Humanists of West Florida

June 2015 Newsletter

First Friday FreeUp, June 5: Guest speaker Joan Irby from Guardians ad Litem

In This Issue...

• From the President

• Friday FreeUp, June 5: Guest speaker Joan Irby—a voice for the vulnerable

• HWF sponsoring food distribution, June 20

• School’s out—time to sign up to be a student mentor

• Dunning for Dollars: Your annual dues MATTER!

• Your Board of Directors

• Upcoming secular events on the Gulf Coast

• World Humanist Day, June 21



From the President...


Hello members and friends:

It's Membership renewal time!

It's that time of year for us to renew our memberships and send in our dues. Your chapter needs to retain all current members and add some more, so please renew and suggest a friend to join us. We currently have 23 supporting memberships at $25 apiece, and 5 student/low income memberships at $10 apiece, but we have 52 non-paying associate members. I would ask you associates to please try and join us as voting members this year, at least as low income members at the $10 rate; aside from a small amount put towards our promo items and internet sites, every dollar goes to helping other human beings in need. Please consider joining with your financial support. The “Dunning for Dollars” article below explains how. Also, please read the article about the Board of Directors that tells who we are and how to reach us. There are lots of ways to participate in the work HWF is doing—see the article below for more on Getting Involved.

I want to say how nice our Tom Paine Picnic turned out again this year. We were again fortunate to have a special guest, Dr. Jason Heap of the United Coalition of Reason, and we had a nice weather day with a good breeze. Thanks to you all who ventured out for the picnic and thanks for the good food you brought to share. I am glad you enjoy these get-togethers.

Finally, we are planning our second yearly food distribution for Saturday, June 20th, beginning at 8 am for volunteers and 10 am for food pickup. We’ll be wrapped up by noon. This day is selected as part of our celebration of global World Humanist Day which is June 21st. We are giving food out at an area in central Pensacola that is home not only to low income folk, but also seniors and disabled and who have had trouble getting to other food distributions. These are rewarding efforts that many of our members truly enjoy. Watch for our announcements as to the location and come on out and help us feed the needy of a low income area.

Thanks for your support, and see you at our FreeUps and events—

Buz Ryland, President

Humanists of West Florida


First Friday FreeUp:

Guest speaker: 

Joan Irby, Northwest Florida regional recruiter for Guardian ad Litem

Friday, June 5

6:00-8:00 pm

Sluggos Vegetarian Restaurant and Bar
101 S Jefferson Street, Pensacola, FL 32502

TOPIC: Giving voice to the vulnerable

Florida’s GAL program ensures that children who have been abused or neglected and are now caught up in the court system don’t get lost in the shuffle. Rather than rely on social workers who may have case loads of as many as 50 children, the GAL program makes it possible for each child to have a dedicated, trained, and committed volunteer looking out for their rights and advocating for their best interests.

Come hear how this program operates and what YOU can do to help a child in need.

College students: Even if you’re as young as 19 you can serve as a Guardian ad Litem in Florida.

Note: Sluggo's is a VEGAN restaurant—that means no animal products. You can handle that for a night, right?

Please place your orders as soon as you arrive, and let the servers know you'll be in the back room at the HWF FreeUp. We're informal—we each will eat as our meal arrives, and do our best to chew softly while the presentation is on. Introductions will be from 6-6:30, Joan will begin speaking at 6:30, and we'll have Q&A and discussion afterwards.


HWF to sponsor food distribution,  June 20

Volunteers will be needed Sunday, June 20 to distribute 6,000-7,000 pounds of food to needy local residents. The distribution site will be at 900 Rosemont Avenue in Pensacola, FL 32503. Volunteer workers will be needed starting at 8 am to set up for the distribution, which will start at 10. We should be wrapped up by noon. Contact Buz Ryland for sign-ups and any questions you might have:, phone 850-366-3410.


School’s out—time to sign up to be a student mentor for Fall

An hour a week of your time can be the difference between a lifetime of success or failure for a child. Have you considered becoming a student mentor, but weren’t sure how to go about it? Contact the student mentor coordinators listed below to get answers to your questions:


• Escambia County Youth Motivator Mentoring Program: Sally Bergosh, Youth Motivator Coordinator, (850) 469-5676,


• Take Stock in Children:

Escambia County: Sally Lee, Program Coordinator, (850) 469-5458,

Santa Rosa County: Angi Brown, Program Director, (850) 983-5043,


Dunning for Dollars:

Your annual dues


Hello all members of HWF: It is time to submit your membership dues for the July 1st thru June 30th 2016 fiscal year.  The month of June is our renewal month and your Board of Directors sure hopes you will all renew and keep the chapter going and growing.  We have high hopes for continued membership growth in the coming year and can't do it without your support.

Membership fees stay the same in the upcoming year:

Regular Membership at $25, and Student/Low Income at $10.

Two ways you can renew your membership:

1. Go to the website at and join up again and check the box you are renewing,

2. Mail your membership check to Humanists of West Florida, P.O.Box 15328, Pensacola, FL 32514

If you decide not to renew, please let us know what prompted your decision. We need to understand what we can do to keep members as we try to grow the organization for the future, and would greatly appreciate a parting email of review about us so we can learn.  We invite your critique and advice, so it send to

But we’d really rather you renew and stay with us—your membership dues and donations make it possible for Humanists of West Florida to help build a better community on the Gulf Coast!

Your HWF Membership Committee


HWF Board of Directors for 2015-2016

Meet your new Board of Directors, same as the old Board of Directors. That's from a famous song of yore by The Who, but about bosses. Your BOD is not wanting to be bosses but they do need members to be accountable to. It's good to have members to remind the BOD about information they would like to hear about or projects they would like to undertake, so please don't hesitate in to share your ideas.

Let me give you a brief overview of how the BOD is formed. We have seven directors each serving a two year term. The election of directors is staggered with three directors placed this year, and four next year. This system creates a very good overlap of service and experience. Each year in March we appoint a nominating team that looks for members to serve on the BOD. Then we put out the nomination slate to the membership in April and hold an election in May. The new members would then attend the June committee meetings closing out the old fiscal year and take their seat in July. However, our by-laws allow us to not hold an election if we don't have any competition for the seats. That is what occurred this year. We had three seats due open and had the same three board members reapply for the seats with no other applications received, so there was no need for an election. The board members will be seated in July by full board approval.

Finally, the BOD is made up of four officers and three members at large. We have a President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer. These officers are chosen from within the Board of Directors. Your Board of Directors for 2015-16 are Sedona Strong, Chas Stauffer, Amanda Kondrat'yev, Michael Kimball, Kay Rudolph, Suren Shah, and Buz Ryland.

Thank you for supporting our efforts and participating in our events.

President/Treasurer: Buz Ryland,

Vice President: Suren Shah,

Secretary: Kay Rudolph,


Charles Stauffer,

Sedona Strong,

Amanda Kondrat'yev,

Michael Kimball,


Upcoming secular events on the Gulf Coast

• Gulf Coast Freethinkers meetup Saturday, June 20, at 6 pm at Sluggos (hey—that would be right after you spent the morning helping feed the hungry!)

• United Secular Association of the Emerald Coast meetup at noon Sunday, June 7, at Helen Back Again in Niceville

• Mississippi Gulf Coast Atheist and Freethinking Association monthly meetup on Sunday, June 4, at 3 pm at Harmony Hall in Gulfport, MS



20th Anniversary, June 21, 2015

Happy World Humanist Day!

message from the AHA:

By James A. Haught

People sometimes ask me whether I'm an agnostic, an atheist, a skeptic–or what. I have a standard reply: I don't think about labels; I just think about being honest and truthful.

Honest people don't claim to know supernatural stuff that nobody can know. Truthful people don't say they're sure of gods, devils, heavens, hells, miracles, saviors and the like, when there's no actual evidence.  Ministers who proclaim certainty about invisible, magical things are dishonest, I think.

Years ago, when I was a young news reporter, my city editor was an H.L. Mencken-style cynic who laughed at hillbilly preachers, and I joined him. But as a naïve seeker of wisdom, I worried--so  I told him, "OK, you're right that they're spouting fairy tales and mumbo-jumbo, but what's the actual truth? Why are we here? Why is the world here? Why do we live and die?  What answer can an honest, sincere, thinking person give?"

He eyed me and replied, "You can say: I don't know." Bingo. That rang a bell in my psyche that I've never forgotten. Admitting that you don't know is truthful. It's just about the only honest stand you can take. Confessing that you cannot answer is moral and honorable.

Later, I realized that an honest person can go further to reach rational conclusions about whether supernatural claims are plausible. You can't really prove that invisible fairies don't dance in the darkness, or that the Virgin Mary doesn't miraculously appear to believers, or that witches don't copulate with Satan, or that the Angel Moroni didn't reveal golden plates and later take them back to heaven, but your intelligence can conclude that such claims are so far-fetched that they should rank with children's fantasy stories.

Therefore, honesty leads you to the secular humanist outlook: to acceptance of scientific evidence as the key to knowledge, plus a determination to strive to help humanity without supernatural aid. Humanism is a belief system that a truthful person can embrace.

Worldwide, the entire species accepts humanism in the sense of wanting to make life better for people,  but the humanist movement as an alternative to religion is a smallish crusade led by a few dedicated intellectuals. Most folks never heard of groups like the American Humanist Association or the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), but those organizations are busy at work, endlessly trying to counteract religious supernaturalism.

Back in the 1980s, some of these groups launched World Humanism Day, observed every June 21 on the summer solstice. Choosing the time of longest daylight was designed to symbolize the light of reason overcoming the darkness of superstition. Each year, some skeptic groups hold parties or ceremonies on June 21.

But the holiday hasn't exactly swept the planet. I had never heard of World Humanist Day until I was asked to give this talk about it.

However, below the radar, humanism truly is sweeping the planet. It began with thinkers in Ancient Greece. Then it revived among intellectuals in the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason. As the modern scientific age snowballed, religion retreated and secular humanism soared. The World Encyclopedia of Christianity says, "The number of nonreligionists... throughout the 20th century has skyrocketed from 3.2 million in 1900, to 697 million in 1970, and on to 918 million in A.D. 2000."

We're living in the long-predicted Secular Era. Religion is dying. Humanism is the value system fitting the new epoch. The IHEU gives this definition:

Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance that affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethics based on human and other natural values in a spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.

One dictionary defines humanism as "seeking, without religion, the best in, and for, human beings." Another calls it "a doctrine, attitude or way of life centered on human interests or values; especially, a philosophy that usually rejects supernaturalism and stresses an individual's dignity and worth and capacity for self-realization through reason." Still another says it's "the rejection of religion in favor of the advancement of humanity by its own efforts."

And the Oxford Companion to Philosophy says humanism is "an appeal to reason in contrast to revelation or religious authority as a means of finding out about the natural world and destiny of man, and also giving a grounding for morality.... Humanist ethics is also distinguished by placing the end of moral action in the welfare of humanity rather than in fulfilling the will of God."

So—happy World Humanist Day!

James A. Haught is editor of West Virginia's largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette, and a longtime freethought writer. This talk was prepared for his local Unitarian Universalist discussion circle.


Get Involved!


Want to get involved in some of our activities and help build our humanist community? Contact the committee chairs and find out how you can help:


• Finance, Fundraising, and Membership

Chair/Contact Person: Suren Shah - Email:

Committee Members: Buz Ryland, Sedona Strong, Charles Stauffer

• Communications, Connections, and Promotions

Chair/Contact Person: Kay Rudolph - Email:

Committee Members: Michael Kimball, Amanda Kondrat'yev

• Projects, Programs, and Events

Chair/Contact Person: Buz Ryland - Email:

Committee Members: Suren Shah, Kay Rudolph, Amanda Kondrat'yev, Sedona Strong

Become an HWF Member!

Here's a list of some of the things we've done so far:

• Gave out Personal Care Packets for the Homeless and provided $300 worth of critically needed supplies for distribution to the homeless through our partner organization, Sean's Outpost

• Adopted 2 miles of Nine Mile Road for beautification

• Purchased and gave out 15,000 pounds of food to local families in need

• Secured $2,000 in grants from the American Humanists Association to support our work on the Gulf Coast

• Received several generous donations from local businesses and individuals

• Continuing to host monthly FreeUps and biannual family picnics to build social community and spark discussion

We'd like to do so much more, but we need YOUR help! Come join us!


Would you like to guest post in our newsletter or our blog?

We want to keep our newsletter informative, and local. If you are interested in writing about local events and activities, inform readers about local personalities activities in our greater communities, or even have photos or artwork related to humanism you'd like to share, please submit your 500 words or less article by the 20th of each month for consideration. (Not all submissions will be published, depending on the space available.)

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Like what we're doing and want to contribute financially to the work HWF is doing?  We're a 501c3 organization so your donations are tax deductible! Thank you!


The Mission of the Humanists of West Florida... to facilitate the advancement of humanist thought and action in Pensacola and surrounding areas by interconnecting groups of humanists, atheists, agnostics and non-religious. We will strive for equal participation in government and societal life through building strategic partnerships with other humanist and freethought organizations and with our religious neighbors to advance the greater good of humanity.