A MONTHLY NEWSLETTER FROM THE RIVER OF GRASS UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CONGREGATION DAVIE, FLORIDA
BUILDING THE VESSEL: A MESSAGE FROM THE TRANSITION TEAM By Carolyn Sant Angelo, Transition Team Chair As we have traveled through the stages of our transition, I have learned that the important task of creating a space for our congregation is much less sacred than creating the shared space and connections between us as individuals, as companions on our spiritual journey. The date of access to our new home has been changed multiple times. The teams have been on high alert for quite awhile. The kitchen layout will not suit our every need. But, we have been able to stay focused on our integrity as a loving congregation. The objective of finding possible common ground on so many critical choices has been our hope. We have maintained right relations and kept within a budget through some challenging and emotional decisions. Our vessel will be ready enough, ready for us to demonstrate our principles and put love into action, sharing our gifts with the community and opening our doors so we can provide a safe haven for those who are piloting their way. The latest plan calls for moving from Toddler Tech the last weekend in February with a Dedication Ceremony for our new home scheduled for March 6th, before service. Our Grand Welcoming Celebration is scheduled for the weekend of April 2nd and 3rd.
In This Issue Marc Adams Bio ................. 2 Faith Development ............. 3 New Home Update ............. 4 Board Matters ..................... 5 Calendar ............................. 6 Empty Bowls ....................... 7 Innocence Project ............... 8
This beautiful window covering will greet members and visitors as they enter into the new sanctuary.
PRESIDENTâ€™S NOTE By Steve Tepper, Board President Our time of celebration is upon us. By the time you read this newsletter, we will have most likely held our last service at our temporary home in Toddler Tech. Plans are now underway for our first service in our new home in early March, with a Grand Welcoming Weekend Celebration scheduled for April 2nd and 3rd. If you signed up for the Beatles Bash at the auction last November, you are good to go. If not, drop Elly Keane a line at Auction@riverofgrass.org to make sure you are part of the Saturday Night festivities that kick off our two-day celebration. The musicians have some big surprises in store. And of course we expect to see everyone for Sunday morning services on April 3. The Celebration Committee, Worship, the Musicians and many others are putting together an event befitting the beginning of this unforgettable moment in our congregationâ€™s history. I look forward to seeing you in service.
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MARC ADAMS: GROWING UP FUNDAMENTALIST AND GAY Reprinted from Marc Adam’s website Growing up the son of a fundamentalist Baptist minister is tough enough. Growing up gay in an environment where your parents, teachers and peers deem evangelical Christians like Jerry Falwell as leftwing liberals is an entirely different experience. Marc Adams grew up in such a home. In an effort to save his own life, he decided at age 16 to rebel against his parents and attend Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, where he thought he could find a way to change his behavior from homosexual to heterosexual. His experience there changed his life and jump-started his journey to self-acceptance and personal freedom. Marc Adams is the author of nine books, including The Preacher’s Son and Do’s & Don’ts of Dealing with the Religious Right. His newest book, It’s Not About You: Understanding Coming Out & Self Acceptance, deals compassionately with the issue of disclosure reaction. The book includes a foreword by Dr. Shelley Craig, a licensed clinical social worker and a professor at the University of Toronto who is the president of HeartStrong, Inc., and serves on the national Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians And Gays (PFLAG) board of directors. Marc Adams is a widely respected authority on subjects ranging from fundamentalism, the religious right, gay civil rights, as well as his ground-breaking work with his own nonprofit HeartStrong. HeartStrong is a social justice organization providing hope and help to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students who are persecuted in religious educational institutions. Marc Adams’ presentations cover an often dark side of life. He bridges the serious and dark discussion with humor and all-encompassing human compassion. People from all walks of life who have heard Marc Adams speak find themselves enlightened, uplifted and inspired.
OUR PRINCIPLES We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote:
The inherent worth and dignity of every person
Justice, equity and compassion in human relations
Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations
A free and responsible search for truth and meaning
The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large
The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all
Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
OUR SUNDAY LOCATION 11850 W. State Road 84, Suite 1, Davie, FL 33325
EVERY SUNDAY Faith Development Classes: 10:30 to 11:30am Worship Service: 10:30 to 11:30am. Hospitality Hour: 11:30am to 12:30pm.
FRIENDLY REMINDERS FOR OUR MEMBERS There is plenty of parking outside the sanctuary, but please leave the closer parking spaces for our guests and physically challenged worshipers. All meetings are held at 11850 W State Road 84, Suite 1 in Davie unless otherwise noted.
SERVICES March 6:
First Service in new home – Florida District Executive Rev. Kenn Hurto
Celtic Theme – River of Grass Music Team
Guest speaker Marc Adams
March 27: Empty Bowls / Stone Soup – Rob and Deb Giblin-Davis
River of Grass UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CONGREGATION P.O. Box 290058 Davie, FL 33329-0058 Phone 954-723-7877 www.riverofgrass.org firstname.lastname@example.org Newsletter Editor ................................................ Bev Kaufman Design & Production ....................................... TBA Copy Editors..... .. Esther Sampol & Janet Schwartz Congregational Administrator TBA Board of Trustees President ................................................ Steve Tepper Vice President .................................. Marjorie Loring Secretary ................................................ Johnnie Peck Treasurer ................................... Kathy Jens-Rochow Trustee ................................................... Susan Juncosa Trustee .................................................. Janet Schwartz Trustee ................................................... Jody Dowgray Trustee ................................................ Tom Robinson Youth Representative ................... Spaulding Basham Committee Chairs Auction ........................................................ Elly Keane Caring ................................................. Kristine Barkley Celebration ............. Andie Perez & Pam Schrimsher Community Awareness .................... Esther Sampol Faith Development ........................ Deb Giblin-Davis Finance ........................................................ Scott May Green ........................................... Steve Jens-Rochow Membership ........... Linda Meerow & Lynn O’Brien New Space Task Force ............. Carolyn Sant-Angelo Nominating ..................................... Rob Giblin-Davis Right Relations ....................................Gary Gonzalez Service & Social Justice .......... Alan Meerow & Judi Oltmans Shared Ministry ........ Diane Lade & Janet Schwartz Transition Team ...................... Carolyn Sant-Angelo Worship .................................................... Brit Lundell
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RIVER OF GRASS KEEPS US CONNECTED – AND HAPPY By Deb Giblin-Davis, Faith Development Chair Last month after a Sunday service, I approached one of our dearest sweetest members – one who is very involved in making the dream of our new home a reality – just to say hi. As I waited to greet her and give her a hug, she finished up a conversation, and then turned to me as if to say, “What now?” Not in a mean way, mind you – in a business way. I said I don’t need anything from you, just wanted to say hi. After taking a breath and taking her business hat off, she said, “You know, this is getting to be a bit much, I am getting to where I don’t like coming to service.” Ahhh – I wonder how many of us feel this way. It has been a herculean effort to make this dream of a home a reality – and to do it with no minister! Why do we do what we do? There is no one holding a gun to our heads making us do this. We get no financial gain – in fact it costs us money! Are we crazy or what? I was listening to local programming on National Public Radio the other day and the writers of Never be Lonely Again, Pat Love and Jon Carlson, were being interviewed. The authors explore loneliness and how to effectively cope with it. After an extraordinary meeting with the Dalai Lama, the authors’ lives were changed. In this meeting, the Dali Lama said, “I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy.” To be happy - really? The book explores this concept and looks at five questions at the core of loneliness and why we are not happy: 1) Who Am I? See Page 7 for News about the 2) Am I Connected? Empty Bowls / Stone Soup Project 3) Am I Living in Community? 4) Are My Talents Utilized in Meaningful Work? 5) Am I Living Out the Purpose of My Life? Aha – this is why we do what we do, or at least a partial explanation of why we do what we do. So many of these questions can be explored in our faith community: Who am I? I am a child of God, a humanist, a Buddhist, a pagan. I am more than a homemaker or auto mechanic or retiree or professor – I am a preacher, a compassionate caregiver, a stage builder, a fund raiser, a singer! Am I connected? I am not just a partner, parent, child, employee; I am a friend, a covenant group member, a camper, a Faith Development teacher, a bUUkie, a garage sale worker! Am I living in community? Every day! When I look at the ton of emails – that can seem like a burden at times (and I receive only a fraction of them), I know that to create the community we envision takes communication. Of course this very process builds community in a new way. I know that in times of trouble, this blessed community would provide meals, would send cards and call - I know y’all have my back! Are my talents being utilized in meaningful work? How many of us have explored new sides of ourselves that we had never had the opportunity to explore before River of Grass? Writing, preaching, planning a newsletter layout, organizing fundraisers, creating a powerpoint presentation, sound board management, service and social justice projects, teaching children and youth, singing a solo, making pottery for a good cause, creating a place of faith and worship! Am I living out the purpose of my life? Only you can answer that, but what better place to explore this question than with a community of friends and like-minded travelers? As Thomas Moore, author of Care of the LAY SERVICE LEADER TRAINING, APRIL 30 Soul, said, “We need people in our lives with whom By Brit Lundell, Worship Chair The Worship Committee is presenting Lay Service Leader training on we can be as open as possible. To have real converSaturday, April 30th, from 1:00 to 4:00pm. In addition to providing leader- sations with people may seem like such a simple, obship for worship services when no minister is available, the purpose of lay vious suggestion, but it involves courage and risk.” -led worship is to provide a meaningful voice to members of the congreThe authors of Never be Lonely Again state that gation by allowing them to plan and present worship services that will add in order to deal with loneliness and to be happy, you value and significance to the lives of members and guests. need to go somewhere a least once a week where This training’s objective is to communicate goals and methods for people are happy to see you, where you are welplanning and presenting such worship services. It is strongly recomcomed as you are! This is why we do what we do, mended for those who wish to lead a worship service; in scheduling services for our next congregational year, preference will be given to those dear friends. Welcome home. who have taken the training. (Questions and comments about this article or The training is being given thanks to the time and efforts of Kathy our Faith Development program can be sent to Jens-Rochow and Maddi Gutfreind. If you are interested, please contact them to learn more, or you may contact me at Worship@riverofgrass.org. FaithDevelopment@riverofgrass.org.)
Reflections - A Monthly Newsletter from the River of Grass Unitarian Universalist Congregation - 4 Directions to our New Home: From 595 take the Flamingo Road exit and head east on Rt. 84. Turn right into the Park of Commerce complex. Our space is on the east corner of the first building. The address is 11850 W State Road 84, Suite 1, Davie, FL 33325. Our new office phone number will be 954-7237877.
THE RIVER OF GRASS RUSHES ON . . . CARRYING US TO OUR NEW HOME By Carolyn Sant Angelo, Transition Team Chair How does one write a description of a flowing and ever changing river when it is flowing by so fast that it is hard to focus on the surface? One doesn't, well at least not easily! One thing I can tell you is that River of Grass is in its new home. The timing of occupancy has felt like a very distant destination over the past eight months and the details have felt like an eroding shoreline at times. The inspections of the new home have been scheduled, passed, and failed, scheduled again and scheduled again. The creation of the walls, floors, ceilings, tiles, switches and even the infamous air conditioner sensors have flowed together to become the rooms that will house our families, visionary meetings, service projects, and ... our symbolic chalice. We had planned on our final inspection to finally happen by Friday morning, February 25th. The builder and our team hoped to have the terms of a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TOC) ironed out. Well, it happened as planned, and this TOC allowed us to put in motion our planned move and in-house construction projects over the February 25th weekend. Over the next few weeks, we hope to finalize the electrical, air conditioning, and structural components that could not be completed before our certificate. These include items that were not on the original plan. Much gratitude goes out to ALL of the volunteers who have been diligently working on teams to help this facility become our new home. Special thanks go to G.L. Franklin for his fine workmanship and planning with the stage, movable walls, soundboard desk, and sound panels. Aaron Stang and Brit Lundell have exhibited great patience and thoughtfulness as we refine stand and sound design. Janet Schwartz has continued to provide financial and organizational perspectives that help ground our And the Winner Is . . . decision making on behalf of our congregation. Celebrations, Hospitality, Transition, and Worship committees and teams have organized many events. Our first congregational gathering in our new home will be a simple Dedication Ceremony, which will take place on Sunday, March 6th from 9:45 to 10:15am. We hope to be creating our spiritual foundation for this new space, and we are asking each individual to select and bring a small rock (no bigger than your palm) for part of our ceremony. The invitation to support “Life Net 4 Families” continues, so feel free to share our abundance and bring a bag(s) of non-perishable groceries as well! The worship service will start at 10:30 with Florida Executive Director Rev. Kenn Hurto as our guest speaker. Our Grand Welcoming will be on April 6th and we will be inviting visitors, friends and special guests as we open our doors to the community. We will have many details to work out as we get to know this unique facility. As the potential challenges of our new The results are in from last month’s signage survey, space arise, we may view them as opportunities to keep our and the congregation has opted for the 3rd choice of principles in focus and right relations in practice. We will find words to place over our sanctuary, “River of Grass ways to thoughtfully embrace this new address as our sacred home. Unitarian Universalist.” The other two choices, One thing I think we can all agree on is that traveling which were less expensive but also less expressive, through changing times has allowed us to be very appreciawere “River of Grass” and “Unitarian Universalists.” tive of each other and what really matters to River of Grass. The projected cost is expected be be slightly under (I bet we can agree that we don't want to use the "T-word" of $8,700, a bit less than the original estimate of transition for quite a long time!) $8,980. With love, joy, and gratitude!
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By Johnnie Peck, Board Secretary At its February 9th meeting, the Board of Trustees: Set May 22nd as the date for the Annual Congregational Meeting. Gave final approval to one policy change and two new policies under Section 8 - Finance. All have been published in the Reflections newsletter and weekly email and received no objections or recommendations for change from congregation members. The account title of the “Minister’s Discretionary Fund” is changed to “Benevolences Fund.” A new policy was created for members handling funds from plate collections and fundraising activities. (See article on page 9.)Another new policy defines the Board of Trustee’s role in dealing with unsolicited gifts given to the Congregation for specific purposes. Approved the Celebration Committee’s request and plans for an April 3rd open house to introduce our new facility to the community. Approved the Pastoral Care Team’s plan for their services and their covenant, and the recommended Team of Pat Katz, Riley Cothran and Marjie Loring. Reviewed Susan Juncosa’s draft for a “temporary building usage policy” covering rentals of our new quarters to non-members. Susan is chairperson of the Facilities Planning Team and will be revising the proposed policy and sending it to the Board for additional comments. Approved the concept of a two-part Envisioning” (long range planning) process presented by Johnnie Peck. The first part will be incorporated into the June 5th worship service. The second part will be a day-long workshop in the fall. Agreed to maintain the current minimum contribution required for a voting membership in Congregational meetings. The current minimum annual contribution is $250 per person or $500 per family.
By Kathy Jens-Rochow, Treasurer As of January 31, the balance of the general operating account was $58,227.00 and the TD Ameritrade balance was $612,060.18. As always, copies of our monthly financials are available to members. Please let me know (Treasurer@riverofgrass.org) and I will be happy to provide them. Last month, I reported we would be collecting all but $1,000 of the pledges to the new home Fund. The good news is that the $1,000 has been received as well. By the end of February we will have collected all of the promised $27,700. The final $10,000 for our share of build-out expenses is due to 595 Park Of Commerce after “substantial completion,” so that will be soon. In addition, we will be purchasing furniture and fixtures for our new home. These expenses will be covered by the $27,700 previously collected in member notes and gifts plus $2,200 in donations from the new home needs tree, thanks to some very careful decision making and bargain shopping. By the time you are reading this, we will have met and voted on the charter and by-laws for the new Capital Fund Corporation. Once all the paperwork is done, we will be transferring $500,000 to this fund to safeguard our assets for the future. This was voted on at our Annual Meeting in 2010. It will leave us around $112,000 in our TD Ameritrade account. While the remaining funds will not be restricted to a specific use, we do not use these funds without congregational approval. We have been using the money in this account for a number of years to balance our operating budget, as approved by the congregation. This month, we begin our Annual Giving campaign. Member pledges are the very foundation of our budget. Our new space is going to be more expensive. We can afford it, but only with very careful and lean budgeting. So when you consider your pledge for this next year, please think about what River of Grass means to you and how you can help financially to meet its goals.
NEW CARING COMMITTEE LEADER By Steve Tepper, Board President After several years at the helm, Laura Secord has decided to step down from the Caring Committee Chair position. Under her leadership, the short term needs of many congregation members have been met during times of illness, injury and other crises. The Board of Trustees is pleased to announce the selection of Kristine Barkley as the new Caring Committee Chair. Please join me in thanking Laura for her dedication in leading this important congregational Ministry and in welcoming Kristine to her new role.
Membership Matters By Vickie Koutoulas, Membership Co-Chair The Membership Committee is working like busy little bees this month. We are not only helping with the invitations and hospitality for the Grand Welcoming Celebration, but we are preparing for our next Pathways class on Sunday, March 20th. Katrin Forster Csvany and her brother, Alexander Forster, plan to attend as well as Karen Batcho and Miryanne O’Connor. Please make every effort to get acquainted with them. We welcome Elly Keane and Ken Tuch as new Committee members. They both have some fresh new ideas to bring to Membership.
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MARCH 2011 Fri.
Sorta Organic, All Gourmet Event (Auction event)
Empowering Lay Ministry / Workshop sponsored by River of Grass Wildpine Covenant Group Membership Committee
First service held at new home 10:30-11:30am Sunday Classes 10:30-11:30am Sunday Worship 11:30am-12:30pm Hospitality Hour
10:30-11:30am 10:30-11:30am 11:30am-12:30pm 11:30am-12:30pm
Sunday Classes Sunday Worship Hospitality Hour Empty Bowls – Making them 11:30am-12:00pm Board Report Back 12:15-2:00pm 2nd Sunday Lunch
Wed. 16th Sat.
How does contemporary art explore spirituality? How do today’s artists question and work with commonly held assumptions of faith, belief, meditation, and religious symbols? Art21, the PBS series on art in the twenty-first century, explores these questions in the episode on Spirituality through the work of five artists. River of Grass’ Spiritual Art Group will view and discuss this episode at its 6:30pm potluck meeting on Saturday, March 12, at the home of Susan Juncosa. “Spirituality is such a vibrant and integral part of our lives that even our changing times and all the apparent obstacles have not stifled the powerful partnership of art and spirituality in the modern era.” writes Lynn Herbert in the Companion Book for Art21. “The realm of the spiritual is mysterious and inviting. It is a place where we are encouraged to explore the unknown.”
Full Moon Daughters Festival at Morikami Gardens 3rd Saturday Volunteer Day at Life Net 4 Families
Spring Equinox 10:30-11:30am Sunday Classes 10:30-11:30am Sunday Worship 11:30am-12:30pm Hospitality Hour 11:30am-12:30pm Empty Bowls – Glazing them 12:00-3:00pm Membership Pathways class
By Steve Jens-Rochow, Spiritual Arts Facilitator
SPIRITUAL ART IN THE 21ST CENTURY
Executive Board Meeting Polymer Clay Play Day (Auction event) Davie Canal Cleanup
10:30-11:30am 10:30-11:30am 11:30am-12:30pm 11:30am-12:30pm
Sunday Classes Sunday Worship Hospitality Hour Stone Soup Lunch
April Highlights Sat. 2nd thru Sun. 3rd Fri. 8th thru Sun. 10th Sat. 9th Mon. 18th thru Mon. 25th Sat. 30th
New Home Grand Welcoming Celebration Florida District Annual Assembly, Orlando Full Moon Daughters Trip to Deerfield Island Passover Lay Service Leader training Full Moon Daughters Kayaking Adventure
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THE EMPTY BOWLS PROJECT By Deb Giblin-Davis, Faith Development Chair Empty Bowls is an international grassroots effort to fight hunger and was created by The Imagine Render Group (www.emptybowls.net). The basic premise is simple: You become a potter for the day – well, two days actually – and create beautiful handcrafted bowls! Guests are invited to a simple meal of soup and bread. In exchange for a cash donation, guests are asked to keep a bowl as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world. The money raised is donated to Life Net 4 Families (formally Cooperative Feeding Program of Broward), an organization that is working to end hunger in Broward County. Feeding America, the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States, reports that the nation’s food banks could soon be overwhelmed by demand. Statistics show that one out of eight Americans struggle with food insecurity every day. Millions of people have lost their jobs during the most recent recession and the number of food stamp recipients has increased dramatically. Your help is needed now more than ever. Please find the time, make the commitment, and get involved. Your single effort can have a profound impact. Dates: (All events will take place in our new home barring unforeseen circumstances – please keep an eye on weekly emails!) Sunday, March 13 Bowl-making workshop at River of Grass after service. Instructions given and novices welcome! Parents assist kids. Sunday, March 20 Glazing bowls at River of Grass after the service. The bowls will be available the day of the luncheon. Sunday, March 27 Stone Soup Lunch after the service. Suggested Donation Ceramic Bowl workshop & soup lunch - $20 Lunch only, adult - $15 Lunch only, child, 12 and under - $3 Sign up and questions? Contact Deb Giblin-Davis at Faithdevelopment@riverofgrass.org. A work of art from a previous Empty Bowls event.
EMPOWERING LAY MINISTRY: POWER FROM THE PEWS A MODEL FOR UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CONGREGATIONS River of Grass is sponsoring a four-hour workshop to: • Define “Courageous Followership” • Ground “Power from the Pews” in Unitarian Universalist theology • Show characteristics and types of powerful laity • Examine relationships between Leaders and Followers • Suggest methods to develop exemplary lay ministers The workshop will be held from 10:00am to 2:00pm on March 5 at our new home. See page 4 for directions. The cost of the workshop, which includes lunch, is $15 per person or $35 for a three-person congregation team. Contact the District Office for larger team arrangements Case studies and other pre-workshop materials will be posted on the Florida District website, www.floridadistrict.org. You must register in advance for this workshop. Contact Jessica at FloridaDistrictUUA@cfl.rr.com or call her at 407-894-2119.
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WHEN INNOCENCE IS NOT ENOUGH By Linda Gallun Eight to thirteen years is the average length of time a man is imprisoned before he is exonerated. The Maryland Innocence Project, under the auspices of The Office of the Public Defender, was organized in 2002 and I was its first paralegal when hired in August 2004. Four months into the position, I received a call from Alfonso Minger, Sr., father of one of our clients, following up on his son’s application for our services. In the few months I had been with the Innocence Project, I knew most of the five hundred inmates requesting our assistance were anything but innocent. I began by asking Mr. Minger key questions to see if there were any outstanding legal issues. I was immediately moved by his son’s [Fonzie] claim of innocence, having been found NOT guilty of murder, NOT guilty of robbery but guilty of conspiracy to rob, which is therefore felony murder. According to Maryland law, he received a life sentence without parole. I discussed the case with the Chief of the Innocence Project, Michele Nethercott, and was given the go-ahead to request transcripts, police reports and homicide files. Since Homicide Files are considered police work-product, I was the first advocate for Fonzie to lay my eyes on them. It took six months to get the transcripts, files and 583 pages of discovery. During this time we also tried to find out if the police had saved any of the evidence. I made several calls and finally spoke to the lead detective who informed me I would need to speak to the prosecutor – not to request the evidence, but just to find out if it existed. The detective neglected to mention the original prosecutor was no longer with that office and of course no one else was at liberty to speak with us. It took another twelve months for our motion to compel the right to review the evidence was heard. During this time, Fonzie sat in prison while anxiously waiting to find out if there was any evidence left and if the court would let his defense team review it. In the meantime, I went over transcripts, police reports and files with a fine-tooth comb and finally submitted my findings to Michele. The short version: Just before midnight on January 15, 1995, Fonzie’s friend J.J. arrived at his mother’s apartment bloody and unable to stand on his own, and upon arrival at the hospital he was diagnosed with a concussion. To this day we do not know if his lack of memory of the events of that night is due to the concussion or just selective memory. At approximately the same time that his mother was calling 911 for an ambulance, the police were called to the scene of a murder ten miles away in Gaithersburg, where a violent fight had taken place. Within a few hours, the Montgomery County police put the pieces together and figured out J.J. had been in a fight with the deceased. Fonzie had been out with friends, and on his way home he stopped by J.J.’s apartment at about the same time J.J. entered the apartment. When J.J.’s mother called 911 for an ambulance, the ordeal began. Because J.J. had been beaten up, the police were also notified. According to the cab driver who picked up three black men in Gaithersburg, one of them, J.J., was too weak to stand up by himself and his friends had to carry him into the cab as well as his mother’s apartment. While the cab driver was able to identify J.J., he could not identify either of the men who were with him. Because Fonzie went into the apartment with J.J. and was still there when the police showed up, the assumption was made by the police that Fonzie was one of the friends in the cab. I read and reread the transcripts, police reports and homicide files ad nauseam and finally turned them over to my attorney with volumes of notes and questions for her. The first thing that caught my eye was that there was no mention of blood on Fonzie by the officer who questioned him at J.J.’s apartment. Although the officer gave a complete description of everyone in the apartment from the color of hair and eyes to the name of the designer shoes they were wearing, she did not mention any blood on Fonzie. By the time I submitted the case to Michele, both my attorneys called this “Linda’s case” and teased me about my passion. I like to think it was my passion that drove them to take the case but it could just be because he was innocent. Looking to forensics, we found a note in the homicide file about blood on a ski mask which had not been tested for DNA. We also found that since the original trial nine years ago, there were more sophisticated tests that could identify if the hair found on the mask belonged to Fonzie or not. While Michele was working tirelessly, the detective who refused to tell us if evidence still existed took it upon herself to destroy the evidence in the police evidence lab. While it is illegal to destroy evidence, there is little doubt the detective was also aware there are no sanctions in place to deter her from doing so. March 2010, six years into the case: Two weeks before I was to retire and move to Florida, Michele called and told me I was needed to testify at a hearing that I had spoken to the detective in 2004 and she did indeed know there was an open case when she destroyed the evidence. Since I would jump through fire for Fonzie, I did not have a problem with changing my retirement plans and prepared to testify. As it turned out, I did not need to testify. The new judge, who wondered aloud why J.J. was never charged with anything, agreed to let Fonzie off for time-served in exchange of an Alford plea. According to Wordsmith.org, an Alford plea is a plea bargain in which a defendant pleads guilty while maintaining innocence. It sounds illogical but there’s a firm basis for it. The term is coined after Henry Alford in the1970 murder case North Carolina v. Alford. In this case, the defendant insisted on his innocence but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of second-degree murder to avoid the death penalty which he might have received if found guilty of first-degree murder. The hearing was emotional for all of us, and his parents then waited another ten days for the court to process the paper work and unlock the doors of the big house for Fonzie. I talk to Fonzie and his parents regularly and he is thrilled to be free and ready for his new journey on the outside. While it is sad he is saddled with a criminal record because of the Alford plea, he has a strong support system to help him move forward.
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LOVE IS EVERYWHERE That was the theme of our Valentine’s Day service, as couples in the congregation were invited to renew their vows of love and commitment. Eleven couples stood up to take the plunge— again.
RIVER OF GRASS TO HELP CLEAN UP DAVIE CANAL By Alan Meerow, Service and Social Justice Co-Chair The Service and Social Justice Committee and the Green Committees are sponsoring our congregational participation in the Town of Davie and the Central Broward Water Control District 15th Annual Waterway Clean-up, a public awareness campaign to keep our waterways clean. This event will take place on March 26, 2011, from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. along the C-11 Canal, between State Road 7 and Flamingo Road, in Davie. Davie is our new congregation home, and here is a wonderful way to show our community support. I have to register us by March 23, so I would like to get a rough count of how many congregation members would be willing to turn out. If you would kindly send me an email to SSJC@riverofgrass.org ONLY if you are willing to participate (and tell me how many in your family will do so), that would be great. Please let me know by March 7. *** This year’s Guest At Your Table Campaign netted a total of $870 for the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC), with 20 of the donations meeting minimum UUSC membership level. Well done, River of Grass.
ARE YOU A RESCUER OR A FIXER? By Kathy Jens-Rochow, Women’s Group Facilitator Many of us attempt to change people: “If he only did what I told him, that wouldn’t have happened” or “If she had listened to me, she would be much happier.” We can be very quick with advice. And then there are those of us who like to rescue people, like letting them use a credit card, or giving them money to get out of a debt. And it only escalates. The person being rescued becomes dependent on the rescuer. This month, the River of Grass Women’s Group will talk about our experiences in fixing and rescuing. The Women’s Group meets the fourth Monday of every month. This month, we will be meeting March 24 at 7:30pm – at our new home!! See page 4 for directions. For more information, contact Kathy Jens-Rochow at WomensGroup@riverofgrass.org.
CHECKS IN THE PLATE By Scott May, Finance Chair The Board of Trustees recently approved a Cash Handling policy to improve how funds are tracked for our congregation. This is a key step in the evolution of adopting best practices in the finance area. The policy outlines that all funds (cash and checks) need to be counted by two members and placed into an envelope and signed, enabling needed accountability and proper tracking. It’s important that members are aware that this includes the weekly collection basket (i.e. the plate). That means that checks placed in the weekly collection will be counted and tallied by the worship associates, including checks placed in envelopes. In other words, even envelopes labeled as “Pledge” will be opened and counted. So if you submit your pledge in the plate and are concerned about privacy, please either mail your check to the office or utilize your bank’s online bill-paying services. These services are typically free and simple to set up. Thank you for your unwavering support of our beloved congregation. If you have questions or concerns, please contact the Board of Trustees or the finance committee at Finance@riverofgrass.org.
GREEN TIP According to thedailygreen.com, every moment you spend idling your car’s engine is needlessly wasting gas. Idling for more than 10 seconds wastes more gas than is needed for startup. Overall, Americans idle away 2.9 billion gallons of gas a year. Green Committee Chair Steve Jens-Rochow turns off his truck’s engine when he is at a long stop light, at a train crossing or at a bridge opening.