More than 500 volunteers from four Evanston-based congregations are expected to participate in interfaith community service and reflection during Unity Weekend, April 19 to 21.

Volunteers of all ages from Beth Emet The Free Synagogue, St. Nicholas Catholic Church, the Second Baptist Church of Evanston, and the Unitarian Church of Evanston, will join to complete hands-on service projects in Evanston and nearby communities over the weekend leading up to Earth Day.

Unity Weekend brings together communities of faith to serve our greater community,” said Senior Rabbi Andrea London of Beth Emet The Free Synagogue. “Through our hands-on involvement, we acknowledge our communal responsibility and demonstrate in a very tangible way how people of diverse faith backgrounds can work together to promote the common good.”

The more than 55 service projects include preparing meals for needy families, entertaining senior citizens, restoring prairie lands, repairing bicycles, and cleaning up the Skokie Lagoons via canoe.

“The projects are designed to call upon a range of skills and passions in order to fill a variety of needs within the community,” said Rev. Connie Grant, the Minister for Congregational Life from the Unitarian Church of Evanston.

“We have the opportunity to participate in short-term projects that have the potential to have long-term impact, both through the results of our work and through the relationships we build with members of our congregations and the larger community.”

This year’s Unity Weekend is an outgrowth of Unity Day, a day of interfaith service held in 2009. By extending to a weekend, organizers said the initiative could offer more projects and opportunities for reflection.

“Unity Weekend brings us all together for the sake of Evanston, our shared home,” said Fr. Bill Tkachuk, Pastor of St. Nicholas Catholic Church. “For the members of St. Nicholas Parish, our participation has special meaning as an act of gratitude for our 125-year relationship with the people and organizations of Evanston.

“At Second Baptist Church, our congregational theme for 2013 is “Beyond the Walls,” said Rev. Karen E. Mosby-Avery of Second Baptist: “As we continue to give thanks for 130 years of ministry in Evanston, Second Baptist is grateful to join in this powerful demonstration of what beloved community looks like.”

Funding for Unity Weekend comes from The Huckman Family Fund of the Beth Emet Foundation and each congregation.

Top: Participants show off blankets they made for sick children during the 2009 Unity Day event.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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