May Team of the Month: Minnesota Atheists

Congratulations to Beyond Belief Network’s April’s Team of the Month: Minnesota Atheists! This Level 2 team is based in Minneapolis, MN and were chosen for this honor because of their strong commitment to food access with regular monthly commitments at two different organizations. Minnesota Atheists was previously honored with November 2015’s Picture of the Month…

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March Team of the Month: Minnesota Atheists

Congratulations to Beyond Belief Network’s March Team of the Month: Minnesota Atheists! Based in Minneapolis, MN, this team is one of the first to reach Level One this year. Minnesota Atheists was chosen for Team of the Month recognition because of their service schedule and their dedication towards local organizations within their community. Minnesota Atheists…

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November Team of the Month: Minnesota Atheists

Congratulations to Beyond Belief Network’s November Team of the Month: Minnesota Atheists! Minnesota Atheists is currently a Level One BBN team. This team was chosen for Team of the Month recognition because of their commitment to helping those in need, their regular service event schedule at local organizations, and their interest in improving their community.…

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Minnesota Atheists

Minnesota Atheists is Minnesota’s oldest and largest atheist organization. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit, educational organization that seeks to promote the positive contributions of atheism to society and to maintain separation of state and church.  We produce a weekly live radio show and podcast, “Atheists Talk”. We offer speakers to the community free of charge.…

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This “ain’t” no lazy summer for Minnesota Atheists

The crack of a baseball bat, the shuffling of notes at a podium, and the thud of canned yams into a cardboard box—it’s been a busy month for Minnesota Atheists, one of our Volunteers Beyond Belief teams.

Emergency Foodshelf NetworkFirst, the godless givers showed up to the Emergency Foodshelf Network, and in a two-hour shift, packed 4,387 pounds of food and 66 bags of rice—enough for 556 people. Since then, the boxes have been distributed to various food banks in the area. EFN is a secular nonprofit that relies heavily on partnerships and volunteers to operate, and in this case, move more than two tons of food. “It was hard work,” commented one volunteer from MN Atheists, “but worth it.”

Ten days later, the group had a weekend to remember—starting with a quintessentially American ball game. This particular ball game was especially close to the American tradition because it was secular—the St. Paul Saints, a minor-league baseball team, temporarily renamed themselves the Mr. Paul “Aints” for a benefit game. Aints jerseys were available for pre-order, and those worn by the players were auctioned off, in part to benefit Volunteers Beyond Belief.

Mr. Paul AintsAmerican Atheists president Dave Silverman (who also threw out the first pitch) described the entire event as surreal, and complimented the sense of humor on the part of the team, who wore different jerseys and covered every S in the Saints signage.

The following day, American Atheists held their regional conference, featuring speakers such as PZ Myers, Ayanna Watson, and Teresa MacBain. The conference was open to anyone in the area and included opportunities to eat and go for drinks with other attendees.

Upcoming events from this VBB team include a family-oriented Freethought Picnic, regular book club meetings, and board game nights. How does your group stay active and promote community?

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Get to know Minnesota Atheists

Minnesota AtheistsMinnesota Atheists is one of our newest Volunteers Beyond Belief teams. Eric Jayne answered a few questions to introduce us to this active group.

Minnesota Atheists was established in 1991, as a continuation of the Twin Cities Chapter of American Atheists, which was founded in 1984. We are the state’s oldest, largest, and most active atheist organization, and we’re very welcoming with a diverse membership that shares a common bond under our shared atheist identity.

We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit, educational organization that seeks to promote the positive contributions of atheism to society and to maintain separation of state and church. We are an affiliate of the Atheist Alliance International, Council for Secular Humanism, and American Atheists, which holds annual national conventions, including the Reason Rally on March 24, 2012, in Washington, D.C.

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Announcing the 2012 Heart of Humanism Award winners

Heart of Humanism Awards 2012Foundation Beyond Belief is thrilled to announce the winners of our first-annual Heart of Humanism Awards. This year’s awards recognize the outstanding community service of local groups who participated in our Volunteers Beyond Belief (VBB) program in 2012, as well as individuals who made extraordinary contributions to compassionate humanism. Earlier this year, VBB became part of Beyond Belief Network, along with our Foundation Partners Program and Light The Night international team. In addition to recognition, winners receive grants they can direct to any 501(c)(3) organization they choose.

Volunteers Beyond Belief launched in 2011 with seven teams: Triangle Freethought Society, Fellowship of Freethought, Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry, Harvard Humanists, Valley Skeptics in the Park, Humanity on Call, and Humanist Community of Central Ohio. As of this year, BBN has grown to more than 70 teams across the United States, with more than 4,000 volunteers and nearly 27,000 hours of community service to date. We are amazed by all the exciting service opportunities the BBN teams have planned so far in 2013, and we can’t wait to see who the 2013 award winners are!

2012 team winners are:

1.    Humanism at Work Award for Most Volunteer Hours (total hours volunteered divided by the number of people in group) and $250 grant: Triangle Freethought Society
2.    Eat. Sleep. Volunteer. Repeat. Award for Most Volunteer Events and $100 grant: Fellowship of Freethought Dallas
3.    Rookie of the Year for Best Team Added in 2012 and $50 grant: Humanists of Rhode Island
4.    Campus All-Star Award for Outstanding Student Team and $100 grant: SSA U Michigan
5.    Humanist Communication Award for Best Event Reporting and $50 grant: Minnesota Atheists
6.    Feed the Need for Outstanding Food-Related Volunteering and $50 grant: Fellowship of Freethought Dallas
7.    Best Service Article or Video and $50 grant: Valley Skeptics in the Park
8.    Best Photograph of Humanism at Work and $50 grant: Valley Skeptics in the Park

Light the Night Team Awards:

1.    Shining Star Award for Outstanding Light The Night Team: Triangle Freethought Society

Special thanks to all of the 2012 VBB LTN teams: Harvard Humanists, HCCO, FoF Dallas, Valley Skeptics, Triangle Freethought Society, Cleveland Freethinkers, SSA U of Chicago, Minnesota Atheists, SSA U Michigan, Humanists of Rhode Island, New Orleans Secular Humanist Association, CSRA Non-Theists

2.    Additional awards were provided by Stiefel Freethought Foundation. VBB team Harvard Humanists won the first place student team and home office award and received $2,000 in grants.

Josh NankivelIndividual Award winners:

Our 2012 Most Valuable Volunteer and recipient of a $100 grant is Josh Nankivel of Siouxland Freethinkers. Josh has donated blood, school supplies, and toys, and helped with highway cleanup and kids’ science events. He raised $12,000 for Autism Speaks and was the top individual fundraiser in South Dakota in 2012!

The Humanist Visionary Award goes to Greg Epstein for his groundbreaking contributions to the development of humanist community nationwide through his writing, speaking, and work with the Humanist Community Project at Harvard University.

The Humanist Innovator Award goes to Carmen Zepp for the creation of Human Beans Together, a program that grew out of the simple desire to share food with those who are hungry in the Raleigh area. Since January 2012, Human Beans has operated a weekly open-air “soup kitchen” in the center of the city, feeding hundreds of people each week. Carmen is a member of the Triangle Freethought Society.

Finally, the Heart of Humanism Award goes to Todd Stiefel, founding executive director of the Stiefel Freethought Foundation and Team Captain of FBB’s Light The Night Team. He and his family matched Light The Night donations dollar for dollar, contributing more than $200,000 in 2012. SFF also provided thousands of dollars for Light The Night incentives to top fundraising teams.

But as game-changing as Todd’s financial support has been, his time and leadership have made at least as great an impact. He works tirelessly to support the humanist movement, from volunteering for Camp Quest, to speaking at conferences, to organizing humanist programs and leading our LTN International Team.

Please join us in congratulating all of our 2012 Heart of Humanism award winners on Facebook! Go to our page and leave them some love.

If your group would like to make charity a larger part of your identity, consider joining Beyond Belief Network. We welcome any groups with a public secular humanist or atheist identity, with all levels of experience. We provide our teams with how-to guides, tips, and assistance planning and promoting events. Additionally, we award our top teams with recognition, t-shirts, and the opportunity to apply for grants for service projects. To be eligible for the 2013 awards, you must report at least eight events prior to December 31, 2013. Teams may submit backdated reports for all of their 2013 events.

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Volunteers Beyond Belief serve up some holiday cheer

Volunteers Beyond BeliefBy Andrew Geary

The holidays provide some time to reconnect with friends and family, reflect on the year behind, set plans for the year ahead, and for our Volunteers Beyond Belief teams to find creative ways to give back to their community.

One of our newest teams, the Siouxland Freethinkers, served up some help for two local nonprofits. Fifteen members helped a local nonprofit dedicated to providing children and families in need with the help that they deserve. The group raised money for Project Joy while gift-wrapping and sharing the humanist cheer with all who came their way. In addition, the group hosted a toy drive benefitting the Children’s Home Society of South Dakota, which serves more than 2,000 children each year, primarily ages 4 to 13. The majority of these children are victims of severe abuse or neglect. The Siouxland Freethinkers collected seven bags of new toys, clothes, and books.

MISSA book driveThe University of Michigan’s Secular Student Alliance held a book drive for the Ann Arbor PTO Thrift Store, which gives money to the Ann Arbor Public Schools. Volunteers from the group dropped off and sorted through the books, donating nearly 100 books to the thrift store.

The Humanists of Houston dedicated their holiday cheer to the Houston Area Women’s Center Holiday Store. For two weeks every holiday, the Center transforms their offices into a store where the women and families they serve can shop for holiday gifts. Read more about it our blog, where it was a featured story.

Two of our groups pitched in to help the stretch of highway they have adopted stay clean and free of any holiday clutter—the Fayette Freethought Society and Fellowship of Freethought in Dallas. In addition, the Fellowship of Freethought Dallas held a gift drive for Jonathan’s Place, a local organization that provides safe, loving homes and specialized services for children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected.

Minnesota Atheists gift wrappingThe Minnesota Atheists’ “War on Christmas” brought together 20 volunteers from the group. Each group member brought gifts as requested by the children’s hospital. After enjoying a festive feast, they wrapped the gifts, put a nice bow on each one, and dropped off the gifts at the hospital. In total, the group donated $600 worth of gifts.

The Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry volunteered at the Lowcountry Food Bank, an organization that helps ensure that affordable food gets to those who need it. The group helped sort and box hundreds of pounds of donations from retailers. Additionally, through the months of November and December they raised $1,092 for Begin with Books. This will help provide books for more than 30 kids.

Some of our other groups kept busy with their regularly scheduled events, including the Humanists of Rhode Island’s monthly efforts with Habitat for Humanity and the Humanist Community of Central Ohio’s blood drive, Bleed & Feed.

All of our VBB teams’ efforts during the holidays are just a snapshot of the great work they do all year long. To learn more about this program and to check out the application to join, click here.

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FBB teams participate in Light the Night Walks across the country

Our international Light the Night team is a third of the way to our $1 million goal (including matching donations courtesy of team captain Todd Stiefel and his family) with a little less than two months to go in 2012. Many teams have started sending us pictures of their walks.


CFI Michigan Light the Night Walk

CFI Michigan raised almost $2,000 from individual donations, a kickoff event at McFadden’s restaurant, and a partnership with their local Culver’s restaurants. They walked on October 6 in Grand Rapids, MI.

Chicago Light the Night Walk

The Chicago-Area Secular Student Alliance Group, consisting of affiliates from Loyola, DePaul, Northwestern, and the University of Chicago raised $1,255 and walked on October 20 in Chicago. 


Chicago Light the Night Walk

Walking with the Chicago-Area SSA teams on October 20 was the Chicago-Area team, which raised $3,332.


Camp Quest/HCCO Light the Night Walk

Camp Quest and Humanist Community of Central Ohio raised nearly $1,200 from individual donations and walked on October 27 in Columbus, OH.


SSA National Staff Light the Night Walk

Secular Student Alliance National Staff raised more than $700 from individual donations and walked on October 27 in Columbus, OH.


Minnesota Atheists Light the Night Walk

Minnesota Atheists raised $700 and walked on September 23 in Minneapolis, MN.


CLU SSA & The Humanist Community Thousand Oaks Light the Night Walk

CLU SSA & The Humanist Community Thousand Oaks raised more than $700 and walked on October 27 in Woodland Hills, CA.


Birmingham Temple Light the Night Walk

Birmingham Temple beat their $2,000 goal by another $200 when they walked in Troy, MI, on September 22.


Secular Student Alliance at the University of Michigan Light the Night Walk

Secular Student Alliance at the University of Michigan raised $700 from a Send-an-Atheist-to-Church fundraiser and individual donations. They walked in Ann Arbor, MI, on September 29.


The Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island Light the Night Walk

The Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island raised $2,500, beating their goal by 25% from team and individual donations. They walked on October 12 in East Meadow, NY.


Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation Light the Night Walk

Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation raised more than $1,600 from individual donations and walked on October 21 in Glenview, IL.

It’s not too late to donate! Don’t forget, donations are being matched up to $500,000 by the Stiefel family and support the incredibly good work being done by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

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FBB secured a $20,000 grant!

Chase Community GivingTHANK YOU!

As a result of all your help in voting and getting the word out, we were ultimately able to secure 3,429 votes, qualifying Foundation Beyond Belief for a $20,000 grant from the Chase Community Giving program! With this funding we’ll be able to tremendously expand our membership, partnership, and Volunteers Beyond Belief programs.

But we weren’t the only secular charity that met success through the program: Secular Student Alliance finished in 27th place, securing a $50,000 grant, and Camp Quest in 69th, also receiving $20,000.

Special thanks to Jessica Kirsner, Amanda Metskas, PZ Myers, Hemant Mehta, Greta Christina, The Atheist Rabbi, David Niose, Greg Epstein, Chris Stedman, Ingo Soeding, Darrel Ray, Rebekah Bennetch, Zach Moore, JT Eberhard, Kara Long, Kiersten Brown, Margaret Downey, all the FBB members and partners, the VBB teams, all the interns and staff of FBB and SSA, Responsible Charity, European Humanists Atheists and Agnostics, the Mothers Beyond Belief board, the Society for Humanistic Judaism, the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard, Kasese Humanist Primary School, Minnesota Atheists, Fargo-Moorehead Atheists, Malta Humanist Association, the American Humanist Association, and—of course—Chase Community Giving.

With the help of these inspired individuals and organizations, as well as everyone who worked with us to make these grants possible, the secular movement will now see extraordinary change in its philanthropy, student activism, and youth education. The future of humanist giving is on the horizon, and now we have the resources to help us on our journey.

UPDATE: Here’s a big THANK YOU from members of FBB, Camp Quest, and the Secular Student Alliance, Gangnam Style:



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