Volunteers in the Beyond Belief Network (BBN) have been staying busy this summer despite the pandemic, and so have we. So busy, in fact, we fell behind on publishing our monthly BBN roundups! We won’t let volunteers’ hard work go unrecognized, so this month we’ve put together a BBN Roundup looking at what secular volunteers did in their communities during both June and July.
Northwestern Chicagoland Humanist Crew (NWCH)— recent winners of the Heart of Humanism Rookie of the Year award — held a virtual 5k in June to raise funds for Lake County Haven, a local homeless women's and children's shelter. Nine participants helped bring the group’s fundraiser across the finish line and beyond! NCHC had to raise their fundraising goal twice and still exceeded their final target, raising $675 altogether for the shelter.
NCHC also made six blankets in July for Project Linus, a nonprofit which provides hand-made blankets and afghans to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need. Leftover materials got used to make dog toys for local animal shelters — 40 rope toys altogether! Chew on that!
Atheists United (AU) spent both June and July in service to people experiencing food insecurity. They packed 400 pounds of food in for Los Angeles Food Bank at AU’s own location in Historic Filipino town; distributed it to 50 local families; helped sort, stack, and shelve food at the bank itself; held a coronavirus-safe food giveaway; and hosted a food distribution program in partnership with Center For Inquiry Los Angeles (a group with which they have previously partnered to offer 100 families groceries).
Volunteers wore masks, gloves, and distanced the entire time while working with a diverse group of people. They also found lots of ways to improve volunteer management, food pickup planning, marketing, and providing nourishment to the volunteers. AU reports everything was a great success!
AU also found a way to volunteer long-distance, teaming up with nonprofit Audio Information Network of Colorado (AINColorado): a volunteer-driven broadcast service that provides audio versions of printed material to Coloradans experiencing blindness, visual impairment, and print disability. Volunteers recorded readings of 4 store fliers weekly through June and most of July, which aired on AINColorado’s Monday podcasts.
Fellowship of Freethought Dallas (FoF Dallas) kept up with their monthly visits to an encampment of people experiencing homelessness near a highway interchange. Every 4th Sunday, team members bring goods like a hot meal, snacks, toiletries, clothing, and shoes to the people living in the woods of the park, and spend a few hours socializing with them.
FoF Dallas also usually holds a regular event to cook and deliver a meal to a home for low-income people living with AIDS. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, residents instead got a delicious take-out meal courtesy of volunteers.
Central Ohio United Non-Theists (COUNT) — recent winners of the Heart of Humanism Backbone Volunteers and Gimme Food and Shelter awards — kept up their ongoing commitment of co-participating in outdoor activities with adaptive athletes for Adaptive Sports Connection (ASC). ASC helps Central Ohio veterans, children, and adults who need adaptive equipment or instruction to participate in various sports including skiing, kayaking and cycling.
ASC recently revamped their kayaking program to eliminate physical contact and raise funds. The resulting "Get Out And Kayak" program allows the public (not just those needing adaptation) to pay to use a sanitized kayak. COUNT members attended several of these events through June and July, helping launch kayaks, serving as safety monitors, offering paddling instruction, as well as setting up and sanitizing gear afterward.
COUNT volunteers also worked as Housewarmers for their local Ronald McDonald House, which provides housing and meals to families with children being treated at area hospitals. Housewarmers provide a home-like environment by greeting guests, assisting with family needs, answering phones, giving tours, checking people in and out, preparing rooms, cleaning, restocking, and staffing the front desk. COUNT volunteers have contributed 1,596 hours since the start of their involvement with RMH in 2013.
Humanist Alliance Philippines International (HAPI) — winners of this year's Humanism at Work award — replenished the food stocks of their care recipients, planned calls to action, and delivered goods to recipients who are experiencing food insecurity. The community has been struggling overall to guarantee food to all who need it — especially in the remote indigenous communities which HAPI serves — so volunteers considered the fact they were able to make any contributions at all a success.
HAPI volunteers also cleaned and reopened their humanist children’s reading room which had been closed for 100 days due to lockdown, and geared up to restart their regular student reading and feeding programs. They also provided necessities like thermometers, masks, and hygiene kits to some of their adopted public schools.
Atheist Community of Polk County (ACPC) — co-winner of the Heart of Humanism Rookie of the Year award — brought a few different meanings to the term “road warrior." Volunteers teamed up with local religious Samaritan group Street Warriors to pack about 115 meals and snack packs which they handed out at a local park for people experiencing homelessness. ACPC members also hit the road to deliver food boxes to people throughout Polk County experiencing pandemic-related hardship, part of their commitment to a coalition of like-minded local groups.
ACPC also battled litter on the highway as part of their regular adopt-a-road cleanup during four events in June. (However, starting in July their board voted to re-suspend in-person activities as new cases of COVID-19 have spiked in Florida.)
Austin Texas Humanists at Work (ATXHAW) isn’t letting the pandemic stop their community from remaining “tightly kit.” Their monthly knitting guild continued to meet virtually to make washcloths, face masks, and warmth items for giveaways. The goal with this modified event (which started in May) has been to get volunteers motivated and mobilized despite the lockdown, and ATXHAW reports this has been a success.
These size of ATXHAW’s giveaways have grown in proportion to the need caused by the pandemic. Bag-packing and truck-loading activities which used to only involve one or two volunteers now require six. To remain COVID-safe, however, the actual giveaway has been altered to involve a limited number of volunteers who walk around with wagons distributing pre-filled bags. These bags include a variety of personal care items requested by their clients experiencing homelessness, as well as 1,000-2,000 calories of food. This modified distribution strategy has been a shake-up from their past events (which involved clients lining up at tables), but the team reports they’re getting more efficient at it every time!
Thank you to all the above volunteers for bringing the heat in June and July!
Beyond Belief Network is a collective of over 125 humanist, atheist, and other non-believing organizations putting compassionate humanism into action through community volunteering and charitable fundraising. Its just one of many examples of the work our humanist community does to make a positive impact on the world. The network wouldn't be possible without you. You can support our work in organizing this network by making a contribution to our General Fund today.