Welcome to our newest First Unitarian members
Dana Borrelli-Murray is thrilled to shake a lifetime of Catholic guilt and officially join First Unitarian. With a growing brood of biological and foster children, Dana and spouse Colin searched for a spiritual community and are thankful to have found First U. A native Rhode Islander, Dana is related to one in every five Italians in Providence and always knows where to find the perfect party pizza. Committed to social justice and community-making, she is the Chair of the Board for the Children and Youth Cabinet of RI (CYCRI) and the Chair of the Board for Trinity Academy for Performing Arts (TAPA), a performing arts charter school in Providence. Dana plays saxophone with the Extraordinary Rendition Band, creating raucous noise for social causes. By day, Dana is the Executive Director of the Highlander Institute, a Providence-based nonprofit organization. Highlander Institute partners with communities to imagine and create more equitable, relevant, and effective schools. Highlander Institute focuses on creating student-centered, personalized learning environments, particularly for historically underserved student populations.
Carolyn Decker is a graduate student at URI studying diamondback terrapin ecology. She is the co-founder of the expressive arts partnership Endless Beautiful (www.endlessbeautiful.com). Carolyn loves science and poetry, and she is excited to officially become a member here at First U. She lives in Providence with her partner Lucas and their cat Bella.
Jenn DeLaney is relatively new to Providence and the UU Church. She moved to Providence about three years ago after living in over a dozen places over the last 20 years. She’s loved every moment since she’s been here and is looking forward to the next 20 years! She’s attended just about as many churches in that time and is glad she’s finally found one that fits her. She lives with her dog Morgan, whom she adopted from China – the best thing she’s ever done! Jenn loves to spend her time outside and loves the seasons of New England. She’s passionate about the environment and her work – building solar farms. Jenn is really looking forward to getting to know the community at First U and continuing to learn and grow as part of this congregation.
Julie DiBari just moved to Providence after 13 years in Newport where she was a member of Newport’s UU Channing Memorial Church. She is excited by the energy of the Providence congregation and the beautiful church and RE spaces. Julie is an activist and business owner. In her work she supports organizations in moving toward their next phase of growth through strategic planning, organizational development, and evaluation. She works with nonprofits, foundations, government, and collaborations, including with for-profit businesses, to address entrenched issues. As a former foster youth, her lifelong goal is to ensure those directly impacted by the issues are key decision makers in identifying the problems and the solutions. As a volunteer she works on government reform, a woman’s right to bodily autonomy, ending the epidemic of sexual assault, equity in healthcare, ending mass incarceration, eradicating prison records that follow a person, and ensuring schools offer opportunities for all to see a pathway to success. She supports apprenticeship and experiential educational models in addition to classroom-based learning. She cheers organizations that seek to address nepotism and bias in education and employment opportunities. She has a wonderful husband, John, and two wonderful children, Ella, 12, and Gabe, 10, who are the most important things in her life.
Susie Dorr has shadowed my born-and-bred Unitarian husband Greg Kniseley through the halls and pews of First U for about 30 years and finally decided to come out into the light. I was inspired to take this plunge into membership after listening to last year’s crop of eighth graders share their beliefs and questions during the Coming of Age service. I hope I can match their courage in making myself and my views known and find ways through First U’s vast array of social justice programs to actively work for positive change. I had a rewarding career as a teacher. I love travel, photography, and being a grandmother. I’m also looking forward to supporting the congregation’s creativity through the Art Collective.
Johnanna Hernandez: My son Angel and I are from Guatemala. We arrived in Providence almost two years ago. I remember when I arrived at the airport in Providence. I felt very happy. But at the same time I was worried about not speaking English because the people I was going to live with are English-speaking Americans. I worried about not being able to communicate. But that family taught me a lot. They were my teachers and taught me my first English words. They helped me a lot, and they still do. Shortly after I arrived in Providence, I started ESL classes. Now I have one year and five months in Genesis Center. I come from an evangelical family, and my grandmother was Catholic. I thank you for knowing the family that I lived with in Rhode Island because, thanks to them, I have the pleasure of meeting many people. They are very good, and they taught me to trust people again. Because of everything that has happened in my life, I didn’t trust anyone in the past. With their love and kindness, they helped me move on. I am very happy to attend church together with my son and to be part of the community of the First Unitarian Church.
Kate and Jonathan Niles moved to Providence in October 2019 after living in Durango, CO, for 22 years. We needed a change from small town, Western Slope Colorado and were looking for a small city. Jonathan grew up around Boston, and we have family nearby in the summertime, so we have visited the area many times. After a lot of hunting around (Portland ME, Portland OR, San Diego, etc) we landed here! Jonathan works from home doing IT support, and Kate is re-establishing her practice as a trauma-focused psychotherapist. We have a 22-year-old son in college on the other coast, and an old cat.
Peter Phipps is a retired newsman who now teaches journalism at the University of Rhode Island. My wife Odile and I live in Fox Point with our dog Fanny.
Holly Rieck and Justin Decker
Madeline (Maddy) Seiler moved to Providence almost five years ago from the DC area with her husband Gregory. Originally from Davis, CA, she grew up going to Unitarian and Quaker services while also attending the Unitarian Church in Bethesda, MD, every summer when visiting her grandparents. As an adult, she realizes how much her religious education and community shaped her core values, and she wants to pass along those values and experiences to her family, including her almost 3-year-old son Grant. Maddy teaches high school English in Franklin, MA, and her husband manages international internships at Brown University. Recently, her family moved to beautiful Barrington. Her family enjoys traveling and spending time outdoors in nature — camping, hiking, beach visits. We are excited to be a part of the First Unitarian Church community!
Rich Streitfeld comes to UU via Buddhism. Or maybe Judaism, or progressive politics. A native New Yorker and East Sider for 20 years, Rich DID live and work at the Providence Zen Center in Cumberland for seven years before hanging up his robes and picking up a CPA’s pencil. His sister has lived on a kibbutz in the Israeli desert since 1972. Community runs in his blood. Not an artist, Rich somehow has ended up hosting legendary home art parties on Hope Street for over a decade. Community, right? (Yes, you ARE invited to “HOPE’s ALIVE”.) He shares that home with his long-time partner Tina Toomey and felines SkyChief! and Puma. Rich swore he would NEVER have children. Yonah, 22, is travelling the world on a slim budget and somehow in the snappiest clothes. Malcolm, 19, lives with Mom on the East Side and has been dubbed “The Bard of Tecumsahville” (dubbing by DAD).
More bios and photos coming soon.
Welcome to our earlier First Unitarian new members
Pictured here are David Cruz, Steve Ahlquist, Nicholas Friesner,
William Rider, Norma Rossi-Mead, Rev. Charles Ortman.
Not pictured are Kody Harrison, Kate Colby, and Stacey Coyle.
Rev. Charles Blustein Ortman
I had the great fortune of falling in with the wrong crowd at a very early age. In the end, it has opened up all kinds of wonderful possibilities for a life that I’m so very grateful for. Alternative service as a Conscientious Objector during the Vietnam War led me into a career in Social Work for many years. Being a child of the 50s and 60s opened me up to communication through music and a two-decade career as a singer/songwriter, which literally took me all around the world.
Meeting, marrying and living with Judy Blustein Ortman for the past 42 years has provided a partnership that has been central to my life and my ministry. Being an at-home father during the early years of our three children’s lives was perhaps my most precious career. Although I must say that now, being the grandparent of three young, beautiful grandchildren rivals my position as father for being most precious!
After graduating from Meadville/Lombard Theological School at the University of Chicago, I was ordained to the UU ministry in 1992. I was elected and served on the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Board of Trustees, and over the years have served congregations in Burlington, IA, Fitchburg, MA, and Montclair, NJ. In Montclair I had the great privilege of serving for 20 years and “retired” as Minister Emeritus in 2015. I then served two years as Interim Minister at First Unitarian Church, Providence RI and now serve as the Minister for Immigration and Sanctuary for the Rhode Island State Council of Churches. My ministry and my life have been a constant journey through and an exploration of experiences of awe, gratitude and service.
Norma Rossi Mead
A new resident of Providence, Norma Rossi Mead is enjoying her involvement with Inquiring Minds, Providence Village and Lifelong Learning Collaborative. Her younger son and his wife are enthusiastic residents and her incentive for moving here after the death of her husband Walter Mead. She was born, raised and educated in Wisconsin, lived in Chicago, Peoria and Germantown Hills, IL most of her life with brief residence in Eugene, OR. Her primary career was in marketing and public relations, directing efforts for a medical complex, community college, and several nonprofits. She has also worked in training and development, specializing in identifying needs for complex organizations. She makes frequent visits to her older son, his wife and two sons in Des Moines, Iowa and enjoys traveling to new places. She was a member of the Universalist Unitarian Church of Peoria and her lifelong faith of Reform Judaism is a strong faith foundation. She has encouraged several friends and family members to visit her since her move here and has received enthusiastic endorsement for her choice of communities.
Nicholas Aaron Friesner
Nicholas grew up in Baltimore, a place that three generations of his family had called home. After escaping to Providence for college, he bounced between Baltimore and Connecticut before returning to Providence for graduate school. All told, he has lived on the East Side for a total of eleven years, the last eight of which he has joyously spent with his wife, Constance, and dog Clementine. Nicholas has a Ph.D. in Religious Studies and has taught religion and ethics at numerous colleges in New England; he currently works full-time for the Brown University Library. He began attending First U over the summer and discovered that it felt right for him.
Kate Colby is a terrible cook and once roasted a chicken upside-down. She lives just down the street with her husband, Rusty; two kids, Willie (9) and Maggie (7); and good dog Boris. She grew up in the Boston area, interloped in California, and has been lurking around First Unitarian for many years. She is author of several books of poetry and literary essays and teaches in the Literary Arts Department at Brown.
Kody lives in Pawtucket with their dog Biscuit, after growing up in CT and attending college in Boston. Their vocation is as a clinical social worker and they work for a local child and family services agency, primarily as a therapist specializing in adolescent mental health and the LGBTQ community. In their down time, they love reading, exploring beautiful RI with their dog, spending time with friends, and enjoying their subscription at PPAC. Kody was drawn to First UU’s welcoming congregation and dedication to social justice. They are happy to join the First UU community.
William Wells Rider
William has been attending First U for the past year and a half after moving to Rumford from Montpelier, Vermont. A lifelong UU, William was introduced to First U through the campus group of which he is now a regular member. Now in his final year at CCRI, where he attends on a promise scholarship, he is just beginning the transfer process. Upon transferring he plans to study sociology and economics or international relations. First U has been William’s home away from home and he is excited to further deepen that connection.
Steve Ahlquist is an independent, progressive journalist with UpriseRI.com. He is married to Kathy Ahlquist and has three adult children.
I moved to the Providence area in the Fall of 2010 from sunny Florida. Raised Catholic I am happy and excited to have found a community at UU in Providence. I was raised in Manhattan, and have been lucky to have lived, and traveled in Europe. I have a Master’s degree, and enjoys yoga, reading and meditation. My spiritual journey began in 1987, and have never looked back. The most important things to me are my family, friends, my animals (two cats), and the people I love. Connection and vulnerability are what make life so beautiful.
It has been a blessing to be back at First UU Providence after 28 years. I am inspired to be an active member. This quote by Ram Dass has been an inspiration to be a member of First UU:
“I would like my life to be a statement of love & compassion- And where it isn’t that’s where my work lies”