September round-up: Beyond Belief Network

In September, we have National Clean Up day and National Good Neighbor Day. Our Beyond Beyond Belief Network (BBN) teams certainly did their part. They came out en masse to clean up their communities, help people experiencing homelessness, and providing non-religious Sunday services on a military base. They were very good neighbors!

Let’s start with a visit to our newest BBN team. Long Island Atheists kicked off their service with two clean-up events in September. They cleaned up trash on trails and highways near the Little League of the Islips. Not only did they get more volunteers than expected, they got support from others in the area who were playing sports and fishing. At the entrance of the trail, the Long Island Atheists has an adopt a spot sign that they will be maintaining every two months. Great start Long Island Atheists! (featured photo, above)

Central Ohio United Non-Theists (COUNT) kept their regular commitments to organizations servicing their neighborhood in September. They volunteered as housewarmers at the Columbus Ohio Ronald McDonald House which 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 check in/check out, prepare guest rooms after check out, clean the facility, do laundry, restock supplies, and staff the front desk. In September they breached 1,000 volunteer hours at this facility alone since 2013. Great milestone COUNT!

In September, it was time for COUNT members to donate blood again. With Columbus Coalition of Reason, so far this year they have donated 29 units at Bleed-N-Feed events. Donors became diners as they headed to a nearby restaurant after to replenish.

In addition to their regular commitments, COUNT explored a new regular volunteering opportunity in September when they participated in the inaugural meeting for an advocacy project for Planned Parenthood. They will meet monthly to write letters and/or other efforts.

COUNT partnered with another BBN team in their neighborhood, Humanist Community of Central Ohio (HCCO), to volunteer at Community Shelter Board, which 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. Volunteers wear COUNT or HCCO branded name tags to raise awareness that we are non-theists doing charity. This was COUNT and HCCO’s 21st joint shelter event!

Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation Community Service Committee held an event for all ages in September. With supplied they provided, they made sandwiches and assembled 40 bag lunches for PADS, a local shelter. They were too efficient! They finished the required number of lunches with lots of time to spare so next time they plan to prepare more or have an educational activity in addition to the community service.

Minnesota Atheists have been having monthly commitments with two different local organizations. Seven volunteers purchased ingredients to make a taco dinner for 13 children and six adults at the Family Place, a secular homeless shelter in downtown St. Paul. Responsibilities also included serving the guests, boxing up leftovers, and washing dishes. Despite some last minute obstacles, it was a successful event. Also, eight volunteers sorted 2,135 pounds of food at the Food Group. That’s enough for 1,780 meals. This meant each volunteer helped provide 222 meals. Steve and Shirley were given flowers by The Food Group thanking them for dedicated and continuous support since January 2014!

In September, Austin Atheists Helping the Homeless hosted an event marking their 8th anniversary. It was an amazing event and it included working with many of their neighbors to make it happen. Support the Girls – Austin provided all of the feminine hygiene products and bras for the giveaway. In addition to clothing provided by their volunteers, some of the clothing was provided by Airman's Attic on Lackland Air Force Base. Donations were made by people as far away as England and Holland! In all, there were over 160 recipients that went through the lines for toiletries, clothing, feminine hygiene, bras, and snacks. For the anniversary, celebratory cookies and Kool-Aid Jammers were a special treat. The leaders at Austin Atheists Helping the Homeless said, “we could not have a better group of volunteers in this effort; they make what we do possible.” Here’s to another eight years!

Another Austin team, Austin Humanists at Work, had a successful giveaway in September too. With their September donation drive, they collected 2,162 items. They added those items to the 14 washcloths that the Gettin’ Knotty group made at their monthly get together to give away from under a downtown Austin bridge. For the sixth month in a row, they welcomed a higher than usual number of fellow humans, which included many new faces because of Hurricane Harvey.

CFI-Michigan held a Skeptics for Humanity event where 12 volunteers from the Skeptics in the Pub group spent a day working for Genesee County's Habitat for Humanity on two neighboring residences in Swartz Creek, MI. One residence required interior painting and the other required construction work that included reinforcing the framing to bring the home up to code for possible hurricane winds, creating a gable header for the front of the home, installing OSB board to eventually hold in the insulation above the ceiling, and creating the layout framing in an interior bathroom. It was the first time that Flint skeptics have done this particular event, but they plan to do so again in the future.

Our only international BBN team, Humanist Alliance Philippines, International (HAPI), held their annual tree planting event in September. The planting site was located on a mountain that had received rainfall a few days prior. The ground was wet so that there were some slippery areas, but they managed to plant trees anyway. Despite the difficult movement due to the wet soil, the 60 participants were able to plant approximately 1000 guyabano seedlings!

Humanists Doing Good again partnered with The Community Alliance for Education and Hunger Relief. This is one of their favorite volunteer activities. This time they picked tomatoes and cucumbers which were donated to people and organizations in their community.

We had another event with Habitat for Humanity in September. The Secular Student Alliance at The Ohio State University (SSA at OSU) recommitted to service in their community with the start of the new semester by sending six volunteers to help at the Westerville Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Welcome back SSA at OSU!

South Texas Atheists for Reason (STAR) was busy busy busy in September. On Sundays, they provide a humanist chaplain and volunteers to facilitate a discussion to Air Force Basic Trainees. On different Sundays in September, they discussed the separation of church and state, the rise of the nones, and spiritual fitness as it is one of the pillars of the Air Force. Each weekend they have hundreds of trainees in attendance and can over 1,000!

Not only did STAR hold their weekly Sunday events, they also held four other service events in their community. They assisted the food bank preparing garden plots for needy folks in and around the San Antonio area. At this event, they didn’t just have volunteers at the San Antonio location. They also had one volunteer at the New Braunfels location! At another event, STAR members provided volunteers to help sort diapers by size and stack in pallets to aid the Hurricane victims after Harvey. On another day STAR volunteers assisted the Watershed Wise Warriors do clean up of the trails. They removed invasive plants like chinaberry trees and cleaned up the trails. At still another event STAR gave away hygiene supplies and weather appropriate clothing items. Even with 160 people to serve, they didn't run out of supplies. Keep up the great work STAR!

Even though Springfield Skeptics didn’t have the best weather on the day of their scheduled clean up of their adopted two-mile stretch of highway, they went anyway. They picked up more than 12 bags of trash. It was a very successful event and the highway looks much, much better because of them!

Finally, we head to California where Sunday Assembly Los Angeles (SALA) hosted a toy exchange called "Share your Toys!" A member opened her backyard to SALA families, who all brought toys, books, shoes, and clothing. The kids had a playdate and each family selected a few toys to bring home. (They marked interest with color-coded stickers and any highly sought items were to be settled by dice roll, which didn't turn out to be necessary.) All surplus toys were collected and donated to Baby2Baby, a nonprofit that distributes toys and supplies to foster kids and families in poverty. SALA also collected toys and supplies at their October Assembly (104 attendees) and combined those supplies with this donation. They were able to donate a pickup truck full of new and used toys and supplies, including furniture, toys, hygiene supplies, and children's books. It was a fun and successful event!

September was a busy month for BBN teams. All these events helped people in their neighborhoods and communities. And helped clean up highways and trails too. In addition to the good done in these communities, these teams showed that humanists and atheists make good neighbors too.