Teams and Committees fill many vital functions of the church and are made up of dedicated members, volunteers and staff. Click on the group names below to see information about the team or committee, including the group leader/ contact. A list of members for each group can be found in the Breeze database under “Tags” (if you have questions about using the Breeze database, please email office@uuithaca.org). Many teams are looking for volunteers. Visit our Volunteer Page to learn more.

Ministry Teams function to support the Society’s ministry and programming, to implement policies, and to provide overall support for the Society’s operations.

8th Principle Action Ministry

Adult RE Team

Aesthetics Team

Babies First

Buildings and Grounds Team

Care Team

Celebrations

Hazel’s Backyard Team

Healthy Congregations Team

Hospitality Team

Library Team

Ministry Visioning Team

Music Team

Operations Administration Team

RE Team

Safety Team

SGM Facilitators Team

Social Justice Leadership Team

Transition Team

Tech Team

Committees

Committees, both standing and ad hoc, function to inform and support the work of governing the Society. Standing Committees shall exist through the years and provide continuity and means for fulfilling the mission of the Society. Chairpersons of these committees shall be empowered by the President of the Board and then confirmed by the Board as soon after the Annual Meeting as is practical. Chairpersons of Standing Committees shall be members of the Society and shall submit reports for the monthly meeting of the Board. Where appropriate, trustees shall be appointed as liaisons to standing committees. Special Committees are more transient in function and shall be empowered at any time at the discretion of the President and with approval of the Board. The Board shall, when necessary, take actions to fill vacancies in committee chairs and /or provide direction to committees to ensure Board policies are implemented and program areas are being adequately supported.

Endowment Committee

Finance Committee

Governance Committee

Nominating Committee

Open Questions Committee

Personnel Committee

Stewardship Committee

Strategic Planning Committee, Ad Hoc

Team Descriptions

Adult RE Team

The Adult Religious Exploration (ARE) has a long history of adding to UUs’ search for intellectual, spiritual and practical meanings among a variety of topics. Relevant discussion and lecture-based programs are planned by the ARE Team and reflective of congregational interests. We will soon be in the process of preparing our first offerings for the remainder of this celebration year. Presenting these programs will help the Society grow back from what it was before the pandemic closed us off from one another.

Contact: Preston Wilson, presbev1@gmail.com

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8th Principle Action Ministry

The 8th Principle Action Ministry strives for equity, inclusion and justice in our work within the congregation and beyond. We aim to help First Unitarian of Ithaca evolve into a truly anti-racist community, welcoming for people of all races, ethnicities and cultures, and actively engaged in work for racial justice. We welcome all who are committed to these goals to join us. We meet approximately monthly with rotating meeting leadership. We also have smaller working groups engaged in specific efforts, including but not limited to Living the Pledge to End Racism workshops, antiracism book and film series, discernment around the proposed 8th UU Principle, and support for local antiracist organizations.

Contact: Matt Franke-Singer, mfs@twcny.rr.com

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Aesthetics Team

The Aesthetics Team is responsible for changing displays in the sanctuary, designed to reflect seasonal themes as well as the monthly themes around which the services are created. We are always interested in new members and new ideas! We don’t have formal meetings but communicate by email and occasionally meet after service on Sunday to work on displays. Contact Magdalen Lindeberg if you are interested in contributing.

Contact: Magdalen Lindeberg, ML16@cornell.edu

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Babies First

Babies First provides tangible help to babies, young children, and their families in need from all parts of Tompkins County by offering free baby equipment. Referrals are received directly from individuals or from 18 plus non-profit public agencies throughout the county. More Information.

Contacts: Walt Peck and Sue Rakow, babiesfirst@uuithaca.org, 607-269-5385

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Building & Grounds Team

The Buildings and Grounds Team is responsible for the care, preservation, and protection of all real property of the Society. We work to provide our congregation with an attractive and well-cared for environment. Working together to achieve that goal builds fellowship and community.

We are a loose group of volunteers, with a small core that shows up to meetings, and a larger group that helps with specific jobs and work days. We perform all the maintenance and repairs not done by the sexton. When we can’t do a job ourselves, the team leader works with the administrator to hire an appropriate contractor.

Contact: Sara Catterall, team leader, sarafmc@hotmail.com

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Care Team

The Care Team acts on behalf of the congregation, and by the congregation, to provide pastoral care, and support for members and friends of the congregation who are going through challenging times.

The Care Team goal is to provide various kinds of short term or infrequent support.  When volunteers are available we will provide meals, food shopping, rides to appointments, rides to church, friendly phone calls, cards and visits for those that are isolated, ill or needing support. For those who need referrals for health care, mental health or eldercare, we have lists of resources and members with some experiences with these Community resources.

If you or any member or close friend of FUSIT need some assistance, please contact Kathy Hopkins at 607-592-3025 or Kathy1122@gmail.com.

As a congregation, we covenant to promote and affirm compassion and acceptance of one another. We seek to create and sustain a community of caring, in which we come together to do the work of kindness. To this end, we ask for your help in providing care and support to each other in times of illness, bereavement, and other life challenges.

This can happen! We have so much good, collective help when we work together. Whether you have time for an occasional task or long-term commitment, please contact Kathy to volunteer!

Nancy Dolge, ndolge@gmail.com and Rita Barber, barber.rita@gmail.com, co-chair a team of volunteers who coordinate Memorial Service Receptions for FUSIT members. Contact them to bake or help with staffing receptions when available.

Contact: Kathy Hopkins at 607-582-3025 or Kathy1122@gmail.com.

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Celebrations Team

Sunday Celebrations are the time when we as a congregation join together for mutual support and inspiration. Carefully planned Celebrations are essential to the wellbeing of our community and support the many other activities that are an important part of our congregational life.

Celebration Associates work with the minister and director of music to design Sunday services. Together we consider how we can produce services that are stimulating, inspiring, and spiritually uplifting. Each Sunday one Associate assists in delivering the service, typically opening with announcements and a chalice lighting, doing a reading, and sometimes sharing a personal reflection.

Contact: Magdalen Lindeberg ml16@cornell.edu

To contact the entire team: celebrations@uuithaca.org

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Hazel’s Backyard

Hazel’s Back Yard is a place of natural beauty owned by The First Unitarian Society of Ithaca. It was deeded to us by Hazel M. Hauck in 1964, an active member in the Society. The Back Yard is a sacred trust and there are certain policies in place to maintain it as a natural area. Members and friends of The First Unitarian Society of Ithaca can visit this site as a place of quiet contemplation and we can have our own cremated remains, and those of our loved ones, placed at this spot. The Hazel’s Back Yard Committee is in charge of maintaining the property and reporting any concerns to the Board of Trustees. This team is currently looking for additional members. More Information.

Contact: Andy Turner, ast4@cornell.edu

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Healthy Congregations Team

The Healthy Congregations Team (HCT) was chartered by the Board of Trustees in 2021 “to facilitate the well-being of the First Unitarian Society of Ithaca by fostering harmonious relations and mediating conflicts within the membership and to be a listening ear.”  The HCT consists of four members appointed by the ministry of the church in consultation with the Board of Trustees.  Congregants should contact us if they have a concern regarding a relationship within our community that the HCT may be able to help through mediation and with compassionate concern.

Contact: Walt Peck, wgp8@aol.com

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Hospitality Team

Hospitality Teams make the Sunday morning services run smoothly and effortlessly, providing a pleasant experience for all attendees  — and they also set out the snacks, wash the coffee cups, clean up the kitchen, and straighten the pews.


Hospitality Teams consist of four teams, each serving for four weeks on and 12 weeks off. They are charged with doing the jobs that need doing every Sunday. And, happily, we find that many other good things happen. Teams provide an inter-generational activity; they connect people through team building and fellowship; they provide a glide path for newcomers to get involved with a good experience; and they allow a guilt-free 12 weeks of time off. Team members sign up for one specific, easy and well-defined task: A greeter, an usher, a coffee prep maven, setting the snack tables, coffee server, or clean up. Want to join up? Find out more by contacting the Hospitality Team Coordinator.  

Contact: Fred Balfour, fred.balfour@gmail.com

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Library Team

Our library contains books in many subject areas pertinent to UU history and values. Subjects include: UU history and authors; World religions; philosophy: death and dying; meditation; social issues, particularly strong in anti-racism, environmental and other current social issues. Many of the books in the library are published by the UUA’s Beacon Press and members and friends donate books as well. The congregation is encouraged to use the collection by browsing or signing books out. The library can be accessed anytime the office is open. Email office@uuithaca.org to check the schedule. The library is located on the second floor of the Parish House, at the top of the front stairs.

Contact: Marie Benedetti, marieben@twcny.rr.com

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Ministry Visioning Team

This team will consist of a minimum of four people. The role of this team is to guide and coordinate the work of the ministry within the limits of Board policies and the approved budget; and serve as governance partners with the Board to implement the goals articulated in the annual Vision of Ministry. MVT will serve as the direct supervisor to the lead ministry paid staff and review their work annually. It will also be responsible for recommending the hiring and firing of paid Ministry staff members, should the need arise. 

This team will also regularly report back to the Board the progress in its implementation of the Vision of Ministry. It will guide the Team Leaders Council and ensure coordinated efforts across all of FUSIT’s ministry teams.

Members: The Board appoints members in consultation with the Team Leaders Council. The Team should also have staff representation from the Minister or a Ministry-focused staff member.

Charge: 

  • Authority to guide and to make independent decisions regarding the implementation of the Vision of Ministry in coordination with the work of staff and Teams. 
  • To guide and coordinate the work of the paid Ministry staff
  • To coordinate searches for new Ministry staff members
  • To recommend hiring and firing of Ministry staff members to the Board
  • To evaluate the paid ministry staff’s work, and report those reviews to the Board at least annually
  • To report the results of the Ministry work to the Board by having one MVT member present at each Board business meeting and submitting a ministry report to the Board each month.
  • To create intentional communication and regular meetings with the Operations Administrative Team.
  • To propose annual budget expenditures to support the ministry work.
  • To partner with the Board in Vision of Ministry and Open Question development
  • Review and sign-off on all Ministry job descriptions when created or amended

Term of Service: 3 years, with 1 possible reappointment. After the first year of implementation, members will rotate off in alternate years to ensure a degree of continuity from year to year.

Contact: mvt@uuithaca.org

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Music Team

The mission of the Music Team is to provide a variety of high quality music for Sunday Celebrations and to encourage and facilitate musical participation from the church community. At our Sunday morning services, congregational singing is accompanied by the organ, piano, or even djembe or ukulele. Guest musicians are frequent and include everything from solo cello, flute choirs, and recorder ensembles to singer-songwriters in the folk tradition, jazz a capella groups and rock bands. Our adult choir practices weekly to present music at one Sunday celebration a month. A larger choir is also formed for the Community Christmas Eve Service.

Beyond Sunday services, there are other opportunities to make music for and with each other. The Music Team collaborates with the Religious Education Team to sponsor regular Coffee House/Open Mic nights. The Unitarian Universalist Ukulele Union (UUUU) practices sporadically, but joins together for community events like the annual Ithaca Festival Parade and PorchFest. More Information

Contact: Stephanie Ortolano-Music Director, music@uuithaca.org

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Operations Administration Team

This team will consist of a minimum of four people. This Team will work to guide and make independent decisions regarding the administration of the church operations within the limits of Board policies and the approved budget; and serve as governance partners with the Board to manage operations. It will serve as a supervisor to the paid Operations staff members and review their work annually. It will also be responsible for recommending the hiring and firing of paid Operations staff members, should the need arise. 

Members: The Board appoints Team members. The Team should also have staff representation from the Minister and/or Congregational Administrator.

Charge: 

  • Guide and coordinate the work of the paid Operations staff
  • Coordinate searches for new Operations staff members
  • Recommend hiring and firing of Operations staff members to the Board
  • Evaluate the paid Operations staff’s work, and report those reviews to the Board at least annually
  • Provide a monthly written report to the Board summarizing Operations staff activities and the Operations Administrative Team’s focus areas
  • Create intentional communication and regular meetings with the Ministry Visioning Team
  • Review and sign-off on all Operations job descriptions when created or amended

Term of Service: 3 years, with 1 possible reappointment. After the first year of implementation, members will rotate off in alternate years to ensure a degree of continuity from year to year.

Contact: oat@uuithaca.org

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Religious Exploration

Religious Exploration for children and youth is a cooperative venture involving both children and adults in the church community. In a liberal religious tradition such as Unitarian Universalism, religious learning, spiritual growth, and faith development are viewed as a lifelong journey each person takes. More Information.

Contact: Emily Richards-Director of Religious Exploration, dre@uuithaca.org

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Safety Team

The Safety Team was created at the request of the Operations Administrative Team to develop plans, procedures, and guidelines to promote the safety and security of the congregants, programs, buildings, and resources of the First Unitarian Society of Ithaca. The Safety Team is leaderful with John Gaines as the contact person.

Contact: safety@uuithaca.org.

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Small Group Ministry Facilitators

The Small Group Ministry Facilitators’ Team meets every other month with the minister (currently, in 2022, meeting without a minister).  Our meetings serve as a time for facilitators to experience SGM without the responsibility of leading, to bond as facilitators, and to observe the minister’s (currently each other’s) methods of facilitation. Also, time is set aside to talk about any issues in any of our small groups, about the state of SGM at FUSIT, and about how we can support and grow the program.  If you are interested in becoming a facilitator for SGM, contact Marsha Kardon.  

Contact: Marsha Kardon, mfkardon@gmail.com

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Social Justice Leadership Team

The Social Justice Leadership Team is tasked with: 1). Support and communicate information about the projects and opportunities for SJ work already being done at FUSIT. 2). Identify one or two congregation wide projects each year. 3). Encourage and support those who want to initiate a project or activities on a particular SJ issue. 4). Collecting and
distributing a list of local organizations doing Social Justice work and ways to support them. Plus the team will continue to re-imagine SJ work at FUSIT looking at issues such as charity versus long term relational involvement, looking at partnering with other community organizations outside FUSIT, looking at where the need is greatest in our community, and looking at our issue of privilege as we continue SJ work and embark on new efforts.

Contact: SJLT@uuithaca.org

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Tech Team

The Tech Team members support the congregation by running the AV and tech on Sundays and live streaming each service so that those who cannot make it to the church can still participate.

Contact: Tim Ball, timothy.ball.violin@gmail.com

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Transition Team

Transition team members are selected by the board of trustees to assist the Ministry Team in navigating the new structure and learning about the congregational community. This may include meeting to answer questions, providing resources, and assisting in solving any challenges that may arise. The transition team will report to the board at least monthly. The transition team will not be involved with evaluation of the Ministry Team.

Contacts: Betsy East ere2@cornell.edu and Sue Rakow sue.rakow@gmail.com

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Committee Descriptions

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Endowment Committee

The Endowment Committee manages the FUSIT endowment funds, discusses investment strategies, makes investments, and discusses support of operating. We work to ensure the preservation of endowment principal for future use of the society. We invest in socially responsible investments without jeopardizing return and monitor our investment with the UU Common Endowment Fund.

Contact: Rich Dolge, rdolge@yahoo.com.

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Finance Committee

The Finance Committee assists the board in its oversight of the congregation’s finances, ensures that routine financial reports are clear and helpful, and coordinates the annual audit. From time to time, holds educational sessions to ensure that board members have adequate understanding of the congregation’s financial status and goals. The committee has no management authority and does not participate in day-to-day financial decision making.

Contact: Scott Grover, grovercamper@gmail.com

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Governance Committee

The Shared Partnership Governance Committee (GovCo) is a standing committee advisory to the Board charged with monitoring all aspects of partnership governance and making recommendations to the Board to improve our society’s governance, as appropriate. Specific areas of GovCo focus include FUSIT Constitution and Bylaws, the Board Policy Book, and other topics as requested by the Board. GovCo members and Chair are appointed by the Board.

Contact: Laura Free, laurafree5x5@gmail.com

Committee Charter

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Nominating Committee

The Nominating Committee (NomCom) is elected each year by the full congregation at the annual meeting. 

Traditionally the Committee took its mission from the Bylaws’ charge: “The Committee shall work throughout the year to identify and assess members whose interests, abilities and talents would provide leadership on the Board of Trustees.”  Recently NomCom  began to consider the second Bylaws charge that hinted at a broader role: “The purpose of the Nominating Committee is to assure that the Society has effective and diverse leadership to guide the future operations of the Society.”

NomCom will be reviewing the range of leadership skills needed and preparing a proposal for long term success of the Society. The proposal will consider any necessary funding, staffing, and management of such a program.

Contact: Elizabeth Bixler, ebixler45@gmail.com

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Open Question Committee

On September 15, 2021 the Board of Trustees created the ad hoc Open Questions Committee and at a subsequent meeting named all Trustees to the Committee. The charge to the Committee is that it will:

  • provide education for the entire congregation and staff on Open Questions and their role in planning for the future of the Society;
  • provide for an Open Question process that is broadly inclusive of the entire congregation and its staff to include congregational conversations, discussions with committees and ministry teams, small group ministry gatherings, staff meetings, individual communications, and other modes;
  • record and collect responses and information from each forum;
  • compile information gathered and present results to the Board.

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Personnel Committee

The Personnel committee shall oversee and review compensation and benefit matters for employees and make recommendations on these to the Board for all FUSIT staff.  The Personnel Committee assists the board in developing personnel policies, ensuring compliance with applicable state and federal laws and statutes, and carrying out the staff-grievance process as defined by these policies. The Committee has no staff management authority and does not participate in supervision or personnel decision-making. The committee shall serve as liaison to the Board and to other committees and staff regarding personnel matters. This committee’s membership must be confirmed annually by the Board and at least one member of this committee shall be a member of the Board.

Contact: personnel@uuithaca.org.

Committee Charter

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Stewardship Committee

The Stewardship Committee is dedicated to ensuring the financial health of the congregation. We devise and develop out the annual pledge drive. During the pledge season we meet regularly, often once a week, to create the various documents and events used to solicit and collect pledges.

We work with other teams to establish the pledge goal for the year; create a theme for the pledge drive; generate the written and graphic materials that are sent out to our members to solicit their pledges; organize an event or events during the pledge season to celebrate our community’s generosity; analyze pledge data and trends.

Contact: Matt Hare, stewardship@uuithaca.org

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Strategic Planning Committee, Ad Hoc

The Board of Trustees established this ad hoc committee to build on the pre-pandemic work of the Dream Catchers Team.  That team started the work towards creating a five year Strategic Plan for our Society as called for in the Board Policy Book Section 1.1.2: 

“Produce and adopt a five-year Strategic Plan, to be updated every three years, consisting of a short list of the most important results the board intends to achieve through the Society’s ministry and the strategic choices (regarding program, membership, capital and operating budgets and staffing) the board has made about how to achieve those results.

The Committee is charged to articulate a 3-5 year vision statement for First Unitarian, for delivery to the April 2024 Board meeting.