Discussion on Poverty

On Monday, January 26th, from 6 to 7 p.m., I Live Here I Give Here is presenting a panel discussion on poverty and its effects on Austin. Representatives from several local nonprofits will talk about the severity of the problem and what is being done to alleviate it. The event takes place at Caritas, 611 Neches, and for those who like a little bourbon with their public policy, the discussion continues during happy hour at the Tiniest Bar in Texas, 817 West 5th Street.


I can’t believe there’s anyone who wouldn’t be insprired from Obama’s speech today. If you didn’t watch the inauguration by choice, it’s probably because you’ve got Obama tied up with suspicions of socialism or the Islam or uppitiness or something. But if you take away all that noise and just listen or read his words, I think you’d be impressed.

The overwhelming feeling is of … uh, hope. Sorry, I had to say it. And there’s also that feeling that we can be a great country again. His words also inspire you – or rather than inspire you, they allow you – to be the person you wish you could be. They make you want to work harder and give up some of your comforts to pitch in and get stuff done.

Hell, even if he marketed hope and change to win an election like Starbucks markets it to sell more coffee… you can’t take away from him that he’s new and smart and compelling, and that he might actually be qualified to do that job.

One of the best parts of the inauguration for me was the John Williams song. We sang that song – Simple Gifts – in elementary school, and I still sometimes sing it today.

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.

MLK Map: I see a story for the next issue

Torquil just finished this lovely map for Hands On’s MLK Peace Bench Project, and Mando’s “linked us up.” You should check it out.

So then it got us thinking… what a cool story it would be to run photos of each of these benches and then link them to Google Maps from the PDF… and then get some quotes from some of the volunteers who created these benches, talk to them about their work and what it meant for them to participate…

I mentioned somewhere (Twitter, I think) that I’d met with Nikki Kreueger, who does community affairs for Freescale, and she told me about an employee there who created a few of the benches all by herself… and that they were beautiful, hand-painted works of art. And that the woman did this as a volunteer, keep that in mind…

This is how these things start.As soon as the last one’s done I think, “Okay, this is our last GivingCity. I cannot work like that again. I look like caveman and feel like crap, and I haven’t slept in my bed in weeks.” And so on. And then I get this idea for a story…

Like our “Young Philanthropists” story, in which we’ll feature a dozen or so under-40 types who are going to build Austin’s culture of philanthropy. I want to find the future leaders in giving and charity, shoot them in a studio having a great time in front of the camera, write up little profiles of each (what they care about, why they make the commitment, how others can do the same), and spread it over about 8 pages. Then a story about the myths of Leadership Austin, which is a fantastic organization.

The rest of the issue is still wide open. Thinking about the Ya-Ya Club, this “Happiness Is” film screening next month, a really great essay from Katie Ford about a project that helps incarcerated women…

Okay, I guess we’ll do another one. Ugh.

The thrill of a fat tax return – even if it’s not for you

This number amazes me: Last year, Foundation Communities engaged 470 volunteers helping with 17,284 tax returns with $21 million in tax refunds!

This year, they are looking for 500 volunteers to prepare 20,000 returns – and aiming for $26 million. That’s $26 million for Austin in 2009. It’s not $700 billion, but it’s still a nice chunk of change.

Want to help?

Community Tax Centers provide free income tax preparation services to Austin’s low-income families.  Volunteers can give the working poor in our community a chance to build a financial future by helping them claim eligible tax credits.

What do Volunteer Tax Preparers do?
– Learn how to prepare simple tax returns using a commercial software program in 8 hours of training – training starts in December
– Become certified as an IRS Volunteer Tax Preparer
– Work directly with families who need help preparing tax returns

Any Texas CPA who completes our training, passes the IRS certification test and volunteers for 36 hours will be approved for 12 hours of CPE credit.
Other Ways to Volunteer:
Intake Specialist –Welcome clients, explain our services, and facilitate the intake process. Students must possess excellent customer service and organization skills and work well in a fast-paced environment.
Interpreters –We need bilingual volunteers of all languages to help clients and our volunteer tax preparers communicate effectively. 20% of Community Tax Center clients speak only Spanish. 
Time Commitment:
January ­ April 15. Serve just 3 hours per week or a total of 36 hours.  Tax centers are conveniently located throughout Austin, including Round Rock and Del Valle, and offer daytime, evening and weekend hours. 
Make a difference in YOUR community. 
Sign up today!
Jackie Blair  ~  Volunteer Coordinator  ~  Foundation Communities
512-447-2026 ext. 35 ~ Jackie.Blair@foundcom.org

JAN 17-19: MLK/Obama/Hands On Days of Service, Explained

So many people are calling for days of service… but I wondered whether anyone was actually answering the call. So I’m doing some research… so you don’t have to.

SAT JAN 17: Hands On Central Texas MLK Day of Service

First, you should know about the United Way/Hands on Central Texas MLK Day of Service, Saturday, January 17, from 9 am to 3 pm. They do this one every year, and I was able to attend a couple of years ago. Hands On works with local nonprofits to create these projects, most of which can be ticked off a list in half a day and require no previous experience. Not that these are light or made-up projects; these are very real needs in the community.

But the beauty of it is that a.) anyone can participate and b.)it only lasts a day. So think of these as a great way to bring a friend or some family and knock out some painting or planting or cleaning together for a great cause. They even give you a free breakfast, and before you take off for your project, there are a number of truly inspiring speakers and performers that will make it impossible for you to NOT get hooked on volunteering again.

MON JAN 19: Obama’s Day of Service

Okay, so this is where you might start to get confused. This is actually part of President-Elect Obama’s “Renew America Together” campaign to get people off their butts and out volunteering, not just for a day, but to make a commitment to volunteering.

But it starts with a day. He’s chosen the actual MLK Day, Jan 19 – the day before his inauguration, Jan 20 – to kick things off, and he does so – or rather, his people have done so – by starting a website, USAService.org, that allows us to connect with each other about local service opportunities in our area.

So you go to this site, type in your zip code, and – voila – lots of opportunities. A surprising number, in fact. I found 46 within 50 miles of my South Austin zip code. And it’s everything from food drives to clean-ups to making blankets for cancer patients.


If you don’t get a chance to participate in any of these volunteering opportunities, consider learning a little more about the organizations in Austin that are working hard to make this a better place to live. Even just learning more about the needs and the issues is a step in the right direction.

(But everybody’s going to be out volunteering, so… might be lonely at home.)

FRI JAN 16: Community activists or rap group? Or both?

Austin rap group Public Offenders

Lyricist, Phenom, B.Prophet, Gator, and Yoli are far from your average rap group. Each member is deeply involved and committed to their vision of building a better community. They are all advisors for The Cipher- Austin’s Hip Hop Project, a non-profit organization for East Austin youths, which Gator is the co-founder and an instructor. They consistently participate in community events and social activism and collaborate with local and national organizations to galvanize a national movement to end violence and discrimination.

We included Gator (in above photo, left) in the latest issue of GivingCity, in a feature called “Speaking Up for East Austin.” He’s a gifted and driven young leader, and he’ll be one to watch as Austin builds it philanthropic and activist culture.

From the press release:

Gator’s  hip hop crew, PUBLIC OFFENDERS, are set to release their second album, Drop Jewels, on Friday, January 16, 2009.

Produced by Austin’s own G.Dot, the album challenges listeners to address issues typical rappers rarely rap about. Drop Jewels provides a message of manhood, validating men and inviting them to get involved in the effort to end violence against women, while also affirming the experience and reality women face each day.

“In addition, this talented group takes on the issues facing black men and teen pregnancy, as well as the pain faced by children dealing with absentee fathers,” says Ted Bunch from the national organization, A Call To Men.

The hard-hitting beats and soulful rhythms uplift the mind and spirit, causing the body to rise to a signature P.O. pose: arm fully extended and ending with a powerful, righteous fist.

Dedicated to those affected by domestic violence, especially Ortralla Mosley who was a friend of the group and died at age 15 after being attacked by her boyfriend while at school, the PUBLIC OFFENDERS hope the album inspires those who need it the most. It is also a call to action as we all have a role in ending violence against women. Influential and enlightening, Drop Jewels builds from their debut album, Day of Truth, and focuses on the PUBLIC OFFENDERS movement for social change.

“Drop Jewels is about dropping knowledge and passing wisdom along to others who may not possess those jewels,” explains Gator, emcee and spokesperson for the group.

PUBLIC OFFENDERS stands for Poverty United Building Love in Inner Cities – Our Future For Every Nation Does Effect Reality Situations. The crew has been together since 2002, during their days at Reagan High School. Emcee and singer Yoli formally joined the group in 2007.

An ages18+ album release party will be held Sunday, January 18, 2009 at The Parish, starting at 8pm, and hosted by Zell Miller III and featuring Blacklisted Individuals and DJ Notion.

SAT FEB 7: Looking for professionals to share their experience

Saw this on the Las Comadres listserv:

Feria Para Aprender is looking for enthusiastic professionals who want to share with the youth attending the event the path you had to take to reach your career goals.

Since the focus of this event is higher learning and the importance of graduating high school and moving on to college, we want professionals who’ll be eager to share their great stories of success. We are looking for professionals in all fields, any and all are welcome, engineering, business management, information technology, and of course teachers, lawyers, and doctors.


If you want to help encourage these young minds to strive higher, please let us know.
DATE: Saturday, February 7th
PLACE: Burger Center, 3200 Jones Drive
SHIFT TIMES: 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
We need at least four professionals per shift.

To volunteer or to share your college and career experiences please contact Nancy Rodriguez at (512) 912-5959 or via email.

About Feria: Thousands of students and their Spanish-speaking parents are expected to visit the Tony Burger Center on Saturday, February 7th for the annual Feria Para Aprender. This event debuted in 2007 as the first citywide Spanish language-only education fair, drawing more than 3,500 in attendance.

It is the area’s largest one-day education effort with a dual objective to
close the Hispanic achievement gap in Central Texas while fueling the economy with a workforce of bilingual, educated graduates.

For more info visit http://www.feriaeducativa.org/.