by Wendy Webber, Beyond Belief Network Coordinator and Humanist Disaster Recovery Coordinator
Foundation Beyond Belief’s Beyond Belief Network is a network of secular humanist groups volunteering in their communities and raising money for FBB’s featured charities and programs. Any group with a public secular humanist or atheist identity is welcome to join, regardless of experience or group size.
Congratulations to Beyond Belief Network’s May's Team of the Month: Minnesota Atheists. This Level 2 team was chosen because of their strong commitment to food access with regular monthly commitments at two different organizations.
Congratulations to Springfield Skeptics in Springfield, MO who submitted this month’s Picture of the Month. The picture was taken while volunteers sorted and packaged over 10,000 pounds of food at Ozarks Food Harvest food warehouse.
Pikes Peak Atheists and Pikes Peak Atheist Families have adopted a two-mile section of creek through the middle of Colorado Springs. They had their first clean-up event and retrieved a lot of trash from the bushes and paths. The paved path that goes through this area is popular with walkers, joggers, and bikes, and the section sits behind a local park. Some of the biggest finds were a shopping cart, tent, part of a sofa sectional, an office chair, and the old springs from a box spring mattress. There were also some interesting items such as a student ID with a house key (someone 3 years ago was probably really missing that) and a bone. It was a successful first clean up for this area, and they received lots of "thank yous" from people wandering by. The group took the opportunity to talk to people going by and do a little PR and also handed out canisters of bags (the kind that clip onto a collar or leash) to pet owners so they could clean up their pet waste. They also had another good drive for Harbor House, that provides safe places for the chronically homeless and those with substance abuse addictions to find sobriety and self-sufficiency, dropping off 426 items! That is an increase of about 50 items from last year. Pikes Peak Atheists collected mostly women's clothes, followed by kitchen items, decor, and general household items.
About 12-15 Humanists of Houston volunteers donated socks, toiletries, and other items to homeless people in the downtown Houston area.
Austin Humanists at Work volunteers solicited donations via word of mouth, posting business cards, & social media and were able to collect 3875 items for their giveaway, their highest number so far this year! A big THANK YOU goes out to the Wells Branch Neighborhood in North Austin for contributing 776 of those items. Troop 1113 of the Girl Scouts of Central Texas also donated 82 boxes of Girl Scout cookies. Their Gettin' Knotty group gathered in the cafe of a local bookstore to knit, crochet, & chat creating ten cotton washcloths that were also handed out at the giveaway. At the giveaway itself, volunteers gathered under a bridge in downtown Austin to hand out basic living items to those in need. They were able to serve 120 people. They didn't expect such a large turnout since severe weather was moving into the area, but they were glad they were able to assist so many people. Their first giveaway as Austin Humanists at Work was an absolute success!
Three Central Ohio United Non-Theist volunteers worked as house warmers in April and four in May at the Columbus Ohio Ronald McDonald House (RMH). RMH provides housing and meals to families with children being treated at Nationwide Children's Hospital and other area hospitals. Housewarmers work with our guests to provide a home-like environment – greet, assist with family needs, answer phones, give tours, assist with check-in/checkout, prepare guest rooms after checkout, clean facility, laundry, restock supplies, and staff the front desk. They also partnered with Humanist Community of Central Ohio for the sixth time to work as servers at the Community Shelter Board (CSB) facility on Van Buren Drive in Columbus, Ohio. 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. COUNT volunteers wear branded name tags to raise awareness that we are non-theists doing charity.
For the third year in a row, South Jersey Humanists raised funds for the New Jersey AIDS Alliance (NJAA), which culminates in an AIDS Walk along the Atlantic City Boardwalk. Though rain and thunderstorms forced the walk to be canceled, the primary mission was to raise money for NJAA. In that sense, SJH was successful: four members raised $2100, making them the #3 team for the event.
South Texas Atheists for Reason (STAR) provide Humanist Chaplains and Lay leaders to host Socratic style meetings for Air Force basic trainees. They host two two-hour meetings every Sunday for any trainees that want to attend. They have Christians, Satanists, Pagans, unsure, spiritual, culturally religious, and many more in attendance. STAR also helped 71 people by distributing hygiene supplies to people experiencing homelessness. They meet on the corner of Frio and West Houston in San Antonio the last Sunday of the month at 1:30. They set up tables and created a buffet of hygiene supplies so people can choose which items to take.
Minnesota Atheists volunteers weighed and repacked 1,090 lbs. of rice from 50 pound bags to 1 pound usable bags. This was enough to help feed 908 individuals with hunger needs throughout the Twin City metro area! Minnesota Atheists also volunteered to purchase ingredients to make pizza and fruit salad for guests who visit the Food Group and also served cookies and drinks.
Springfield Skeptics had an event they've done a few times as a group at Ozarks Food Harvest, a massive food bank warehouse center that helps provide food to both food pantries and individuals in the greater Ozarks area. Each event is something different. This time, they sorted food donations, checking for dents/unusable items, and sorting them into boxes that will be delivered to hungry families. They also continued a project at a local park on creating a small woodland trail in a section of the park. For this session, volunteers spent an hour mulching the trail. Springfield Skeptics also helped coordinate and serve chili dogs and sides to approximately 120 people at Veterans Coming Home Center. It is one of the largest day shelters for the homeless in Springfield. Anyone can receive aid there, whether or not they're a Veteran.
Several Central New York Humanist Association members donated blood or platelets at the American Red Cross donation center in Liverpool, NY. This was their 4th Bleed and Feed–they have done one every three months since summer 2015. They also had a great turnout for their second annual Earth Day Park Cleanup with the Secular & Social Families group at Lewis Park, in Syracuse, NY. Twenty-nine volunteers raked, pruned, hauled, tidied, played, climbed, swung, ate donuts and breakfast pizza, and drank coffee and juice. It was a satisfying two hours of work and the park looked great when they were done. The little league team that practices there thanked them and so did the man from City of Syracuse who brought them all their tools. They're looking forward to doing it again next year!
About 10 Humanists of Houston members participated in the May Atheist Helping the Homeless Houston event on Sunday. They gave away clothes, snacks, water, and toiletries.
They were also invited by Interfaith Ministries to participate in Operation Impact–a special project to help prepare homebound seniors across our community for hurricane season. Over 4,000 seniors who receive Meals on Wheels will also receive one-time shelf-stable meals and bottled water, to ensure they can eat in case Interfaith Ministries' regular deliveries are interrupted due to a storm. Humanists of Houston hand delivered over 50 meals to needy seniors.
Tri-State Freethinkers have been busy the last few months. They sorted food donations and assembled powerpack lunches for school kids for the Cincinnati Freestore Food Bank. With the Interfaith Hospitality Network, they prepared and served a meal to the families and then entertained the children with activities. They helped low-income girls turn into princesses by assisting them in picking out their prom ensembles with Kenzie's Closet, which helps girls who otherwise would not be able to have a prom experience at all pick out a dress, shoes, jewelry, and accessories. Tri-State also threw a birthday party for homeless kids at Faces Without Places in Cincinnati, Ohio. They participated in a charity fun run where everyone dresses up like a gorilla or a banana suit to raise funds for the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund, the international charity working to save the world's last remaining Mountain Gorillas. They organized a rally outside the Women's Med Center in Kettering, Ohio, one of the two last remaining abortion providers for the entire southwest Ohio region, to remind the community that women's rights matter. For the 29th Annual Winton Woods Cleanup, Tri-State joined more than 240 volunteers who collected 242 bags of trash and 116 bags of recyclables. Tri-State Freethinkers has adopted the highway in front of the Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY. They picked up trash and brush off of the highway. For National Ask an Atheist Day they had people answering questions all day. Dress for Success, a charity that primarily provides work attire to low-income women that would otherwise not have the means to purchase attire for job interviews or careers, needed help sorting donations in their donation center. For Covington, KY's largest annual volunteer day of service, the Great American Cleanup, Tri-State planted trees and flower pots, picked up litter, mulched, and weeded.
Humanist Alliance Philippines, International (HAPI) and the United Nations University (UNU) have joined forces for a research collaboration entitled the 'URBAN WATER INITIATIVE PROJECT' which will tackle the state of inland bodies of water in Metro Manila, such as the rivers and lakes, as well as the value the local populace place on these resources. UNU and HAPI organized a Focus Group Discussion. Attendees were educated on the current state of the Metro Manila rivers and lakes, as well as on their perception of pollution and how to manage it. As the second leg of the research approaches, HAPI volunteers will be aiding a UNU researcher conduct a formal electronic survey from 200 people around the area of Manila’s bodies of water in preparation for the ground-based survey on the third leg.
Six Daytonian Freethinkers picked up a total of 17 bags of litter along their adopted I-675 and OH-48 interchange ramps. It was a beautiful Sunday morning to spend outside helping to keep a small part of their city clean. As an added bonus, they get credit for two cleanups in one as part of the statewide #CLEanUpCleveland weekend events.
If you are a member of a secular humanist or atheist group and would like to participate in community service projects under the national umbrella of Foundation Beyond Belief, join Beyond Belief Network. We welcome all atheist groups interested in service, from groups with extensive volunteer experience to newly formed groups new to secular service. By aggregating our efforts, we demonstrate that all we really need is charity and goodness to make the world a better place.