Greetings Beyond Belief Network!
Did you know that for many people August is known as Happiness Happens Month? It’s true! In 2000, it was created a month-long event by the Secret Society of Happy People as a way “to share happiness and encourage people to talk and think about happiness."
Even more interesting and relevant to our Foundation, the 2017 theme of Happiness Happens Month was #HappinessUnites. As founder Pamela Gail Johnson says, “[We] want to live in a world where more people are united by our similarities than are divided by our differences.” She explains, that although happiness won’t get rid of the problems we face as a society right now, who better to solve those problems than people who are optimistic in their ability solve?
At Foundation Beyond Belief, we are so fortunate to know so many secular groups that are focused on bringing happiness and positive solutions to their communities. We want to share some of their amazing efforts to unite their communities with happiness in August!
Our first team we are happy to report on is Central Ohio United Non-Theists (COUNT). Since 2013, COUNT has been volunteering with the Ronald McDonald House. On August 6th, they were back in action, bringing their total of volunteer hours at this organization to 997.3 hours! When they are at the RMH, they work as housewarmers: greeting guests, assisting with family needs, laundry, giving tours, and cleaning the facility are some of the tasks that they perform while volunteering.
A few days later, on August 8th, COUNT was joined by the Humanist Community of Central Ohio (HCCO) to serve at the Community Shelter Board. This event marked the 20th joint shelter event for HCCO and COUNT. The groups put in a total of 15 hours serving guests and cleaning the shelter to provide a comfortable place refuge. Month after month, these groups bring this comfort and happiness to their friends and neighbors of Central Ohio experiencing hardship and they do a fantastic job of spreading that happiness!
Next up on our happiness radar is Pikes Peak Atheists & Pikes Peak Atheist Families. On August 6th, Pikes Peak Atheists & Pikes Peak Atheist Families hosted their 2nd cleanup event of 2017, bringing in 27 volunteers to clean trash out of a 1.5 mile stretch of creek. Their trash haul included a broken basketball hoop with shattered backboard, a shopping cart, exercise equipment, and beach chairs. One member volunteered their trailer to reduce the time and effort of hauling the heavy items back to the dumpster and that was a tremendous help. Check out their happy faces as they cleaned up the waterways!
Then on August 8th, they concluded a month-long drive for One Nation Walking Together (ONWT). This was the second drive the Pike’s Peak Atheists held due to the overwhelming need they learned about. During a presentation on their previous volunteer day, they learned some hard truths about some of the Native American Reservations that ONWT serves: namely that some elders freeze to death each winter, some kids can't go to school because they do not have warm coats or shoes, and some young ladies can't go to school for a week each month because they do not have sanitary products to take care of their monthly cycle. Some of the schools are also horribly lacking in basic school supplies.
So, Pikes Peak Atheists did a drive for warmth, school supplies, and personal hygiene products. Their results were good, especially because they did this drive on the heels of another drive for the same cause. They collected a total of 597 items, including 366 school supply items (ranging from individual pens and pencils to boxes of crayons, markers, and notebooks) and 16 packages of personal hygiene items. They also collected more clothes, toiletries, and food. They optimistically addressed the needs of local Native American communities and the results definitely made a real difference!
Spreading happiness down south in Texas is Austin Atheists Helping the Homeless. On August 13th, Austin Atheists were one of many groups helping out folks and they were able to help about 100 people with clothing and supplies.
The weather was kind to them with cooler weather and low humidity; with that, 21 volunteers came out to aid friends and neighbors in their community.
Since there was another large group out in the same area helping friends and neighbors, Austin Atheists have a decent supply of many of their staple items going into the next giveaway. That said, this surplus will allow them to target special items for next month that they do not normally get to include like reading glasses and batteries. As always, they have to give a very special shout-out to Support the Girls – Austin for supplying most of the feminine hygiene products for August!
New faces were there to help Austin Atheists distribute items from the Atheist Community of Austin and there were a healthy amount of clothing donations received. Two tables were used to hold it all, and even with refilling it constantly, they had some leftover for next month.
Their September giveaway will be their 8th-anniversary celebration! We are sure the community they serve is grateful for the dedication of the Austin Atheists for the past 8 years! (pictured above, and in featured in photo)
Back up north, we are happy to report from the Center for Inquiry-Michigan and an activity they participated in to better their community. On August 10th, Center for Inquiry-Michigan teamed with the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan to canvas an area of older homes susceptible to lead poisoning due to lead paint flakes and dust. Seven volunteers visited 177 homes in the 49507 area code. Tasks included handing out literature, providing a free lead test to homes with children under the age of 5, and explaining the dangers of lead dust to the growth and development of children. This activity is sure to enrich their community today and in the future! (photo below)
Another group was pinging on our happiness radar up north – Minnesota Atheists! In August, they hosted a few events with their local partners helping families with food needs and we know how much happiness a full belly can bring.
On August 10th, the Minnesota Atheists had their monthly meet up at The Food Group. Eleven volunteers packed and sorted items for distribution to food shelves across the Twin Cities Metro area. Then on August 19th, they prepared food at The Family Place for 20 individuals facing homelessness. Twelve Minnesota Atheists volunteers purchased ingredients to make a healthy taco dinner with beverages, fruit, and dessert. We are sure that the families who benefited from this service left with full and happy tummies!
Springfield Skeptics were also filling bellies with food and hearts with happiness last month! On August 17th, the Springfield Skeptics partnered with Rare Breed to serve up a meal for homeless youth.
Rare Breed is a local program which provides outreach and shelter for the homeless youth of the Springfield, Missouri area. These teens and children are often without food and/or shelter and Rare Breed does their best to provide a safe space for them and fill their bellies.
The Springfield Skeptics helped out by preparing and serving dinner for them. They prepped Italian subs, peanut butter and honey, and hammy sammys (baked ham) sandwiches along with salad, fruit, and soda. Springfield Skeptics were very grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the community and look forward to doing it again soon and are confident the youth were equally grateful for their contributions.
Our final happiness spotlight for August is South Texas Atheists for Reason (STAR). This group had many diverse activities this month to reach out to their community. In the beginning of August, they were gardening for good at the San Antonio Food Bank and assisted the food bank harvesting figs for needy folks in and around San Antonio area (photo above.) They partnered on August 12th with Habitat for Humanity to assist with house building duties to help the homeowners in the program complete their home. They always enjoy their time working hard and those families are happy to have a completed home!
On August 19th, STAR assisted the Watershed Wise Warriors with a cleanup of the local trails. Every month they remove invasive plants, clean up the trails, and anything else they need. We can imagine how enjoyable they leave the trail when their hard work is done.
Throughout August, STAR held a series of Sunday Humanist meetings at Lackland Air Force Base for Air Force Trainees. Topics presented at these back-to-back weekly meetings in August included Morals, Fallacies, and Coming Out and Critical Conversations. Their attendance ranged from 890 to 1046 trainees, we are sure the trainees find comfort and happiness being able to be around so many other secular and humanist members of the Air Force.
STAR capped out the month with a giveaway to homeless on August 27th. They gave hygiene supplies and weather appropriate clothing items to 127 friends/neighbors and all in line were able to get the items they needed.
Then on August 30th, STAR had representation to advocate for the removal of a Confederate monument in their community. Two members went to show support at the city council meeting to hear from the public on the vote to remove the confederate. The vote to remove was accomplished the next morning when the city council voted. They were supporting the speakers from the Student Secular Alliance from UTSA and MOVE San Antonio.
The showing for support of the move was overwhelming and was influential to the city council to get the confederate moment moved to keep out the white supremacists that were advocating for it to stay. They even went out and marched around it with their guns after the meeting. It was removed the following night after the city put up a 10-foot chain-link fence. In times like these, it is peaceful events and advocacy that show the power of unifying in a positive manner.
We want to thank all of our teams for their hard work and their dedication to their communities across our growing Beyond Belief footprint. Your efforts to bring happiness and relief to your friends and neighbors are making a difference and we appreciate you! Keep up the fantastic work, keep making a positive difference in your communities and remember that together we can make this world happier for everyone!