Every year on the weekend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, members of St. Pauls United Church of Christ march through Lincoln Park to raise funds for and awareness of UCAN’s programs through the Polar Peace March (PPM). However, this year because of COVID-19, the march was reimagined into an inspiring virtual event. Through the commitment and passion of St. Pauls members and friends, the march surpassed its goal by raising more than $114,000.
Supporters participated by creating fundraising pages, taking pictures of themselves with PPM masks and lawn signs, and had those pictures featured in a virtual program that streamed on January 17. It may not have been as fun (or cold) as shouting down Clark Street but church members, their family and friends, and others helped those who have experienced violence throughout Chicago.
The event started with a virtual worship service hosted by St. Pauls followed by readings and songs focused on peace and honoring the legacy of Dr. King. A moving sermon by UCAN Chaplain William Hall also lead seamlessly into the virtual Polar Peace March program.
This year’s program highlighted three UCAN programs that work in tandem to prevent violence: Violence Intervention and Prevention Services, which engages youth in high-risk areas through community outreach and mentorship; Counseling Youth and Development Services, which offers a variety of programs, including therapy and leadership building; and Workforce Development, which helps youth secure and retain employment.
“I learned so much more about UCAN through this virtual march and I actually felt even more inspired to support UCAN now that I have a fuller sense of what they do and who does it. Thank you!” said St. Pauls Pastor Sarah Garcia.
St. Pauls also pivoted its Mini March to the virtual space. Families with children 3-10 years old participated in a discussion held over Zoom about Dr. King, his legacy and how to continue that work. The children discussed ways to stand up for others, promote peace and support racial reconciliation. Families then made pledges of actions they can take within their family to continue Dr. King’s work.