Beyond Belief Network 2016 highlights and 2017 announcements


Beyond Belief Network (BBN) teams contributed more than 18,000 hours of service in their communities in 2016. Their dedication inspired us at Foundation Beyond Belief to continue to look for new ways to support them and raise awareness about the ways BBN teams are putting their humanism into action.

Here are a few 2016 highlights from our amazing BBN teams.

Many groups took it upon themselves to look out for the neediest members in their communities. Central Ohio United Non-Theists and the Humanist Community of Central Ohio, two members of the Columbus Coalition of Reason, partnered on a monthly volunteering event at a local shelter. BE. Orlando volunteers put together a monthly meal serve and often dressed up in the spirit of one of the holidays in the month. Humanists of Houston, Minnesota Atheists, and Flagstaff Freethinkers volunteered regularly at local food banks and homeless shelters. Fellowship of Freethought helped put on a monthly "supper club" for low-income persons living with HIV/AIDS. In addition to volunteering at their local food bank, South Jersey Humanists even donated produce they grew in their own community garden!

With help from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Minnesota Atheists also hosted their fifth annual Mr. Paul Aints takeover of a local minor league baseball team, the St. Paul Saints. At the game, the group collected shoes for Soles4Souls.

Austin Humanists at Work organized item drives that enabled them to give away thousands of essential items every month.

Atheist Community of Colorado Springs met twice a month to knit and crochet plastic bags into sleeping mats.

South Texas Atheists for Reason is another group that organized monthly giveaways for community members in need. Indeed, STAR organized a variety of regular events in 2016, and 64 events overall! Nearly every Sunday in 2016, STAR coordinated a regular event with the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF) that provided humanist chaplains to support the trainees and guide discussions at Lackland Air Force Base. The first event drew 328 trainees. Each subsequent event has drawn more and more, with more than 1,000 trainees attending each event later in the year. These rising attendance numbers show that STAR and MAAF are providing a much-needed service.

The Springfield Skeptics built a wonderful relationship with the Missouri Institute of Natural Science in 2016. Skeptics volunteered at the museum in various ways from helping with landscaping to building a deck, but Springfield Skeptics really showed their investment in the museum's mission when they donated more than $1,000 in grant and award money they had earned from the Beyond Belief Network to the museum.

Humanist Alliance of the Philippines, International organized its second annual tree-planting day, on which 21 HAPI chapters around the Philippines planted more than 50,000 fruit-bearing seedlings.

With more than 500 events reported in 2016, we couldn't possibly recap all of them. Here are just a few more highlights: many groups organized successful blood drives throughout the year, like this one put together by the Humanist Community of the Space Coast.  The Atheist Community of San Jose did it several times. Tri-State Freethinkers organized more than a dozen actions in support of Planned Parenthood and women's rights. Lots of groups, like Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry, Brevard Area Atheists, Humanists Doing Good, Corpus Christi Atheists, and Camden County Humanists, saw value in beautifying their communities and getting a little signage for their group by adopting highways, parks, and beaches. In addition to many of the above kinds of activities, Pikes Peak Atheists and Pikes Peak Atheist Families continued building their relationship with Black Forest Animal Sanctuary.  A few groups helped organize their local pride parades. Nearly every group seemed to be intent on scrooging it up in the War on Christmas by gathering gifts for local families.

In 2016, we launched a National Partners Program for the Beyond Belief Network and are now working with the American Humanist Association, American Ethical Union, UU Humanist Association, and United Coalition of Reason to help encourage effective service events and track volunteer hours for their chapters and affiliates. We also made Foundation Beyond Belief staff available to run Giving Games for our National Parter organizations and facilitated several fruitful discussions about humanist values and effective altruism. In 2017, we hope to increase the number of National Partner organizations and continue working to synergize humanist service efforts around the world.

One of the areas where Foundation Beyond Belief seeks to emphasize the importance of humanist action in 2017 is social justice. Fittingly, our February community service theme is Social Justice and Race. We believe that social justice is important every month of the year, so we encourage you to use this guide for February and beyond. You can find information and activities that can help you reduce racial inequality in the criminal justice system, wealth and income, education, and voting rights. While you spend February learning about African American history, don’t neglect to fight for the future. As humanists, it isn't enough for us to recognize a need in the world – we must take action.

In 2017, we hope to see members of the Beyond Belief Network and humanists everywhere standing up for racial equality. Let’s create positive change and broadcast to the world that religious affiliation isn’t necessary for social justice activism. As we fight injustice, we will also work to normalize humanism in our society.