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Making the Outdoors Great for More People

By Linda Fippin, President of the Board of Trustees

The fall equinox has just passed, and the signs that autumn is approaching are all around us. The trees are showing their first tentative tinges of red and gold, the hours of daylight are shrinking, and the evenings are cool enough to make us think that a sweater might be nice. For some of us, getting outdoors now seems more tempting than it did in the hot, muggy days of late summer. But many people in marginalized communities never have the opportunity to get out and experience nature at all. Children may grow up without ever seeing a deer or a raccoon in the wild. Those that live in light-polluted cities may have never seen anything in the night sky other than the moon or one or two of the brightest stars or planets. This is a sad state of affairs!

The Sierra Club has developed a program called Inspiring Connection with the Outdoors (ICO), whose mission is to alleviate this special kind of impoverishment by providing outdoor experiences for adults and children from marginalized communities. With input from the Green Sanctuary Committee, the Board of Trustees has chosen ICO to be Westside’s Share the Plate partner for the quarter beginning October 1.

ICO enables participants from marginalized communities to have outdoor experiences by providing gear, transportation, trip fees, and training. Some of you may know that Alice and Jerry Thornton have participated in many ICO activities. I’m sure they would be happy to talk with you about their experiences.

Share the Plate has been undergoing some changes over the past year or so. Of course, we will continue to collect money to support the recipients, and there is no doubt that recipients appreciate financial support. However, it has become clear to the Board that in order for Westside to thrive as an institution, we need to engage more deeply with partners in our community. The Welcoming Congregation team has been doing this with the LGBTQ+ community for quite a while. More recently, we have developed an ongoing relationship with The Bottom as an ally in their work with the African-American community. Now we hope to develop a relationship with ICO in which they identify their needs and we work with them to meet those needs.

Some of you may also know that although there has been a Green Sanctuary Committee in the past, it has dwindled somewhat. Now, though, interest in environmental causes has been growing steadily at Westside, and the “Greenies” (This isn’t name-calling – that’s what some of the members call themselves) are an energetic group that is actively looking for ways that Westside can become an important force for positive environmental change in our community. Be on the lookout!

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