For I Live Here, I Give Here – and for GC – patience

I go to church. There, I said it. I attend Shepherd of the Hills Presbyterianon William Cannon. I go to church for a lot of reasons, but the two biggest drivers are my children and the Reverend Larry Coulter.

Larry does exactly what I’ve always believed a church leader is supposed to do: He tells us what to do. There’s no more mystery! It’s obvious! Just do whatever Larry says on Sunday, and you’re golden!

What I mean is that he starts with the Bible, explains the passage by giving you the back story, offering a little about the main characters, the historical context, all the ways that passage has been interpreted. It’s interesting, actually. Then he turns on the light by telling you a relevant story from his own life. He’s had quite a life. Finally he makes a suggestion, and it’s usually something along the lines of, “… and so this is what God wants us to do.”

And somewhere in there, I have a little revelation. “Oh,” I think, “that’s what that means.

So today, when I read Andrea Ball’s column about the Campaign for Philanthropy in Austin, a.k.a. I Live Here, I Give Here, I thought about Larry’s sermon this morning about patience. (Mostly, I bring up Larry so I can source him, but he’s so much more articulate about this, that I wish I could quote him word for word.)

See, what Larry talked about today was patience and “active waiting.” It’s about identifying what you can control and what you can’t, and preparing in the meantime for the event you’re waiting for. He likened it to farmers, waiting for rain. Farmers can’t control the weather, of course, but they can buy the seed, sharpen the plow, prepare the soil, and perform other tasks within their control. In fact, if they don’t do those things, they essentially forfeit the event they’ve been waiting for.

So we wait, but we don’t just sit there and complain about how people in Austin should care more about their community. The I Live Here, I Give Here campaign launched in September 2007, and the main reason I know this is because I had coffee with Patsy Woods Martin two days after the kick-off at City Hall. I wanted to ask her for feedback on the idea of a philanthropy and charity magazine in Austin. You can read my post from that meeting here.

ILH,IGH and GivingCity are both almost two years old now. And we’re still waiting. Are we making a difference in Austin? Are more people giving now as a result of our efforts? Has this been a good investment of our time, money, sweat, and tears?

I have no idea, but I thank God for Larry. Maybe we’re not having a significant impact now, but I bet we will in the long run. These are, after all, seeds we’re planting. We nurture them, we protect them, we pray for them, and we wait.

For Sale: Elliot Smith’s Passat, with money to be donated to SIMS Foundation

Elliot Smith photo from

Elliot Smith photo from

The legacy of singer Elliot Smith  lives on, this time in his car, a 1999 Passat GLX, listed on the Austin Craigslist for $4000. Smith’s brother has listed the car, with the entire amount being donated to the Austin-based SIMS Foundation, which provides access to and financial support for mental health and addiction recovery services for Austin-area musicians and their families.

There seems to be a leaning toward charity with Smith’s life. In 2007, a double-album of his recording was released, with proceeds benefiting an organization called Outside In, a Portland-based nonprofit dedicated to providing diverse services for homeless youth and low-income adults.

This from the austin.craigslist post:

This car means the world to me, and has a very interesting story to tell. Music buffs might get a kick out of knowing who used to own their ‘new’ car. I feel that $4,000 is fair for the vehicle, and I’ll be honest about every issue I’ve known on the car. You would have the knowledge that your $4,000 is helping people struggling with depression, drug abuse, etc., and keeping this world a decent place to live in with good music and healthy musicians. I’ll show you the receipt for the SIMS donation when I make it, within 3 days of the sale. You can even go over there with me when I take ‘em the check if you’d like. Help me help SIMS, feel good about yourself, and get a fun car in the process.

Smith is best known for songs about sadness, like his Emmy-nominated “Miss Misery,” which appeared in the movie “Good Will Hunting” in 1998. Smith reportedly killed himself in 2003.

Austin author releases new book about the orphans of India

For three years, Shelley Seale would travel to the orphanages of India, bags loaded with treats and toys to share with the children who had made such an enormous impact on her. After all, these were the same children who inspired the movie Slumdog Millionaire. Each time she got to know the children’s stories a little more, which compelled this Austin writer to compose a new book called, “The Weight of Silence: The Invisible Children of India.”

“I hope that people will see that even though this topic is serious and the stories often heartbreaking, it is not a depressing book or subject!” says Seale. “The kids’ hope and resilience amazed me time and time again; the ability of their spirits to overcome crippling challenges inspired me. The issues are tough, what has happened to a lot of these kids makes you want to cry – but the bottom line of their stories is a very strong, hopeful voice.

I interviewed Shlley to find out what compelled her to travel, return, and make the children of India such a big part of her life.

What prompted you to travel in India and get to know these children?

In early 2004, I read an article in Tribeza magazine about Caroline Boudreaux, who had visited India three years earlier. She had happened upon an orphanage full of children living in incomprehensible conditions and had returned  home and started The Miracle Foundation, a nonprofit which raises money and recruits sponsors to help support the home. I began volunteering for the organization and sponsored a child, and Caroline invited me to go to India with a volunteer group. My first visit was in March 2005.

Was the situation what you expected?

Yes and no. When I arrived that first time, I assumed all the kids there were orphans in the true sense of the word – their parents had died. Instead I was shocked by how many of them had been “orphaned” by poverty; their parents had left them at the Miracle Foundation home because they were too poor to feed them, which in some ways seemed an even greater tragedy. I wondered when each of them had stopped wanting to go back home, or if they ever had. Afterward, there was simply no way to go on with my life afterwards as if they did not exist.

I had gone expecting it to be a sad place, an emotionally wrenching experience with these parentless young people. But those expectations had been turned on their head. Yes, there were stories behind each one of these children – many of them painful and tragic. Yet the man who ran the orphanage, and the house mothers, had made the kids their own in a community of sharing and acceptance. They were poor in wealth but not in spirit; limited in resources but not in joy and laughter. They gave me a complete unconditional love, for nothing more than showing up.

This kind of journey isn’t for everybody… is it?

Probably not. The specific type of trip I took with The Miracle Foundation, the volunteer trip to the children’s homes, is not the same as a sight-seeing vacation.

India is definitely a complete culture shock for someone who’s never been there, especially if you haven’t traveled in a developing country before. The poverty and hardship is stark and in your face. At times, quite honestly, I just wanted to look away and say I’d had enough. But the suffering remains whether we choose to look or not. They do not go away simply because we decide that to be a witness to them, to say I care about your story, is too difficult for us.

But still, like I said before, the moment you meet these kids, that all goes away. I have been on four different trips with all kinds of different people, some of whom love India and some who barely tolerate it, yet every single one of them fell in love with these kids and had the time of their life.  It’s amazing how this experience hooks you – I sometimes tease Caroline Boudreaux about putting something in the water. But the truth is, we go thinking about giving something back, and in the end it’s us who end up getting something amazing out of it. We are the ones who get rescued.

I guess sometimes it seems hopeless. There are so many children who need help. What do you think?

The truth is, each person can create incredible impact with even small actions. It’s a ripple effect, and I have seen it happen over and over, so many times I can’t even count them. Most of us could never sell all our belongings and go work in the trenches in India, but that doesn’t mean we should think, then, that we can’t do anything at all.

If you can change the course of the life of ONE person – still, that one person’s life is different and better because you impacted it.  I think that’s worth it. Don’t focus on the big picture, just focus on what you are passionate about, what you want to do. For me, I can’t constantly think about the 25 million kids in India who live in orphanages or on the streets – I can only think about the one who is in front of me at that moment.

What do you hope to accomplish with the book?

My sole purpose in writing the book was to give these millions of children a voice that could be heard by others in the world who, I was convinced, would be as moved by their plights as I was. And so, the main thing I hope to accomplish is awareness – followed by action. Some kind of action. I think the key is to discover what you are passionate about, what you have genuine feelings and caring about – and then do something about that issue. But just do something.

To learn more about the book, go to Seale’s website or purchase one from The Miracle Foundation. Note that for all books purchased through The Miracle Foundation, all proceeds are donated to them.

Hundreds attend Vivir Unidos party…er, volunteer fair

Last week , we participated in the Vivir Unidos volunteer fair for Hispanics produced by the overworked and underpaid folks from United Way and Hands on Central Texas. Between all the amazing food, the music, the socializing, the dancing… seriously, weren’t we supposed to have been there to “improve Hispanic engagement?” Blah blah blah, this was a party.

There were at least 30 nonprofits represented, and every time I strolled by them I heard some genuine conversations going on. Sebastian Puente, who also helped plan the event and was there last night, and I estimated that there we at least 400 people there. It was a packed house. And everyone seemed to get the message of the night: Dig in and get involved. Si se puede.

Congratulations to everyone who helped plan and support the event! Below are some links to coverage from news outlets. Are there more?

Statesman: United Way Reaches Out to Area Hispanics with Vivir Unidos

Ahora Si: Buscan a latinos con ganas de ayudar a su comunidad

Ahora Si: Photos from the event

P.S. We’ll have tons of photos of the Vivir Unidos event in our next issue. Don’t forget to sign up for a free subscription!

Video Wanted: Lights.Camera.Help. entries due JUNE 30!

Rich Vasquez, Aaron Bramley, and David Neff

Rich Vasquez, Aaron Bramley, and David Neff

There’s a little more than a week to submit your entries to the nonprofit film festival, Lights.Camera.Help; the deadline is June 30, in fact. I highly encourage you to submit any film, YouTube video, PSA or series, and be a part of this first-ever film fest in Austin.

Austinites who launch these projects-with-a-cause continue to amaze me. Just when you think it’s an empty marketing trend, another social entrepreneur impresses you with their creativity, energy, and ideas. This is definitely the case with Lights.Camera.Help, founded by David Neff, Aaron Bramley, and Rich Vazquez.

I spoke with them at the launch party last month – here’s a quick, behind-the-scenes interview.

Dave Neff: We’re all kind of in the film industry in one way or another. And the whole idea is that we want to give validity to this films-for-a-cause genre.

Rich Vasquez:The great thing about video is it gives you a chance to engage a person with a narrative, but also with facts and figures. I think we can help people demonstrate what makes film different, how nonprofits are using it, and what they are using it for.

Aaron Bramley: So part of our original focus was that the winning film would get all the proceeds of the festival. We’re not actually spending much money, which is encouraging: People are stepping up to make sure this happens.

RV: We really believe in this, and it shows. Plus, I think they believe in it, too.

DN: I think Austin really values altruism. That, plus there are a high number of nonprofits here, and we’re a tech city and so much of this film and video stuff comes out of tech. So it’s a confluence of factors that are making this happen.

RV: We’re trying to catch up to that momentum.

Now all you have to do is submit. Check out these photos from the launch party and read more about Lights.Camera.Film.

Dana Shetto and John Turner

Dana Shetto and John Turner

Jennifer Campell, Weatherby Swada, and Buffy

Jennifer Campell, Weatherby Swada, and Buffy

Mando Rayo and Layla Fry

Mando Rayo and Layla Fry

Kim Righter, Ehren Foss, and Laura Maher

Kim Righter, Ehren Foss, and Laura Maher

David Neff

David Neff

David Shaw and Jordan Viatar
David Shaw and Jordan Viatar

You can help get Austin kids to college. Here’s how.

Two new collaborations kicking off this month are determined to get more Austin kids ready for college, and they could use your help.

Mentoring Austin middle school students

The first is a mentoring project called 1 Hour for Kids, which was created by United Way Capital Area to forge the efforts of eight Austin nonprofits that serve children in their middle school years. The goal is to recruit 400 volunteers by late fall to mentor an at-risk student from one of six Austin middle schools.

Why middle school? The collaborators found that there are fewer mentors and other support systems catered to this age group than others, a lost opportunity considering that research shows that middle school students with at least one supportive adult in their lives are almost twice as likely to graduate as those who do not.

The genius of 1 Hour for Kids, though, is a revelation, at least for the volunteers. If you’re considering being a mentor for a student in Austin, you’ve probably browsed the obvious opportunities, but if you dig a little deeper, you’d find many more opportunties beyond that. That’s when it gets complicated, right?

But what 1 Hour for Kids does, as evidenced even by its compelling name, is make it simple to identify the right opportunity for you. It comes down to a simple quiz that helps you figure out what you care about. And you take it online. And from there, you sign up. It’s this straightforward entry structure that demystifies mentoring a bit. I’m always on the lookout for this myself -things that inspire the people who are thinking about community engagement to take that first step – and I love when a nonprofit makes this a priority.

They’ve even taken advantage of social networking sites to let you direct friends to the cause. (And now I direct you! See the Facebook page. Join the cause. Invite @aplusk, whpever.)

Now, the process of becoming a mentor is… a process. They don’t just send you the name of a kid and you send him an email and go see a movie. There are background checks and a little training to take, etc., before they put someone else’s child in your hands. But neither do they leave you to your own devices after you’ve gone through the training. There are guidelines, suggestions, and an on-staff support person mentoring the mentor, so to speak.

But once you’ve gone through the training, you’ll find being a mentor can come naturally. Every positive effort you make to be a part of a child’s life has an enormous impact. Mentors I’ve spoken to describe how startling and significant the rewards of mentoring can be. We’re going to speak to several mentors to learn more about this in our next issue.

CLICK HERE to learn more.

College readiness workshop

The second is a college readiness workshop that kicked off this past weekend.

Saturday was the first of eight full-day workshops for Austin students accepted or enrolled in college. Now, if you went to college and think back on the many opportunities you had to totally blow it, you can see why a little extra direction from wise elders might help. So a group of them, lead by E3 Alliance, The Blueprint for Educational Change, and the University of Texas Institute for Public School Initiatives created a series of workshops to cover all those non-academic challenges. 

The workshops will cover topics like financial aid, social life, money management… lots of things I wish someone had prepared me for. And the information will be presented by experts as well as other college students. The audience will consist of 250 students who come from low-income families and may be the first from their families to attend college.

And here’s some interesting information: As an added incentive, the UT System donated a total of four $1,000 scholarship awards to be drawn during the event on June 27th. These awards are for parents/guardians in attendance on either day may enter. The winners must be a parent/guardian of a student attending a college anywhere in the U.S.
In addition, Advance Micro Devices (AMD) and Applied Materials have each contributed a $1000 scholarship, available to any student who is registered and participates in the CTC program on any of the other dates.

When and Where:
June 20: UT School of Social Work, Room 2.112

June 25: ACC Highland Business Center, Room 220

June 26: ACC Highland Business Center, Room 220

June 27: UT School of Social Work, Room 2.116

July 1: ACC Highland Business Center, Room 220

July 2: ACC Highland Business Center, Room 301

July 16: ACC Highland Business Center, Room 301

July 17: ACC Highland Business Center, Room 301

CLICK HERE to learn more.

Please share these opportunities with people you know.

Austin African Americans, go get that scholarship money!

Heard about this via the Community Action Network e-newsletter, which actually linked to the Austin Juneteenth Celebration (June 19) website…

If you’re currently mentoring or supporting an African-American or Hispanic student, please let them know about the numerous opportunities for college scholarships.

Below are listed almost 50 scholarship and aid opportunities for African-American and Hispanic students. Please spread the word and help someone you know earn scholarship money for college.


Even if you do not have a college-aged child at home, please share this with someone who does, and to anyone and everyone that comes to mind. Though there are a number of companies and organizations that have donated money for scholarships to African Americans, a great deal of the money is being returned because of a lack of interest or awareness.

No one is going to knock on our doors and ask if we can use a scholarship.

Take the initiative to get your children involved! Money shouldn’t be returned to donating companies because we fail to apply for it.

Please pass this information on to family members, nieces, nephews, friends with children etc. We must get the word out that money is available. If you are a college student or getting ready to become one, you probably already know how useful additional money can be.


2.) Student Inventors Scholarships 

3.) Student Video Scholarships

4.) Coca-Cola Two Year College Scholarships

5.) Holocaust Remembrance Scholarships

6.) Ayn Rand Essay Scholarships 

7.) Brand Essay Competition

8.) Gates Millennium Scholarships

9.) Xerox Scholarships for Students

10.) Sports Scholarships and Internships

11.) National Assoc. of Black Journalists Scholarships

12.) Saul T. Wilson Scholarships (Veterinary)

13.) Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund

14.) FinAid: The Smart Students Guide to Financial Aid scholarships

15.) Presidential Freedom Scholarships 

16.) Microsoft Scholarship Program

17.) Wired Scholar Free Scholarship

18.) Hope Scholarships & Lifetime Credits

19.) William Randolph Hearst Endowed Scholarship for Minority Students

20.) Guaranteed Scholarships

21.) BOEING scholarships (some HBCU connects)

22.) Easley National Scholarship Program

23.) Maryland Artists Scholarships

24.) Jacki Tuckfield Memorial Graduate Business Scholarship

25. ) Historically Black College & University Scholarships

26.) Actuarial Scholarships for Minority Students

27.) International Students Scholarships & Aid Help

28.) College Board Scholarship Search

29.) Burger King Scholarship Program

30.) Siemens Westinghouse Competition

31.) GE and LuLac Scholarship Funds

32.) CollegeNet ‘ s Scholarship Database

33.) Union Sponsored Scholarships and Aid

34.) Federal Scholarships & Aid Gateways 25 Scholarship Gateways from Black Excel

35.) Scholarship & Financial Aid Help

36.) Scholarship Links (Ed Finance Group)

37.) FAFSA On The Web (Your Key Aid Form &Info)

38.) Aid & Resources For Re-Entry Students

39.) Scholarships and Fellowships

40.) Scholarships for Study in Paralegal Studies

41.) HBCU Packard Sit Abroad Scholarships (for study around the world)

42.) Scholarship and Fellowship Opportunities

43.) INROADS internships

44.) Olympics of the Mind Scholarships

45.) Black Alliance for Educational Options Scholarships

46.) ScienceNet Scholarship Listing

47.) Graduate Fellowships For Minorities Nationwide


49.) The Roothbert Scholarship Fund