Tag Archives: Orlando

Earth Day & Ask An Atheist Day 2017

4/23/17

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You just gotta be…

We had an amazing day at Earth Day meeting great people and engaging in wonderful conversations.  Thank you to everyone who came out to enjoy the beautiful day with us. We were grateful for the company of our fellow secular friends from the Central Florida Freethought Community and the Humanist Community of the Space Coast. The March for Science brought an uplifting crowd of GREAT t-shirts!

livesimpacted_blooddriveresultsThis was our third Earth Day Blood Drive – we estimate 16 units collected.  That’s a total of 43 donors since 2014, impacting 129 lives!  At the fall festival (Veg Fest), 73 donors have impacted 219 lives in the past three years.  That is 348 lives impacted through these festivals!  Thank you to everyone who donated blood with us!

 

We also thank everyone who dropped in a monetary donation to support our volunteer work.  We raised $41 that will help support our upcoming dinner at the Ronald McDonald House. 🙂

At our booth we had a display about Ask an Atheist Day, which was this past Thursday. Ask an Atheist Day, spearheaded by the national office of the Secular Student Alliance, promotes creating opportunities for open, respectful conversation that can build bridges across differences and help overcome misconceptions about non-religious people.  It falls on the third Thursday of April every year, and last year we shared a blog post about it.  Since then, we’ve gotten some great questions submitted – and some great questions were shared yesterday at Earth Day as well.

Below are personal responses from Tee Rogers, founder of BE. Orlando.

How do you find meaning in your life?

Ask yourself, what is really important to you? Yes, other than chocolate. 🙂 When you look at others who inspire you, what traits and life actions do they have in common? What do you want to be different in this world because you were here? Go through the process of writing your personal mission statement. Need help? Franklin Covey has a great tool.  Mine is “Focus on positive impact.”  When you determine what your purpose is – the difference you are going to make – your sense of meaning and fulfillment is clear. You can align your personal and professional goals and actions with your mission, creating balance and peace in your life.

Your organization is based on service; what does service mean to you as an Atheist?

Service is the act of delivering value. It means making a positive difference for the person, people, agency, or business that is receiving the service. It entails truly understanding what is needed, genuine compassion, and a commitment to follow through.

As a service-minded Humanist organization, we focus on our responsibility and empowerment to make a positive difference in the world, and we provide opportunities for kind, compassionate members of the non-faith community to serve together. Being a contributing member of the greater whole and knowing that our actions have impact beyond ourselves is an important element of the pursuit of happiness, personal integrity, and dignity.  Some people seek out that kind of fulfillment on their own; others seek a shared-values community where service is a coordinated group activity performed in a way that aligns with their worldview.

Another important aspect of service when intersected with the identity of Atheism is communicating the message that all people, regardless of faith or non-faith perspective, have equal potentials for kindness and compassion.  There is a common misconception that one needs a god or the supernatural as part of their worldview in order to be a good human being; however; having a religious perspective isn’t what makes a good person.  Having integrity does. Therefore, we are openly Humanist and part of our mission is to educate others about Humanism and dispel such divisive, harmful myths.

Every person, every living thing, has a story; a history; a journey.  Every living thing experiences pain.  We can help one another along our journeys, and through that we become connected in a perceptible way.  Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve.” In what ways do you serve others?

Do you allow religious people in your group?

We are a Humanist organization and provide intentional messaging and support for non-theists, but our focus on service and commitment to our community attracts members of all faith and non-faith perspectives. We are an inclusive, diverse organization.

From our policies: We do not ask about members’ perspectives. We welcome members of the faith community to join us – serving our community together builds bridges across our differences, and together we can achieve more. Members of all faith and non-faith perspectives will be welcomed and respected at our events.  [read more about our group policies]

What is the difference between Atheist and Agnostic?

A theist believes in God/god/gods.  The prefix “a” negates that: an atheist is one who does not believe in G/g/s. Similarly, gnostic means knowledge – we can have certain knowledge of a thing (“Truth with a capital T”).  Negate it with the prefix “a” – agnostic is one that does not believe certain knowledge of a thing is possible.

People use the word Agnostic in different ways.  It can simply be an epistemological statement about human capacity for understanding: can our human minds comprehend the infinite? In that case, the word may not define the person’s theist/atheist identity. It can also mean someone who is not sure there is a god.   Here’s a graph to help, borrowed from the Secular and Religious Minority Experience diversity presentation at the University of Central Florida: a-gnostic-a-theis

What is the difference between Atheism and Humanism?

Atheism is simply an answer to the question of whether or not you believe in God/god/s.  When was the last time you asked someone their religion and they answered “Theist.”  People often want to communicate more about what their religious perspective means in their lives, so they will use words like Christian, Buddhist, or Humanist.

Humanism describes how a non-religious person relates to the world and how we answer inner-life questions about meaning, connection, and fulfillment.  Which leads us to the next question…

What is Humanism?

Humanism is a non-religious worldview that focuses on our empowerment and responsibility to make a positive difference in the world; on our common ground as human beings – our human needs and potentials; and on the value and goodness in all humans.  It seeks rational, solution-oriented approaches to addressing human, animal, environmental, sustainability, and other issues.

I heard you say you feel connected to something greater than yourself.  How can that be true if you don’t believe in God?

Great question, and one i’ve heard many times – so it’s something folks wonder about.  When we’re connected to our family, we’re connected to something beyond ourselves.  Family, friend group, significant other, neighborhood, volunteer group, sports team, professional colleagues and the company we work for, churches/perspective communities, animals, nature, the environment and the Earth, and for some people, God.  Each of those things shakes us out of our solipsistic funk & connects us to something beyond ourselves. We have evolved to be interdependent and to understand that our potential, meaning, and purpose will be defined by our actions that impact the world outside of our selves.

Just as there are those who feel removing God detracts from the connection to the world around us, there are those who feel adding God detracts from that connection.  But all people have the potential to feel that connection; for some, their faith or non-faith strengthens or gives greater meaning to that connection.

As an Atheist, i do not believe God is real.  Something that is not real has no impact on the meaning, connections, purpose, or actions in my life.

Do Atheists have feelings?

I’ve actually been asked this more than once. Some people do believe that because Atheists don’t have God in their hearts that they are incapable of experiencing human joy, love, awe, gratitude, sorrow, and other emotions.  A religious person might call an emotion “deeper” because it is connected to God; a non-religious person may see that connection to god as making the emotion more shallow, and that deeper experience comes from the emotion in relation what they perceive reality.   So… We’re all experiencing the emotions in our own way.

Yes, humans of all faith and non-faith perspectives have feelings.

How does an Atheist find comfort when you face pain alone?

When we are alone, especially in a challenging time, knowing that we are actually not alone is a great comfort. But you don’t need to believe there is someone in the sky watching you to achieve that; we have the knowledge that there are others in the world who have experienced or who are experiencing what we are.  We are part of the human family.  (even beyond – grab a tissue & look at this photo story of a bird losing his mate). Loss and pain are universally understood, and we never experience these alone.

For me solitude is not equivalent to loneliness, and i don’t feel worse when no one is around.  In fact i’d prefer to recover in private and then rejoin the world.  “Crawling under my rock” for a bit, i say – be back out soon.  🙂

When i wake up in the morning, i listen to the birds.  Have you ever listened to the day awaken?  One rogue bird instigates the whole darn mess (and it’s not the same bird each day, these rebels take turns poking the bear – or they race).  Another bird answers.  There’s a grand and lazy caesura as morning takes a calming breath. The crepusculars are barely milling about and the sky’s dark begins its fade to a deeply bright blue (named Royce Blue after a friend of mine), starting with a thin azure line on the distant horizon.  A hesitant chirping conversation starts – probably curmudgeonly grumbles about the damn rebels.  This takes a long time: As morning bats clean insects from the air in a wild finale dance and cricketsong gradually ebbs, bird conversations join more conversations, slowly building into a mellifluous, cacophonous symphony.  If you listen closely, you can isolate their voices and imagine their discussions, which gently disperse into the chatter of the day. My favorite place to watch the show is offshore on a kayak, but i’ll enjoy it from my front door any day.

Everyone has their own way of coping with pain.  The best way to cope, for me, is to remember that i am not alone in suffering; to find connection to nature, pets, and friends; give myself the space to recover; focus on the positive and on gratitude; and as soon as possible to crawl out from under that rock and rise up to begin working to alleviate the suffering of others.

What motivates you to volunteer?

Here are a few: Inevitably, volunteering challenges us, teaches us, and improves us. Volunteering has health benefits and is a great way to meet new people who share my values.  In gratitude for the good in my life, i want to give back.  I care about others and want to make a difference. I want to set an example of giving and service for others.  I want to make the world a better place. I want to demonstrate that all people have the potential for compassion and kindness (we can be good without God).   And i want to create opportunities for others.

What motivates YOU to volunteer?

How do you know that you are loved?

A person’s actions tell you what their feelings are.  What beings care about, they prioritize and make time for.

Do you think everyone should be an Atheist?

No.  Here’s a great video:

When did you realize you were an Atheist?

Everyone’s journey to their faith and non-faith identity is unique.

For me, it wasn’t a realization.  When i was a kid, i guess i just gradually stopped believing but wasn’t cognizant of the process. In retrospect the reasons are clear. Nuns in school didn’t have good answers to practical questions (and in fact punished you for asking).  Yet they demonstrate that if you don’t have answers to questions, you fail the test. The rituals seemed hokey to me, and the concept of a god didn’t fit the world i saw. I guess when i reached the age of reason i journeyed past religion into just living life in a positive way.

I never thought of it as atheism, just as i never thought of not believing in Santa as a realization of being an Asantaist. Someone who doesn’t play sports doesn’t tie their personal  identity to a term like non-sporter or asportist; we identify as what we do, not what we don’t do.

In college i learned they had words for people with a non-theistic worldview, so at that point i understood my identity and began a life and journey as an actual Atheist. I also started to glimpse the related discrimination, marginalization, and other challenges.  I’ve identified across a range of non-faith labels, including Antitheist and Evangelical Atheist during a phase of thinking that the whole world would be better if everyone shared a non-theistic worldview.

I now use the term Humanist to describe my positive, life-affirming worldview and Atheist to describe my stance on religion. Over the past decade i’ve come to fully see the discrimination against  people of non-faith and have also witnessed and learned of so many faith-related injustices.  Everyone’s faith or non-faith is based on their own experience, culture, evaluation of evidence, interpretation of teachings, and so much more.  People of all faiths and non-faith identities suffer injustices. We must find a way to respect one another so that we can stand shoulder-to-shoulder and work together to make this world a better place.

I’ve grown into a quieter place of compassion and seeking common ground, and while i cannot understand why people believe in the supernatural, i can respect their right to believe.  I now do volunteer work to defend everyone’s right to express their faith or non-faith perspective (equally) and reduce faith-related conflict and stress in workplace, academic, and social environments.

What has been your greatest challenge as an Atheist? As a person?

As an Atheist the biggest challenge is balancing an understanding of religion as detrimental and harmful with belief that we need to connect people and promote a respectful world where everyone is able to express their faith or non-faith perspective.  Where my balance falters, i try to fall on the side of compassion. There are so many people pretending to be religious out of fear or because they don’t know there are alternative communities out there.  To make the world a safer place for non-theists, we need to make it a safer place for everyone.  People can then truly be free to express their genuine faith or non-faith perspective.

As a person, my biggest challenge is enduring any moment in life that doesn’t have a dog in it.

What inspires you?

The word “inspiration” is often mistaken as connected to religion.  The word is not; some people’s inspiration may be connected to religion, but the word is not a religious concept. All people can experience inspiration.

I’m inspired by people of integrity and courage, those who make great differences in the lives of others, and a great deal by times of quiet solitude in nature.

Visit Tiny Buddha’s 50 Ways to Find Inspiration for some paths to find inspiration.

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Are you afraid of dying?

I have no feelings about death.  I’m not a fan of experiencing pain, but we face pain throughout life often more so than at the time of our death.  Death to me does not look mysterious, unnatural, or unknown.  It is natural.  The flame goes out.  I imagine it will be just like we all remember about our lives from before our conception.  Remember that?  Me, either.

The only real fear i do have is not accomplishing enough before my time is up. You know? There’s so much to do. Every moment of our lives is precious and should be wisely invested; we don’t get a second chance at that moment.  And the real value of our lives is what we have done that makes a difference beyond us.  When i hear people talk about boredom, to me it means they don’t get that.  It’s sad.

What is YOUR question?

You may find you have more in common with fellow human beings than you knew – even those who hold equally strong commitments to worldviews different from your own.

LINKS

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9/11: Service and Community

The September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance has been an inspiring tradition of engaging in volunteerism as a tribute to the 9/11 victims, survivors, and responders since 2002.  Americans are called to make a difference in their communities—to make our community stronger and to foster the vision of individuals standing together, working in unity  to make our world a better place.

Meetup.com was established after the 9/11 tragedy in an effort to use online tools to bring people together in real life to build community. From Scott Heiferman, Co-Founder of Meetup.com (in a 2010 Meetup Blog article): “A lot of people were thinking that maybe 9/11 could bring people together in a lasting way. So the idea for Meetup was born: Could we use the internet to get off the internet — and grow local communities? “  Scott lived just miles from the Towers at the time of the tragedy. Today, Meetup hosts more than 255,000 meetup groups and has more than 27 million members from 179 countries.  In Scott’s words, “It is a wonderful revolution in local community, and it’s thanks to everyone who shows up.”

In response to the national call to action, and to honor the mission and intent of the Meetup events forum on which we built this Humanist Community, BE. Orlando engages in an annual 9/11 service project.   It has more meaning for us now than it ever has.

With the Pulse Tragedy in our own back yard this past June,  we have been reminded of the importance of efforts to build community and foster supportive networks of compassionate, engaged groups and individuals.  Individuals like you  – giving your time and heart to make a difference—are needed.  Meetups and other efforts to bring people together are needed.

Thank you to every person in Central Florida and around the nation who served together today in honor of the 2016 Day of Service and Remembrance.  Your contribution uplifts others, builds community, creates hope, and makes a real difference in people’s lives.

How will you continue to make a difference and to build community? What is your next volunteer project? What meetup groups are in your local area?

LINKS

 

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Our 5th Anniversary!

We celebrate this milestone with gratitude for each moment invested in volunteerism and for every person who puts caring into action to make a difference in our community. What you do MATTERS. Thank you to everyone who has supported and been a part of our efforts over the past five years!

BE. Orlando is about fostering a positive social network of diverse, service-engaged individuals ; but we are more than that.

220px-secularhumanismlogo3dpriderainbowcolorsFounded on September 2, 2011, by Atheists with a vision of community, service, and friendship, BE. Orlando has evolved into a resource for secular and Humanist individuals in central Florida, a place of building bridges across differences for people of all faith and non-faith worldviews, and an advocate for the truth that kindness and compassion are human potentials transcending faith and non-faith. Visible, active, contributing volunteers who live fulfilling lives of positive humanism negate harmful myths about morality and meaning being predicated on service to God.

As the secular demographic in America continues to rise, so does the need for relevant perspective-specific resources and communities to serve that population. One of the most-hated and misunderstood identities, those of non-faith face marginalization, discrimination, and bullying.  Sometimes subtle; often isolating, always harmful. Regional, state, and national resources are available to help.  And right here in Central Florida there are secular organizations providing support, hope, opportunity, and community for individuals of non-faith.  You are not alone.

 Join our journey.

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The core values of Service, Gratitude, and Inclusiveness will guide BE. Orlando into the adventure of the next years.  We will continue to cultivate a connected community that fosters acceptance, inclusion, and positive living.   We hope to see you on the journey – join us!

  • Involvement opportunities – join us for volunteering, educational events, and partner events with other organizations in the secular network.
  • Leadership opportunities – BE part of the leadership team – host events, advise and steer our mission and services, or grow our partnerships.

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Volunteers ROCK the menu at SafeHouse

August 10, 2016

The second Wednesday chef team had a great time preparing roasted chicken, potatoes, mushroom gravy and quinoa, salad, rolls, fruit tray, Doritos & dip tray, steamed veggies, and a VERY popular dessert of dirt cakes and cupcakes.

Thanks everyone!

We couldn’t help but notice that we only have one more month before we start the holiday dinner series – Oct (Halloween theme), November (Fall Festival), and the December holiday dinner.  Holidays already?  Bring it!

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Volunteering at Ronald McDonald House

Posted 7/24/2016

BE. Orlando was joined by volunteers from the Central Florida Freethought Community and Secular Student Alliance at UCF on Saturday to team up and make a fantabulous lunch for those staying at the Ronald McDonald House at Florida Hospital.

IMG_20160723_112004877_HDRVolunteers started with a tour of the facility to view living & recreation areas and a vacant resident room.  We learned about the many different types of Ronald McDonald House services to families and that the organization is international (63 countries), with 358 Houses, 208 in-hospital family rooms, and 49 mobile units in addition to grants to non-profits helping children and a youth scholarship program. There are currently two Houses in Central Florida – and a new one will be opening on August 11th by Nemours at Lake Nona. (learn more HERE)

Volunteers David, Yusia, Wendy, Alex, Marcelo, Landon, and Julia invested two hours of their Saturday to uplift others by preparing a great lunch.

It was like a reality TV show, they said: there was a pile of ingredients and we had to use them to make something awesome. 

The “hot dog” menu they prepared included regular & veggie dogs, buns & condiments, roasted squash, sautéed broccoli & mushrooms, Parmesan mushroom couscous with avocado, a lentil hummus & sweet pepper platter, mac & cheese, sweet potato fries, field greens salad with veggies, beet & blue potato chips, and a min-cake dessert bar of fresh berries, papaya, dark chocolate, and yogurt.

THANK YOU to all of our volunteers and to the Ronald McDonald House for providing this opportunity!

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The award of the day went to Alex, for his artistic presentation of the lentil hummus & sweet pepper platter.

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LINKS

Ronald McDonald House Global

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Florida

BE. Orlando Events – join us!

Families share their experience at the Ronald McDonald House of Central Florida:

World Humanist Day

World Humanist Day is celebrated every year on June 21 by declaration of the American Humanist Association and the International Humanist Ethical Union (IHEU).

It is an opportunity for humanists and humanist organizations to celebrate and inform communities about the positive values of Humanism and to share the global concerns of the Humanist movement.

On this day, consider engaging in service that impacts our fellow humans, celebrate your connection to others through unexpected acts of kindness, and join with other Humanists by seeking out and joining secular organizations in your community.  Read more about non-faith communities here.

Freedom of Thought Report

The IHEU continually researches the international discrimination against persons of non-faith and posts a Freedom of Thought Report.

“The rights of the non-religious, and the rights of religious minorities and non-conformists, are a touchstone for the freedoms of thought and expression at large…Silence the non-religious, and you silence some of the leading voices of responsible concern in society.” – Gulalai Ismail and Agnes Ojera

anti-atheist-billboardThere is a map showing the countries by how accepting they are of Humanist thought.  They rate America as “mostly satisfactory”; however, as a Secular American, my experiences lead me to wonder about that conclusion.  “Systemic discrimination” is a better descriptor for Christian faith advantage interwoven throughout our politics, laws, money, patriotism, social expectations, language, faith-biased human service resources, business and media markets proliferating and preying on faith-driven consumerism, etc.  Sometimes subtle, but always there. Many non-religious individuals live silently for fear of employment loss, social exclusion, familial rejection.

We are not “mostly satisfactory” when millions of Americans are marginalized.  Achievement of equitable treatment for all people, regardless of faith or non-faith perspective, should be our goal:  One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Amsterdam Declaration of 2002

Read on IHEU site here: Amsterdam Declaration 2002

From the site:

The 50th anniversary World Humanist Congress in 2002 unanimously passed a resolution known as “The Amsterdam Declaration 2002″. Following the Congress, this updated declaration was adopted unanimously by the IHEU General Assembly, and thus became the official defining statement of World Humanism.

Amsterdam Declaration 2002

Humanism is the outcome of a long tradition of free thought that has inspired many of the world’s great thinkers and creative artists and gave rise to science itself.

The fundamentals of modern Humanism are as follows:

1. Humanism is ethical. It affirms the worth, dignity and autonomy of the individual and the right of every human being to the greatest possible freedom compatible with the rights of others. Humanists have a duty of care to all of humanity including future generations. Humanists believe that morality is an intrinsic part of human nature based on understanding and a concern for others, needing no external sanction.

2. Humanism is rational. It seeks to use science creatively, not destructively. Humanists believe that the solutions to the world’s problems lie in human thought and action rather than divine intervention. Humanism advocates the application of the methods of science and free inquiry to the problems of human welfare. But Humanists also believe that the application of science and technology must be tempered by human values. Science gives us the means but human values must propose the ends.

3. Humanism supports democracy and human rights. Humanism aims at the fullest possible development of every human being. It holds that democracy and human development are matters of right. The principles of democracy and human rights can be applied to many human relationships and are not restricted to methods of government.

4. Humanism insists that personal liberty must be combined with social responsibility. Humanism ventures to build a world on the idea of the free person responsible to society, and recognises our dependence on and responsibility for the natural world. Humanism is undogmatic, imposing no creed upon its adherents. It is thus committed to education free from indoctrination.

5. Humanism is a response to the widespread demand for an alternative to dogmatic religion. The world’s major religions claim to be based on revelations fixed for all time, and many seek to impose their world-views on all of humanity. Humanism recognises that reliable knowledge of the world and ourselves arises through a continuing process. of observation, evaluation and revision.

6. Humanism values artistic creativity and imagination and recognises the transforming power of art. Humanism affirms the importance of literature, music, and the visual and performing arts for personal development and fulfilment.

7. Humanism is a lifestance aiming at the maximum possible fulfilment through the cultivation of ethical and creative living and offers an ethical and rational means of addressing the challenges of our times. Humanism can be a way of life for everyone everywhere.

Our primary task is to make human beings aware in the simplest terms of what Humanism can mean to them and what it commits them to. By utilising free inquiry, the power of science and creative imagination for the furtherance of peace and in the service of compassion, we have confidence that we have the means to solve the problems that confront us all. We call upon all who share this conviction to associate themselves with us in this endeavour.

IHEU Congress 2002

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LINKS

Learn about the Solstice from SciJinks (NOAA & NASA joint initiative)

American Humanist Association

International Humanist Ethical Union

IHEU Freedom of Thought Report

Central Florida Freethought Community

BE. Orlando calendar of Positive Humanism events for members

Huffington Post article on Atheist Discrimination

Humanist Response: Blood Drive

Update 6/19/16: THANK YOU to everyone who came out to show support and give blood at the CFFC & BE. #OrlandoUnited Blood Drive at Target yesterday!

We are grateful for the partnership of Target in Oviedo, the support and professionalism of the OneBlood medical staff, the efforts of 15 volunteers, the members of the community who came out to show support, and the donors who gave 27 units of blood – potentially impacting more than 80 lives!

Volunteers joined us from BE. Orlando, Central Florida Freethought Community, and the Secular Student Alliance at UCF.  Special thanks to Target management and employees for their continued support throughout the day – and their blood, too!

We had an amazing day and it was truly a heartwarming experience to be among members and friends who want to make a difference for the victims and families of last weekend’s tragedy at Pulse Orlando. Thank you, everyone!

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Post: 6/16/16

The secular community stands united with Orlando and with our LGBTQ+ members and friends, the Muslim community, and others impacted by the tragedy last weekend.

Please come out to Target in Oviedo this Saturday to support our blood drive.  We need volunteers and of course, blood donors.

GET INVOLVED: Please contact us at BEOrlando@live.com to volunteer or to donate drinks and snacks to support the individuals waiting to donate.

target_rainbow_logoThank you to Target for their partnership and compassion.  Their open commitment to inclusion of, and respect for, the LGBTQ+ community continues to inspire.

pulseThank you to everyone who has donated blood and supported blood drives around the region.  Your involvement makes a difference and shows that our community is connected, strong, and can stand together when needed.

LINKS

RSVP and Details on Facebook

Contact us to volunteer or donate items

A Humanist Response to the Orlando Tragedy

World Blood Donor Day: Blood Connects Us All