Foundation Beyond Belief's many Beyond Belief Network partners were busy in May. Here's a run down of how these amazing volunteer groups were active in their communities all month long.
In Texas, the Austin Atheists Helping the Homeless held a Mother's Day Giveaway for the Homeless in May, and it went off without a hitch! Their volunteers provided flowers and treats to celebrate the occasion for recipients. Volunteers and attendees had a blast, and Austin Atheists received a lot of positive feedback for the great event.
They were able to help about 175 folks, in addition to feeding their four-legged friends (shout-out to volunteer Dixie for that.) There were a few volunteers that had to leave early to head to the Austin Oasis meeting, but, in total, there were 24 volunteers helping to distribute items. They were able to give away the contents of two large bags of clothes.
A very special thanks to the organization, Support the Girls – Austin, for providing 500 products for feminine hygiene, as well as bras. They donate not just to this Austin Atheists group, but also to many organizations focused on girls/women who are low-income or experiencing homelessness.
Of special note, a religious group in the same area, who was also offering assistance, asked if Austin Atheists could spare some toilet tissue and bar soaps for their portable restroom. In turn, as Austin Atheists had a shortage of plastic grocery bags, the other group offered plenty to finish the giveaway. It was some good and unexpected teamwork that benefited recipients on both fronts.
One of our BBN teams in Florida, BE. Orlando, typically provides a monthly meal at SafeHouse. For May’s 2nd Wednesday Chef Team event, they wanted to share something special from their hearts to honor the residents at SafeHouse for Mother’s Day. Volunteers enjoyed a wonderful evening preparing and sharing their mother’s or family’s favorite recipes. Casseroles, salads, appetizers, desserts, and simple fun food with great stories were all part of the buffet. They were able to use their monthly activity as a way to connect on a more personal level with the residents and share their more than just service!
Each year, BE. Orlando hosts a STEM-themed book drive through the month of May to support local summer literacy initiatives. In 2016, the Central Florida Freethought Community joined the effort as well, making this a community-wide annual initiative to address and educate our members about the gap in STEM-themed books received in book drives. At-risk children deserve high-quality books that will inspire them to learn about and pursue STEM interests.
This year they collected 97 AWESOME books, including Women in Science, a children's book series about STEM professions, STEM journals, and more.
In Michigan, the Center for Inquiry holds an annual workday in May at Long Lake Outdoor Center in Middleville, which is also the location of their Secular Summer Retreat in July. They give back to the community by helping to preserve this beautiful historic campground, ensuring that it can be enjoyed by the numerous schools and community groups who visit every year. Projects this year included staining the Mansion House, leveling and staining the dock, painting benches around the fire pit by the lake, and general cabin inspections and maintenance. They had some fantastic weather, a spectacular work crew, and completed all of the projects on their list. Some brave folks entered the chilly water in waders to level the dock, while others painted benches by the lake. They also have now stained all of the large housing buildings around the lodge, and it looks wonderful! Campers and visitors are sure to appreciate their hard work and dedication to keeping the site in great shape!
Our BBN team, the Central New York Humanist Association (CNYH), raised over $333 in their Virtual Food Drive, which was enough to pay for 1005 meals at the Food Bank of Central New York. They promoted the event on social media and at their monthly meeting. Members gave a short presentation on the Food Bank, the difference between food pantries and food banks, and the advantages of a Virtual Food Drive over a traditional food drive.
CNYH also cleaned up Lewis Park in Syracuse for the 3rd year in a row. They were supported by the Syracuse Parks and Recreation department, who provided tools for their use, and picked up the leaves and garbage they collected. They had coffee, juice, and donuts for volunteers, and the children enjoyed the park's playground.
The Central Florida Freethought Community worked hard removing debris at Kewannee Park in Casselberry in the month of May. They removed trash and debris from the park and accompanying areas.
Two Central Ohio United Non-Theists (COUNT) volunteers organized a Day of Reason Brewery Fundraiser and Potluck for the Columbus Coalition of Reason (CoR). The event was held on May 6th at the Actual Brewing Company and raised $50 for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank. Over thirty people from various Columbus CoR groups showed up to celebrate the occasion. Columbus CoR has now raised $11,406.37 and collected 1,510 lbs of food for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank since 2012.
Although requests for Day of Reason proclamations (also organized by COUNT) from the State of Ohio, Franklin County, City of Upper Arlington and the City of Columbus did not result in a proclamation, the Mayor of Upper Arlington invited COUNT member Ed Sweeney to give a non-theist invocation at the May 8th City Council meeting. You can find out more by checking out their published article on the ColumbusCoR.org web site describing the event and results.
COUNT volunteers worked as Housewarmers for more than 20 hours on May 7 at the Columbus, Ohio Ronald McDonald House (RMH), completing their 4th year working there. RMH provides housing and meals to families with children being treated at Nationwide Children's Hospital and other area hospitals. Housewarmers work with the guests to provide a home-like environment. They greet, assist with family needs, answer phones, give tours, assist with checkin/checkout, prepare guest rooms after checkout, clean facility, laundry, restock supplies and staff the front desk. COUNT's 17 total participants have contributed 925 hours from the start of their involvement with RMH in 2013 through the end of May 2017.
CoR volunteers worked as servers at the Community Shelter Board (CSB) facility in Columbus, Ohio. This was COUNT’s seventeenth joint shelter event with Humanist Community of Central Ohio (HCCO) members. HCCO and COUNT are fellow Columbus CoR groups. 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. 72 Columbus CoR volunteers have worked 623.5 hours in 30 events with the CSB to date. They wear COUNT/HCCO branded name tags to raise awareness that they are non-theists doing charity. Once the dishes are done, they adjourn to the Omnipresent Atheists meetup for dinner, drinks and conversation.
CoR volunteers also spent a total of 8 hours donating 7 units for the May 18, 2017 event at the Carriage Place Red Cross Donor Center in Columbus, Ohio. Donors can make appointments or walk-in, and they give 1 unit of whole blood, while others do apheresis donating up to 3 units of platelets or 2 units of red blood cells. Donors become diners as they head to a nearby restaurant after to replenish. This was the third Columbus CoR Bleed-N-Feed since COUNT helped to expand the longstanding HCCO event. Events are planned for Third Thursdays in January, March, May, July, September and November.
Another great BBN team in Florida, the Humanist Community of the Space Coast, teamed with Planned Parenthood to hold a fundraiser for the organization. They gathered at a local tavern for a fun night of Sex-Ed Trivia and raised over $300! Despite band sound checks in the background, they were able to maintain the energy and have an overall successful and fun event!
Early in May, Minnesota Atheists volunteers repacked 4,098 pounds of donated food into usable distribution boxes, which was enough to help serve 3,415 meals. These boxes will be distributed to food shelves throughout the Twin Cities Metro area. New Meetup members joined in the event.
The Minnesota Atheists (MNA) had another powerful and unique volunteer event at the Family Place homeless shelter in downtown St. Paul. MNA volunteers made a chicken stir fry for 18 children and 6 homeless adults.
South Jersey Humanists supported the South Jersey AIDS Alliance by participating in the Atlantic City AIDS Walk. Four members raised $655, and marched on the Atlantic City Boardwalk for the fourth year in a row. Proceeds help an organization fighting a health crisis that still ravages the Atlantic City area.
Sunday Assembly Los Angeles helped the organization Tree People plant trees to replace the current dead Sycamores in the community of Cheviot Hills. As a group, they dug the hole to the proper measurements, planted the trees, and did their best to set up the trees for healthy lives. They planted stakes to help the trees grow tall and straight, and provided mulch and dirt that would be most advantageous in capturing and keeping water in the current drought conditions of Los Angeles and the heat of the coming summer. They were able to partner with a great organization and make a difference both in their community and for the planet. One event at a time makes an impact! For their first event with Tree People, it looks like it was a great success, and they were happy to learn a new way to give time!
In Missouri, our BBN team, the Springfield Skeptics, showed up to help fill 100 giggle boxes with toys, a CD of fun songs, coloring books, markers, games & puzzles. The Giggle Box Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting physical healing and the emotional well-being of young patients in hospitals by reducing the stress of children who've gone through traumatic situations. Simply put, a positive outlook aids in physical healing! With 100 boxes filled and packed into their Giggle Bus, the lead volunteers were all set to deliver these Giggle Boxes to hospitals across the Ozarks later that week.
The Springfield Skeptics have adopted a stretch of highway in front of the megachurch James River Assembly in Ozark, MO. For the last two years they've kept it clean and have posted "Humanism At Work" signs on both sides of the highway while they work on Sunday mornings. In May, 5 Skeptics picked up 6 bags of trash (mostly cigarette butts – quit throwing them out the car window!) over a two hour period. They chatted, laughed and had lunch at the local waffle house afterwards. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning!
Over the years, the Springfield Skeptics have made a great connection with the Gay & Lesbian Center of the Ozarks (GLO Center), and they've made a regular commitment to providing a meal for the LGBT+ youth in their community. In a community where being LGBT+ is not widely accepted, they take this opportunity to show the kids that they are loved. The meal theme this time was Taco Night, which is always a hit and May 30th was no exception.
And, lastly, a bit of a catch up from April – the South Texas Atheists for Reason group volunteered a total of 29 hours in order to gather supplies that were given out to 106 members of their community. Supplies included hygiene products and weather appropriate clothing. They were able to assist everyone in line with no shortages!
Thanks so much to all of the amazing volunteers in our Beyond Belief Network!