March Team of the Month: Austin Atheists Helping the Homeless
by Elizabeth Minutello
Congratulations to Beyond Belief Network’s March Team of the Month: Austin Atheists Helping the Homeless! Although they are a recent addition to Beyond Belief Network, Austin Atheists Helping the Homeless (Austin AHH) are the first BBN team to reach Level One in 2014. AHH hosts a monthly service event in which they collect and distribute basic living supplies to local homeless people in their area. We were impressed with their both their commitment, organization, and effort that is required to carry out their monthly “giveaways.”
AHH was founded in September 2009 by Joe Zamecki, Chuck Clark and Mark Johnson and was the first recipient of a Richard Dawkins Foundation grant aimed at helping secular charity groups. It is thanks to grants like these as well as a small group of volunteers and regular donors that AHH is able to distribute supplies to homeless communities in Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas/Fort Worth each month.
One secret to Austin AHA’s success has been to focus on publicizing their events. They use social media, such as Facebook and send event announcements and updates to several outlets every month. In 2012, Austin’s Your News Now Network even did a live TV interview and report on the team during a giveaway!
Austin AHH had this advice if you’re a member of a secular group or an individual interested in doing similar giveaways to needy people living in your community.
1.Before your team plans anything, check your city’s ordinances regarding setting up and distributing items on public property.
2.Actively recruit from underrepresented groups in your area. Austin AHH credits team diversity for making their giveaways successful.
3.Volunteers often have professional and family responsibilities, so try to keep their responsibilities to a minimum. Some volunteers may only be able to commit to a few events per year while others can attend on a regular basis.
4.Try to rely on certain volunteers to perform specific tasks such as facilitating communication, collecting donations and bringing tables to display items. This way no one particular individual feels pressured to do more than they can.
Team of the Month recognition is a benefit provided by Foundation Beyond Belief to our Beyond Belief Network teams. In order to be considered, your group must be a Level One Beyond Belief Network team and you must submit at least one event report during the month. Team of the Month selection is based on the number, length, variety, and documentation (e.g., submitted pictures, blog posts, videos, etc.) of events.
Teams can only be Team of the Month once per calendar year. If your local group does great service work, but isn’t a member of BBN, you can join anytime! In addition to recognition, your team can qualify for free t-shirts and grants. If your local humanist group doesn’t volunteer, but you’d like to start, we’d love to help! For teams new to secular service, we offer tons of ideas, event guides, and advice.