AHA Groups Spread Joy This Holiday Season

Humanist Community of the Space Coast gathers donations for Children’s Home Society holiday toy drive

’Tis the season to be jolly, and humanist groups across the country are helping to make the end of 2019 jollier by providing communities in need with food, toys, and warm clothing. While the religious right claims that atheists are leading a “War on Christmas,” our local group members are actually fighting injustice by helping people celebrate all the winter holidays.

The Humanist Community of the Space Coast in Florida kicked off the holiday season by again joining the Space Coast Basket Brigade, which serves around 2,000 families a full Thanksgiving dinner in Brevard County. “We collected $450 towards ten full food baskets for families,” said Keith Becher, a board member of the group. “Then, about ten of us signed up to deliver baskets directly to families. We each delivered five to seven baskets for around fifty-plus deliveries. One of our members also volunteered to direct traffic.” The group also assists the Children’s Home Society with their holiday toy drive by taking about one hundred wish lists which members either fulfill themselves or give to local businesses to purchase toys and deliver to the children.

Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie letter writing and toy drive

Other groups are fulfilling wish lists by adopting families through local children’s agencies this season. The Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie (centered around Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan) adopted a family and provided them with requested clothing and toys. They also wrote holiday letters to thirty incarcerated humanists through the American Humanist Association’s Humanism For All program. The Sunday Assembly Los Angeles in California adopted three families through the LA Department of Social Services and held a gift wrapping party. According to the event webpage: “Many of our adopted families are experiencing homelessness, have recently endured a family crisis, are caring for children with disabilities, or are otherwise coping with serious hardship, and it is a privilege to be able to bring a little extra joy into their lives over the holidays.”

Humanists of Palouse’s Sensitive Santa event

BE. Orlando Humanist Fellowship in Florida is hosting their 4th annual STE{a}M Holiday Toy Drive, which focuses on collecting toys that educate children on science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. “Also needed are books and toys that highlight women and minorities in STEM and other successful community roles,” explains Founding Director Tee Rogers. “In my experience with toy and book drives there are often a plethora of donations purchased at discount/dollar stores, toys that enforce binary gender norms, and Christian/religious toys and literature.” This year, toys are going to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, which services thirty-seven local clubs and over 15,000 at-risk youth.

One of the most unique service projects by our groups is the annual Sensitive Santa event put on by the Humanists of Palouse in Idaho. They provide free photography sessions with Santa in “an atmosphere free from the hustle and bustle of the holiday crowds—quieter and more sensory-friendly” for families and individuals who have special needs or sensory issues. Unlike at a mall, there is no line, loud noise, harsh lighting, or pushing to sit on Santa’s lap. Additionally, everyone may choose how close to Santa they feel comfortable getting.

Ethical Society of St Louis’s Good Cheer celebration

Although many people are celebrating indoors, other AHA groups are finding ways to support those braving the weather outside. The Ethical Society of St Louis in Missouri is organizing members and friends to collect warm clothes and blankets, cook food, and distribute the items to the St. Louis homeless community. The Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix in Arizona is also collecting essential items, such as toiletries and feminine products, and volunteering at homeless shelters to cook and serve meals. Throughout the year, one member teaches people how to crochet sleeping mats out of old plastic bags for the local homeless to be able to sleep more comfortably wherever they are. Her “crocheting crew” makes and distributes mats year round.

We greatly appreciate all the service projects undertaken by our local groups to support their surrounding communities. Groups and individuals are also using #MySecularHoliday on social media to share how humanists celebrate the holidays with music, food, gift exchanges, and other special secular traditions. How are you celebrating this time of year?