5. We were talking in that class about the metaphor of filling a bucket with help and kindness. What happens when your bucket is empty? Do you remember a person who has helped you fill it up? What about a time when your bucket was full, maybe even overflowing? How were you able to then help someone else?
As we each shared ways we have been helped and ways that we have helped others, we dropped a stone or a piece of sea glass in that bucket. With a plop and a splash , we discovered together that when we all contributed something , the water level got higher.

As Unitarian Universalists, we have a heritage of being a body of people who strive to help others. We have stood by the disenfranchised with their buckets run dry and worked together to fill them up. As the bucket becomes full, the possibility of this person or community then sharing their help and kindness with others blossoms. The ripple effect will be felt, and there is no end to how far and wide it will go. Just imagine if a larger percentage of the world was not running on empty.

As one very aware 4th grader pointed out during our discussion; along with kindness there needs to be money to help. I know that it’s true. We discussed that often, when you are following your “calling” or what your heart says is right, the money somehow finds a way to be present. If everyone puts something in, like our little rocks and pieces of sea glass…the level gets higher.

In our UUCW community , I feel that we do a fabulous job filling buckets wherever we go. There are volunteers enriching the lives of young people in our very church, encouraging the discovery of justice and outreach. In turn, I hear the stories of the amazing things these children are doing out in their world. I hear about how our kids are helping animals, other children who happen to be homeless, their own families, the food pantry, and other kids in their school. As parents and educators, when we fill a child’s bucket, the ripple effect spreads far and wide.

I have said this before, and I will say it again…I pledge to UUCW every year not as an admission fee or for services rendered. I pledge to the covenant of what this church represents to our community, neighbors and world. I want it to continue and to flourish. I want the bucket of help, justice, love and kindness to overflow into the empty areas. I want to spread the word about the wonderful things that happen within our walls and beyond.

As Unitarian Minister James Vila Blake wrote, “Love is the spirit of this church and service is it’s law. This is our great covenant.” What a great covenant ! And to know that sometimes you’ll walk through our doors needing a fill-up, and at other times you will be full enough to turn and tend to others, is a great truth and blessing. Filling the bucket of UUCW allows this truth to be a consistent reality for us and for the multitude of others that we will continue to be able to reach out to.

With Love and Spirit,

Robin                               robin pic

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