Beyond Belief Network March round-up

Our Beyond Belief Network (BBN) teams were busy as usual in March. We’re also happy to announce the addition of a new group to our BBN family, the Austin Atheists Helping the Homeless.

At the end of February, our newest BBN friends held a Giveaway for the Homeless. Austin Atheists Helping the Homeless (AAHH) had 18 volunteers who helped to distribute items to over 150 people over the course of the giveaway. They disbursed four large bags of clothes on their "clothing isle," and this included some donated professional clothing and shoes. They also received donations from several members of the Atheist Community of Austin at their Freethought Library, including toothbrushes and hotel disposables. In addition, a couple of Secular Student Alliance members from UT Austin came out to help!! (Austin Atheists Helping the Homeless Pictured in featured photo above.)

AAHH held another Giveaway for the Homeless in mid-March. In just over an hour, about 160 residents of Austin, TX received toiletries and supplies, including toothbrushes/pastes, socks, nail clippers, deodorant, and feminine hygiene products. They had about 20 volunteers donating and helping with distribution. In addition, they distributed approximately two large bags worth of clothing, from jeans and shirts to professional women shoes. Of special note, the Support the Girls – Austin organization donated many bras in various sizes, as well as additional feminine hygiene products to distribute. Let’s extend a warm welcome to our newest BBN team. Well done!

On the evening of March 23, two members of Austin Humanists at Work's (ATXHAW) Gettin' Knotty (GK) group met in the cafe area of a local bookstore to knit, crochet, and chat. Since the February giveaway, GK members created 20 washcloths, which were handed out at the March giveaway, and six hats & four scarves, which will be handed out in the cold weather months. Between their February and March giveaways, ATXHAW volunteers solicited donations via word of mouth, on social media, by handing out business cards, and on neighborhood listservs and NextDoor. They received 3,174 donated items, which were handed out at their March 26th giveaway. At the giveaway, volunteers gathered under a bridge in downtown Austin to hand out the community donations to those in need in the community. They were able to serve 152 people. Included in donated items were 195 boxes of Girl Scout cookies donated by the Springwoods Service Unit of the Girl Scouts of Central Texas!

The Minnesota Atheists were also busy in March. Nine volunteers gathered in early March to repack 675 pounds of rice, which is enough to serve 562 meals. The food packed will eventually be distributed to various food shelves throughout the Twin Cities. At another event, ten Minnesota Atheist volunteers purchased ingredients to make chicken Alfredo and pasta with meat sauce, salad, garlic bread and fruit pizza. The meal they prepared provided a great supper for 13 children and 6 adults at The Family Place, which is a shelter for families without a permanent home.

Six Columbus Coalition of Reason (CoR) volunteers worked as servers for a total of 15 hours on March 14, 2017 at the Community Shelter Board (CSB) facility on Van Buren Drive in Columbus, Ohio. This was the Central Ohio United Non-Theists’ (COUNT) fifteenth joint shelter event with Humanist Community of Central Ohio (HCCO) members joining in. HCCO and COUNT are fellow Columbus CoR groups. CSB provides housing and meals to homeless families and individual men and women in Central Ohio. Some volunteers serve dinners while others wash dishes, mop floors, file forms, or clean tables.

A total of 66 Columbus CoR volunteers have worked 576 hours in 28 various events with the CSB to date. They wear COUNT branded nametags to raise awareness that they are non-theists doing charity work. Once the dishes are done, they adjourn to the Omnipresent Atheists (also part of Columbus CoR) meet-up for dinner, drinks, and conversation.

Five volunteers from Columbus CoR spent a total of seven hours participating in the Bleed-N-Feed event in January at the Carriage Place Red Cross Donor Center in Columbus, Ohio. Donors can make appointments or walk-in to give one unit of whole blood, while others do aphaeresis, donating up to 3 units of platelets or 2 units of red blood cells. CoR volunteers donated a total of 5 units! Donors became diners as they head to a nearby rest afterward to replenish. This was the second Columbus CoR Bleed-N-Feed since COUNT helped to expand HCCO’s longstanding event. Events are planned for Third Thursdays in January, March, May, July, September and November.

Columbus Coalition of Reason also sponsored a Charity Fundraiser Happy Hour at Seventh Son Brewing Co. in Italian Village, north of Downtown Columbus, to benefit the Mid-Ohio Foodbank in March. Twenty people from multiple Columbus CoR groups showed up to support the local charity, and the local brewery, and raised $212. This fun event paired great conversations with some of the best local craft beer in Central Ohio. Columbus CoR has worked with both Seventh Son and Land Grant Brewery on these charity events in the past, and they look forward to planning similar events at both of these breweries, as well as other local breweries, in the future. Columbus CoR already has one such event planned! They will hold an event celebrating The National Day of Reason at The Actual Brewing Company on Saturday May 6, 2017. Two COUNT members arranged the event for Columbus CoR, and various member groups advertised it by building on the annual Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) Benefit Dinner’s success in helping the foodbank. Columbus CoR has now raised $11,348.37 and collected 1,510 lbs of food for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank since 2012.

Four COUNT volunteers met in January and followed up over the next two months to make requests for Day of Reason Proclamations from the State of Ohio, Franklin County, City of Upper Arlington, and the City of Columbus. The Ohio request, which included a list of Ohio secular groups with membership statistics, was signed by the Columbus Coalition of Reason Coordinator (another COUNT member), the Secular Coalition for Ohio (SCO) co-Chairs, and the Board Chair of the recently formed Ohio Chapter of Americans United. They submitted it to the Governor, and former Presidential candidate, John Kasich. The Franklin County, City of Upper Arlington, and City of Columbus requests included a list of Central Ohio secular groups with membership statistics. The Franklin County and City of Columbus requests were signed by the Columbus CoR Coordinator and were submitted to Franklin County Board of Commissioners President John O’Grady and Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, respectively. The City of Upper Arlington request was addressed to President of Council/Mayor Deborah Johnson and was signed by COUNT member and Upper Arlington resident Ed Sweeney. All requests included an invitation to present a proclamation at a Day of Reason celebration scheduled for May 6th, which will be another fundraiser for the local food bank. COUNT is currently soliciting Letters of Support from other Ohio secular to be submitted separately.

Eight volunteers with Brevard Area Atheists worked on road cleanup on Babcock between Palm Bay Avenue and Eber. They cleaned up 16 trash bags full, weighing about 105 pounds! Things were getting hot out, but they finished!

On International Women's Day, and so close to Pi Day, BE Orlando volunteers made a (Pi)zza dinner at SafeHouse of Seminole, which is a shelter for abused women, children, and men. With 50 varieties of pizza, salad, and fruit pizza dessert, there was a seemingly never-ending Pi buffet! They’re still working on increasing the volunteer turnout at these, but they have some amazing regular volunteers and always have a wonderful time.

Their 5th annual Math, Science, & Pi(e) event at the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida (CHCF) engaged 20 volunteers who hosted math & science activities with local children. Activities included a solar cell experiment, Sudoku challenges, coding games, pi day bracelets, tangrams & Pi puzzles, Pi posters, a bookmark coloring area, math mazes and games, face painting, science tattoos, and, of course, a Pi(e) buffet with more than 20 pies! Volunteers received a Pi Day Adventure & Challenge Leader certificate. The youth who attended the event each received a science backpack filled with books thanks to a grant from the Foundation Beyond Belief. They also received a STEM journal, math and science games and toys, Pi day book marks with Einstein quotes, a recycling activity and sticker book, and a Pi Day Adventure participant certificate. CHCF is especially grateful to the Central Florida Freethought Community and the Secular Student Alliance at UCF. Both groups are also BBN teams, and both supported and volunteered at this event with BE Orlando. In addition, all of BE Orlando's Board of Advisor members volunteered at this event. We appreciate the collaboration, partnership, and engaged humanist community in Central Florida. Together, we make a difference.

The Fellowship of Freethought in Dallas picked up trash along their two-mile stretch of adopted highway in Dallas. They did not get as many volunteers as needed this month, so it was difficult work for four people. Regardless, they managed to clean the entire two-mile stretch together! Click here to read about another fun March event, their “Party for a Purpose." Fellowship of Freethought Dallas also provided dinner at AIDS Services of Dallas, as they do the fourth Thursday of each month. AIDS Services of Dallas provides medically supportive housing to low-income persons living with HIV/AIDS. The Supper Club is a program that provides the residents hot, nutritious meals every night. In addition to sharing home cooked meals, social interaction is also an important benefit.

Springfield, MO has a system of greenway trails running throughout the city, and there's often trash lying along the trails. In March, the Springfield Skeptics turned one of their regular group hikes into a trash pick-up event. Volunteers met at one of the local trailheads and walked 1.3 miles in about 1.5 hours, cleaning up four large bags of trash. Trash was collected from the creek, which runs alongside the paved trail, and from the sides of the trail. Two years ago the Springfield Skeptics adopted a two-mile stretch of Highway 65 in Ozark, Missouri, right in front of the megachurch, James River Assembly. They've kept it clean ever since. On this trip out there, five volunteers spent two hours on one of the sections of the adopted highway. They picked up over seven bags of litter, mostly cigarette butts, but a few odd things, too. A "Slide to Open" magnetic sign was found, and promptly slapped onto one of the volunteer’s vehicles. They laughed, quoted movies, worked together, and made their stretch of highway a cleaner place. The Springfield Skeptics also collaborated with a few other groups in March to help Ozarks Food Harvest pack boxes of food for their senior citizen program. They assembled boxes, loaded them with donated food, checked the boxes’ weight, and then sealed the boxes. Volunteers then added the boxes to pallets and wrapped the pallets in an assembly line manner. Over the course of three hours they were able to pack 736 boxes, each with 28.5 pounds of food, a total of 10.5 tons of food, to be sent out to elderly folks in need within their community.

In March, the South Texas Atheists for Reason (STAR) harvested and packed ten pounds of chard and ten pounds of spinach! Working on a 27-acre garden, cultivating fresh produce to provide healthy, nutritious fresh foods for distribution, volunteers worked as a group to assist the farmer with planting, harvesting, caring-for, and cleaning fruits, vegetables, and other edible plants. Volunteers also help with composting, weeding, digging, hoeing and watering in the field. STAR also was able to assist the Watershed Wise Warriors again in March with cleaning up trails by removing invasive plants, such as the Chinaberry trees, which will allow sun and moisture to the native plants along the trails at the Headwaters. Volunteers also helped with picking up litter.  It was hours of hard work and a lot of fun. STAR volunteers also handed out hygiene supplies, prepackaged snacks, waters, books and some clothing items at their Helping the Homeless event in March. They were able to help 183 people, and did not run out of supplies!

The Sunday Assembly Los Angeles team collected clothes and toys for Baby2Baby, a charity in LA. They collected more than they expected, approximately $1200 dollars worth of clothes and toys! Volunteers sorted the donated baby’s and children's clothing for Baby2Baby, helping the charity get organized at its new warehouse in Culver City. Baby2Baby works with homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters, Head Start programs, and children’s hospitals to provide low-income children ages 0-12 years with diapers, clothing, and the basic necessities that every child deserves.

Strong work, BBN teams! Thank you for your many hours of service in March. You are humanism at work!