Fall is the new spring for the Beyond Belief Network! After a pandemic-colored summer which forced many volunteer teams to lay low and retool their programs, we’re pleased to report September was a big month for teams poking their heads back out. Please join us in welcoming back several dedicated teams as we celebrate what they did for their communities last month.

Atheists United (AU) in Los Angeles helped sort goods at the LA Food Bank. While they reported a light turnout, the folks who showed up worked hard and made the event a success!

AU also continued their commitment of making recordings each weekend for podcast Audio Information Network of Colorado, reading store flyers for people with visual impairments. The 2.5 hour process each session involves finding, reading, editing, verifying, and uploading the recordings to be broadcast on AIN each Monday.

Atheist Community of Polk County (ACPC) made their return to the scene after a summer hiatus, with a push to enhance community members’ views of atheists as well as their views from their car windows!

The City Commission of Lake Wales, Florida typically begins each meeting with a Christian prayer, usually delivered by commissioners or their guests. In August, one of these guests was ACPC Director Sarah Ray, who instead of a prayer delivered the Commission’s first known secular invocation. Her invocation was a celebration of diversity and collaboration — words that regrettably seemed lost at the time on two commissioners who stormed out of the meeting! (Afterward, the commission hastily passed a resolution establishing a formal chaplain, effectively limiting invocation speakers to only Christians.)

Imagine the surprise of one of these commissioners when he hosted a pop-up roadway cleanup in September and ACPC volunteers showed up! Volunteers aimed to exemplify Sarah’s words for the commissioner: “that our differences make us stronger together, and when we set them aside for common good, amazing things happen.”

ACPC reports the event was a success, and left some townfolk scratching their heads over what this means about their view of atheists. (“Suffice it to say there is a lot of cognitive dissonance happening for some folks in Lake Wales, Florida,” reports Sarah.)

The road to progress is usually long. We’re glad we can count on groups like ACPC to travel it and keep literal roads clean in the process!

Center for Inquiry (CFI) – Michigan made their post-lockdown comeback at the Mayor’s Grand River Clean Up, a COVID-modified beautification event for Michigan’s Grand River.

Event participants were directed to pick a spot in the river park and pick up all debris they found — which included plastic bags, broken glass, cigarette butts, cans, bottles, pieces of metal and PVC, clothing, and food containers.

CFI volunteers had only a few minor setbacks (mainly competing with their mayor for a spot to clean up), but otherwise reported they found plenty of trash and had a productive day!

New Orleans Secular Humanist Association (NOSHA) met for the first time since January, attending a food distribution event organized by one of their city councilmembers. Volunteers sorted food, packed boxes, gave out the food, and tidied up at the end. NOSHA reports they served about 100 cars and walk-ups altogether!

Humanist Alliance Philippines, International (HAPI) joined community members in a yearly program to prepare public schools for the opening of the school year. Volunteers packed supplies for care kits which they later delivered to the community’s head teacher.

HAPI also spent four days planning for upcoming literacy programs organized with community elders, and held an open discussion on how to keep their local government safe amidst an influx of tourists. Participants were happy to have the involvement of community children in the discussion, and to see young people step up to tell the story of their community’s vulnerability.

Pikes Peak Atheists & Pikes Peak Atheist Families (PPA & PPAF) rebooted their service programs after being dormant since December, hosting a successful school supply drive for Native American charity One Nation Walking Together.

Volunteers collected more than 1,000 items from an Amazon wish list (plus some items that people mailed or dropped off separately), and cross-posted the event to four other secular groups. Donated items included hundreds of pens, pencils, notebooks, rulers, erasers, protractors, masks, feminine hygiene items, and calculators — all of which went to impoverished communities in reservations.

Central Ohio United Non-Theists (COUNT) kept up with an ongoing slate of commitments:

  • Cooking, cleaning, and providing an all-around home-like environment for guests at Ronald McDonald House
  • Working as equipment custodians, athlete assistants, and safety monitors at kayaking events with nonprofit Adaptive Sports Connection (ASC)
  • Working special events organized by local philanthropic clubs raising thousands of dollars for ASC
  • Sorting and preparing donations for distribution to a local homeless shelter
  • Participating in a monthly secular blood donation meetup for their local Red Cross

To date, this makes 1,620 volunteer hours COUNT has contributed to Ronald McDonald House; 529 hours to Adaptive Sports Connection; 1,187 hours to Van Buren Center; and 113 hours/156 units of blood to the Red Cross! Looking forward to seeing these numbers continue to grow!

We’re so glad to see secular volunteers back in action. When humanists, atheists, and freethinkers are united in service, nothing can stop us.