Since there is little history or presence of humanism in our area of Ventura County, CA, our goal is to create an identity for both members and outsiders. The American Humanist Association grant provided a kickstart to our endeavors. It not only provided funds, but it created a nexus of thought about what we want to accomplish in the coming year. We discussed our priorities and focused on what would have the biggest impact on membership, growth, Humanist identity, and increase a sense of community, so we could present a unified message to those not familiar with us.
We have been meeting once a month on Wednesday evenings at the local Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, but want to broaden the audience to families and others who cannot attend weekday evenings. We have great weather in Southern California, so we decided on creating Sunday Brunches, which are potlucks in the park, on the first Sunday of every month. This was our biggest expense so far, but well worth it in the long run.
We bought coffee cambros (insulated restaurant beverage dispensers) and supplies like coffee, hot chocolate, and teas. One of our members, a barista in a former career, volunteers to make the coffee and do set-up. The attendees bring delicious treats and lawn chairs. I already had a canopy from being a “soccer dad” and I picked up a new white canvass top from someone who broke their canopy.
Everyone brings their own reusable cup, but we have a few on hand if anyone forgets. (There is something about lingering over a real mug instead of paper or foam cups!) Kids play, parents talk, and many play volleyball or frisbee. It’s a relaxed friendly atmosphere to meet new people, discuss our philosophical views, and promote upcoming events.
We are participating in our first local Rotary street fair this month, which is the largest attended free event in our area. We just bought a folding table from Costco, and vinyl banners for the canopy from Voss Visuals, a free thought friendly vendor. One large banner (4×8’) will go across the back, and another (1×8’) across the top. The grant will also help cover the exhibitor’s fee.
We have been using Facebook and Meetup.com to coordinate our activities. Meetup only charges $15 per month, but we wanted to have our own website address on our literature, independent of sites from outside interests. The website is now under construction, or shall we say “evolving”!
Many newcomers are a little fuzzy on what exactly Humanism is all about. Fortunately we have Stuart Bechman in our midst who recently completed an extensive study through The Humanist Institute, an educational adjunct of the American Humanist Association. He is leading a six month mini version of the Humanism 101 course. The grant money also helps offset some of the room rental for the course.
Thanks to the AHA grant, we accomplished a lot with $500, and much more!
Are you a leader of a local humanist/atheist/skeptic/freethinker group and interested in receiving resources and being eligible for grants from the American Humanist Association? Learn more about becoming a Chapter of the AHA or contact AHA Grassroots Coordinator Rachael Berman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-238-9088 ext. 113. Program grants range from $300 to $2,000, and this year’s application will open on November 1, 2013.