The sound of laughter, smooth jazz, and the clink of champagne glasses rose out of Reidy Hall, located in the lower level of All Souls in New York City, on Friday evening, November 8th, 2013. Old friends were gathered around tables adorned with elegant flowing table cloths, felt snow, and glorious candlelight. Some had come from Boston, some from New York, some even from as far away as California, all to gather and celebrate the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office and raise funds for the continued realization of its mission.
Intern and aspirant for Unitarian Universalist Ministry, Dylan Debelis, welcomed people into the space, lighting the chalice while reflecting on a meditation written by late All Souls minister, Reverend Forrest Church. This welcome was followed with a warm greeting by UU-UNO Director, Bruce Knotts.
Bruce recounted the necessary Human Rights work the UU-UNO participates in and explored the incredible journey the UU-UNO has been on over its past fifty-one years of service. He then introduced Dr. Holly Atkinson who in turn introduced Ken Roth, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, and the UU-UNO’s Humanitarian of the Year. Ken Roth’s speech highlighted heart wrenching human rights atrocities taking place around the world and stressed the role of Human Rights Watch, the UU-UNO, and other human rights organizations’ in fighting these atrocities.
Coming back from a quick break where final bids were placed on a cornucopia of fabulous items at the silent auction Dylan again took the stage to share a poetic reflection on human rights. Bringing in experiences from his time studying in India, Tanzania, and Mexico Dylan underlined the necessity of Unitarian Universalists to fight social injustice on both a global and local level. This period of reflection was ended with a moment of silence to stand in solidarity with all those who suffer daily all around the globe and to reaffirm the Unitarian Universalist calling to work tirelessly for peace.
Dylan then introduced Dr. Marilyn Meher, UU-UNO Advisory Board Member, who presented the first award for outstanding volunteer efforts to Frank Patton. Frank was the pro-bono lawyer who worked ceaselessly to make the merger process between the UU-UNO and the UUA as seamless as possible. UU-UNO Envoy Coordinator, Kamila Jacob and UU-UNO Office and Intern Coordinator, Nickie Tiedeman then introduced a second volunteer award for the flawless filming and editing of the 2013 Intergenerational Spring Seminar to Janice Keuhnelian. This was followed by a 2 minute clip of the Spring Seminar video followed by an uproariously round of applause. Watch the video here!
The event concluded with a fabulous live auction led by experienced auctioneer, Armand Paganelli. Armand engaged the audience from the start, starting the auction by graciously raffling off a hundred dollar bill from his pocket. The audience began bidding immediately and a sense of friendly competiveness filled the room. Guests began bidding higher and higher. All inclusive vacations, private fitness classes, artwork, and other items were sold to the highest bidder.
The last item to be bid on, a chance to sponsor the UU-UNO’s 2014 Intergenerational Spring Seminar, was by far the most successful. Collectively, people came together to raise over twelve thousand dollars for the cause. Bruce, nearly speechless at the generosity of his friends and colleagues, concluded the night by reciting moving words of appreciation and camaraderie.
Bellies full of food, drink, and gratitude, each person smiled wide as they left through the church doors into the cool autumn air. Many claimed that this would be an annual event they would certainly not miss anytime soon.