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Latest Beyond Belief Network News

Congratulations to Sunday Assembly Los Angeles (SALA), our Beyond Belief Network Team of the Month for May! SALA began getting very active as a BBN team last year and has already established some wonderful relationships with Los Angeles area nonprofits like Baby2Baby and Safe Place for Youth. In May, SALA had its first event with Tree People, another organization that may become a regular service partner for SALAmanders. SALA volunteers helped the organization plant trees to replace dead Sycamores in the community of Cheviot Hills. As a group, they dug holes to the proper specifications, planted the trees, and did their best to set up each tree for a healthy life. Volunteers learned how to plant stakes to help the trees grow tall and straight, and how to provide the trees with the most advantageous blend of mulch and dirt for LA's current drought conditions and the heat of the coming summer. Thank you, SALA volunteers!

By FBB

Our Beyond Belief Network picture of the month for May comes to us from the South Jersey Humanists. South Jersey Humanists supported the South Jersey AIDS Alliance by participating in the Atlantic City AIDS Walk. Four members raised $655 and marched on the Atlantic City Boardwalk for the fourth year in a row. The proceeds help an organization fighting a health crisis that still ravages the Atlantic City area.

By FBB

Beyond Belief Network teams reported nearly 30 events and 1,000 hours of service in the month of April. We already celebrated BE. Orlando for earning April Team of the Month honors and Pikes Peak Atheists and Pikes Peak Atheist Families for capturing the April Picture of the Month. Here's what the rest of our incredible BBN teams were up to!

Austin Atheists Helping the Homeless distributed items to 200 people at their April giveaway, a group record! In addition to the regular toiletries, water, fruit, crackers, etc., 17 Austin AHH volunteers distributed two large bags of clothes, which flew off the tables. Particularly popular were the set of professional men's clothes that had been donated by supporters in San Antonio. Feminine hygiene products were provided in collaboration with Support the Girls - Austin, an organization dedicated to providing assistance to women who are low-income or experiencing homelessness.

Six Brevard Area Atheists volunteers filled 9 heavy duty garbage bags with 50 pounds of roadside trash. Month after month, the group gets out there to keep its community clean!

Volunteers from the Center for Inquiry - Michigan helped prepare raised garden beds at Well House, a Grand Rapids organization that provides housing as a solution to homelessness. The project involved turning and breaking up soil to prepare for spring planting of gardens for Well House residents to grow their own vegetables.

Thirteen volunteers from the Central Ohio United Non-Theists (COUNT) and the Humanist Community of Central Ohio (HCCO) worked as servers at the Community Shelter Board (CSB) facility in Columbus, Ohio. It was the sixteenth joint shelter event with the two Columbus Coalition of Reason groups. To date, 72 Columbus CoR volunteers have worked 608.5 hours in 29 events with the Community Shelter Board. 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 and clean tables.

Also in April, 5 COUNT volunteers also worked as Housewarmers at the Columbus, Ohio Ronald McDonald House, which provides housing and meals to families with children being treated at Nationwide Children's Hospital and other area hospitals. To date, 17 COUNT volunteers have contributed 905 hours from the start of their involvement with the Ronald McDonald House in 2013.

Humanist Alliance Philippines, International organized a cleanup drive of the Anilao River. After four hours of collecting trash, the volunteers distributed food to children.

Volunteers from the Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation Community Service Committee made no-sew fleece blankets for Chai Lifeline, which provides emotional support to children facing serious illnesses. This event took place after their regular Sunday School session.  Students, their parents, and a number of grandparents who had been attending Sunday School that day with their grandchildren participated in this event. They have been doing this project for the past few years. Note that not all participants were community members - grandparents and guests participated as well as adult members and their children.

Fourteen members of Minnesota Atheists volunteered on a blustery spring afternoon to sort donated canned goods and household items for distribution to local food shelves. One stalwart volunteer showed up despite having just had a pituitary tumor removed! The volunteers packed 3,535 pounds or enough for 2,946 meals! Ten Minnesota Atheist volunteers also helped out at The Family Place in April. They purchased ingredients to make a chicken and cheesy hash brown dinner. Thirteen guests were served, and plenty of leftovers remained to feed people into the next week.

South Jersey Humanists had a table at the very punk-rock Smithville Art Walk. Amidst all the dark and goth art sold at other tables, SJH offered participants a chance to get a picture with their realistic Flying Spaghetti Monster. The price of the picture was a donation to the Narenj Tree Foundation, a local group collecting essential supplies and shipping them to Syrian refugee camps. Even people who weren't interested in a photo-op with the FSM pitched in, and SJH collected $103 over the course of the day.

Volunteers from the South Texas Atheists for Reason (STAR) helped prepare garden plots at the San Antonio Food Bank for needy folks in the area. STAR continued to see impressive attendance ranging from 873 to 1,000 at the weekly discussions facilitated by humanist chaplains at Lackland Air Force Base (Pictured at the top of this post in our featured photo.) At the third meeting, they had to turn away 54 trainees because they were at max capacity for the meeting space! STAR also pitched in with the San Antonio River Authority "Watershed Wise Warriors" volunteering program to clean up the trails and remove invasive species.

Sunday Assembly Los Angeles hosted an afternoon of board games for residents of the People Concern, an organization that aims to end homelessness for LA's most vulnerable - primarily adults with mental illness - through a continuum of services and housing. SALA volunteers provided snacks and prizes and taught several games to the residents. SALA members also sorted baby clothes with Baby2Baby.

 Great work, BBN teams! To learn how you can become a BBN team, click here.

By FBB

BE. Orlando is our Beyond Belief Network Team of the Month for April! Each year BE. Orlando hosts a humanist outreach tent at Central Florida Earth Day. The festival itself is an environmental advocacy event, and 100% of the proceeds benefit local animal rescue agencies. This year they donated a gift basket from a local family-owned nursery to support the fundraising efforts.

This is also the third year BE. Orlando organized a blood drive at the festival, and they do the same thing at Veg Fest in the fall. Across the two festivals over the past three years BE. Orlando has helped 120 blood donors impact nearly 350 lives!

There were more than 250 vendors at Earth Day, and the March for Science occurred in the same location, so there were plenty of visitors to BE. Orlando's booth. The BE. Orlando table featured a "lives saved" display of red dots for every life saved at the festival blood drives since 2014, as well as photos and information about BE. Orlando, an Ask an Atheist Day display and a board for people to add positive messages about BEing (Just BE....________.) The group had a donation jar and raised $41 to support the meal they served in April at the Ronald McDonald House.

For the dinner at the Ronald McDonald House, volunteers prepared a healthy and creative variety of Italian-themed foods, including pasta dishes, veggie dishes, salads, bruschetta, appetizers, and more. This was in addition to the monthly meal BE. Orlando serves the second Wednesday of every month at SafeHouse of Seminole. This month’s meal theme was “Breakfast for Dinner”, and BE. Orlando's chef team had an amazing time preparing mini egg souffles, breakfast casseroles, organic apple walnut fruit salad, meats, potatoes, french toast casserole and more – there were more than 20 different dishes prepared by the team! The group strives to make fun food for kids, healthy options, vegetarian and vegan options, and yummy comfort food at every event.

Also in April, BE. Orlando learned that an elderly man in their area had been caring for two colonies of feral cats for the last 20 years, and the local rescue/feral cat management agencies were unable to help. This gentleman has experienced some illness in the past months and needs assistance. Volunteers met with him to provide guidance and ideas, as well as to determine additional ways the group could help. One of the major challenges was financial resources, so BE. Orlando is planning some supply drives to help him out. It was a great opportunity to educate volunteers about the challenges associated with feral cat colony management, TNR (trap-neuter-return) programs, health care, and the challenges faced by animal rescue agencies, such as lack of volunteers and funding.

Congratulations to our BBN team of the month, BE. Orlando! You are humanism at work!

By FBB

Congratulations to the Pikes Peak Atheists and Pike's Peak Atheist Families groups for capturing the Beyond Belief Network Picture of the Month for April. This photo was captured at the start of a clean-up day. Pikes Peak Atheists adopted a one-mile segment of Sand Creek in eastern Colorado Springs, and they host a minimum of two clean-up events per year. This clean-up day was the group's first for 2017, and it was scheduled to coincide with Earth Day clean-up initiatives throughout the city. A total of 44 volunteers attended, which is more than double the turnout for any previous clean-up event. The group was able to clean up a full truckload worth of trash. Despite this great effort and the amazing number of volunteers, they weren't able to complete their entire segment due to the overwhelming amount of pollution in the creek. Not to worry, though! They'll be back at it again in a few months!

To learn more about the benefits of becoming a member of our Beyond Belief Network, please visit our website.

By FBB

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.)

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By FBB

 Earlier this month at a mayoral forum, the current mayor of San Antonio, TX, Ivy Taylor, was asked by a representative of SA Christian Hope Resource Center what she saw as the deepest systemic causes of generational poverty. Her answer was disappointing. “Since you’re with the Christian Coalition, I’ll go ahead and put it out there that to me, it’s broken people, you know, people not being in a good relationship with their Creator and therefore, not being in a good relationship with their families and their communities and, you know, not being productive members of society, so, I mean, I think that’s the ultimate answer though that's not something I work on from my position as mayor of the community though, I try to be an example."

You can read Foundation Beyond Belief's response here and below is the response from our Beyond Belief Network Team South Texas Atheists for Reason. 

4/25/2017

Dear Mayor Taylor:

After hearing your recent comments connecting systemic poverty to “people not being in a relationship with their creator,” the South Texas Atheists for Reason (STAR) would like to share some of the work atheists are doing in San Antonio to build strong relationships in our families and our communities. Far from being “broken people” who are not “productive members of society,” STAR is a thriving group dedicated to learning, service, and community!

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By South Texas Atheists for Reason

Earlier this month at a mayoral forum, the current mayor of San Antonio, TX, Ivy Taylor, was asked by a representative of SA Christian Hope Resource Center what she saw as the deepest systemic causes of generational poverty. Her answer was disappointing. “Since you’re with the Christian Coalition, I’ll go ahead and put it out there that to me, it’s broken people, you know, people not being in a good relationship with their Creator and therefore, not being in a good relationship with their families and their communities and, you know, not being productive members of society, so, I mean, I think that’s the ultimate answer though that's not something I work on from my position as mayor of the community though, I try to be an example."

Despite the fact that she followed up with other more reasonable causes such as inequality in education and teen pregnancy, the fact that her initial response was to call people who believe differently than her “broken” is troubling, to say the least, and despite her insistence that it doesn’t play a role in her work, the fact that she announced it at a public forum says otherwise.

Atheists, humanists, and non-believers are not “broken people.” We simply believe something different, no more, no less, and we are every bit as capable of doing good things as anyone else.

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By FBB

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