JULY 30: Events, workshops and other news from Austin philanthopic community

A bit of a round-up of interesting items I came across this week.

1. Homeless Coach: Missioned to “ssensselemoH” …reverse Homelessness!

Homeless Coach

For two years Tom Baum and friends have put all their energy into helping more homeless people get coaching and support to turn their lives around. They also find RVs and turn them into Homeless Coaches, gutting them, renovating them and using the entire process to bring more people into the effort.

Each Homeless Coach Houses 1-2 homeless people, employs 5-10 homeless (part time), coaches 10 homeless off the streets every 6 months while sharing life stories, meals, fun, etc. Participants graduate with renewed purpose, a life plan and a “family” of community contacts who recognize their God-given talents and gifts.

This Saturday, they’re doing an “Extreme RV Makeover,” and it begins with a gutting of an old RV. Can’t make it up to Pflugerville to help? Then watch it online via livestream. The fun happens from 10 am – 3 pm. Livestream access and more information here.

2. Free workshops and brown bags for nonprofit beginners

Mando Rayo of Cultural Strategies

I don’t know why I’m just now discovering this. If you’re trying to start a nonprofit or take your early nonprofit to the next level, please send someone to the City’s Cultural Arts Division workshops in August. Here are some of the offerings:

AUG 17: Multucultural Marketing (this one by the incomparable Mando Rayo)
AUG 18: Creating a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit
AUG 25: Lessons in Advanced Grant Writing

Find out more here.

3. Good news for the Long Center

Courtesy Long Center

Thanks to you, the Long Center exceeded its fundraising goals for its fiscal year, which ended on June 30, surpassing the $1.6 million mark. See the Austin Business Journal story here.

4. Habitat for Humanity one of biggest homebuilders in America

photo from Tom Hubba

As Habitat celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, it’s worth noting that the organization was recently ranked among the top-ten builders in the nation by Builder Magazine.  See this from the Wall Street Journal earlier this month.

As the housing and financial crisis struck several years ago, the large publicly traded builders, including D.R. Horton Inc. and KB Home, pulled back. But Habitat kept building.

“We’re a lot less tied to the market as a whole,” said Mark Andrews, Habitat’s senior director for U.S. operations. “We’ve been able to keep chugging along at a pretty solid pace.”

As a result, Habitat, a Christian group founded 34 years ago in Americus, Ga., around a philosophy of constructing and rehabilitating homes for low-income families, was recently ranked as one of the nation’s top 10 builders for the first time in a closely watched industry list compiled by Builder Magazine.

Learn more about the good work Habitat’s doing in Austin here.

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!

So why would a local restaurant donate to a local nonprofit anyway?

Yesterday, I posted about Rio Grande’s Philanthropy Week, during which they’re donating 10% of bar sales during happy hour to a different nonprofit each day. You can see the details here.

Lots of local businesses contribute a portion of their sales to a local nonprofit from time to time. Why? Is there anything in it for them besides the potential for profit?

The fact is, it takes lots of planning and coordination with a local nonprofit – and probably an accountant – to make the whole thing work. So it can’t all just be about attracting customers. Plus, if you do use it to attract customers, the fact is you’re only going to attract a certain kind of customer – the kind that has a conscience. Most other restaurants don’t care if their customers have consciences or not; they kinda just want your business.

So it is special when a restaurant hosts a “philanthropy week,” like Rio Grande is doing this week. The thing is, restaurant owners are people, too. Duh. When they feel compelled to give back, they usually do so through their business, creating a win-win for the community: You get a nice drink, they get a little money, and a local charity gets a little money. Why not?

Here’s a real live restaurant owner – a person! – talking about why his restaurant, Rio Grande, is giving back.

MAY 4-8: Choose Rio Grande Restaurant this week to help raise money for local charities

It seems like there are opportunities to support local charities in just about everything you do. Here’s another example.

Anyone like tequila? From May 4-8, Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant on San Jacinto is donating a percentage of the day’s bar profits to five selected charities (one each night).

Monday, May 4: A Legacy of Giving, 5-7:30pm
Tuesday, May 5: Austin Sunshine Camps, 5-7:30pm
Wednesday, May 6: Lance Armstrong Foundation, 5-7:30pm
Thursday, May 7: The Austin Theatre Alliance, 5-7:30pm
Friday, May 8: Red Cross of Central Texas, 5-7:30pm

Wow. Great cross-section of local charities there. So let me get this straight:

Q. Is this the first time Rio Grande’s done someting like this?
A. Yes, this is the first annual Rio Grande Philanthropy Week.

Q. It’s a nice mix – kids, health, basic needs… how were the charities selected?
A. Rio Grande wanted support a mix of organizations that do so much for the Austin community.

Q. How much does Rio Grande hope to raise in total for all charities this week?
A. The amount they raise will really depend on how many people come out each night to support the charities. Groups like the Austin Theatre Alliance are pushing out to their members of more than 20,000. So it goes without saying, the more visibility we raise for this event, the more Rio Grande will be able to contribute.

You heard ’em, folks. It’s reason enough for me to make Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant Mother’s Day Date Night Headquarters. And I GUESS I’ll have to have A DRINK or two. It’s for a good cause, right?

SUN MARCH 29: Celebrate Cine! Fabulous fundraiser for Latin American film festival

Received this from David Rice, who’s been a part of Cine Las Americas International Film Festival for years. If you don’t know what Cine Las Americas is – and if you know or care anything about film – this is a great discovery.

The festival screens narrative and documentary feature and short films, as well as experimental, animation and youth films in competitive and non-competitive sections. This event is complemented with repertoire and special screenings, currently bringing an average of 100 films and 35 filmmakers from Texas, the United States, Latin America and the rest of the world to 3,500 attendees in Austin.

And the event below is a fundraiser for Cine. Beautiful, creative people attend this event. So, you know, you have to be there.

Hello my dear beloved friends!

As you all know, I’m on the board of Cine Las Americas and we are having our annual fundraiser on March 29th, from 6 to 9pm at the Gibson Showroom in South Austin!

Tickets are $30 bucks a person and there will be food, booze, Music by Charanga Cake Walk (with Michael Ramos and Brian Ramos…and no, they are not brothers) and DJ  Trey Lopez at the spinning wheel.

This year Cine Las Ameicas is focusing on movies from Chile! Viva Chile! Over twenty films from Chile.

We will have some great auction items as well as crazy conversations, dancing, and lots of smiles!

So many of you have attended in the past and I always enjoy your company. I hope you can make it.


david rice

3 reasons to watch a documentary on racism

A Class Apart KLRU Screening

A Class Apart KLRU Screening

My father just turned 68. He grew up in San Antonio around the northwest part of town. When he was in school, he told me, he had to drink from a separate water fountain from whites. He couldn’t even think of dating a white girl. He was welcome on the football team, but any other “privileges” beyond that he was encouraged to just forget about.

This blows my mind, of course. It’s not like he’s 98 or 128 years old. And in San Antonio, of all places, where Hispanics make up most of the population now.

So this documentary, “A Class Apart,” really intrigues me. It’s about a landmark case in 1954 argues by a team of Hispanic lawyers in front of the Supreme Court. KLRU is holding a special screening of the documentary next Wednesday, and I hope you’ll all consider yourselves invited (I’m on the host committee.)

And just when you were hoping it was no longer relevant to talk about discrimination and race, check out the time-warp, backlash, hateful comments to the Statesman’s story that the City of Austin would be launching a Hispanic Quality of Life Initiative. (I think they must have removed some of the more hateful comments, actually.)

What good will it do to watch a documentary on racism?

1. Well, first there’s the good old-fashioned story-telling aspect. The director is a renowned filmmaker, famous and honored for a previous documentary, “Farmingville.”

2. Next there’s the fascinating history lesson. Supreme Court cases can be really dramatic, especially when it involves an underdog team of lawyers fighting for what we all know is right.

3. And then there’s the benefit of arming yourself with information so that the next time you hear someone talk about what rights “other” people have —  “other” people being immigrants and anyone who looks the slightest bit different from the person talking — you can intelligently tell them that, thanks to a landmark case in 1954, we can now officially think of racist, bigoted, and/or otherwise prejudiced people as complete assholes.  According to the Supreme Court.

Here’s a preview of a feature story about black Austin for the next issue of GivingCity

We had a photo and video shoot earlier this week for a feature we’re working on for the next issue. Torquil’s posted a few photos on his blog. I think he really likes them. Thanks to Owen Laracuente for the photos and Randy Hinesfor the videography, and to Chris Jones for conducting the interview.

I’m excited about this story. Here’s where the idea came from. A few weeks ago, Mando Rayo told me about the East Austin Economic Summit, an annual meeting of stakeholders for East Austin during which they discuss economic opportunities and concerns. While there, he interviewed Jeff Clark, owner of the Studio East Barbershop on East 12th Street in Austin. Jeff’s a small-businessman, a father and husband, and an East Austin resident, and I’m not sure he’s impressed with the progress occurring in East Austin. I think he summed up his point of view by saying, “We need more walk,” that is, as opposed to talk. You can watch Mando’s video here.

So the story of East Austin intrigues me, mostly because it seems like we’re not hearing enough from East Austin residents.

About the same time, I discovered Michael Lofton and the African American Men and Boys Conference on Docubloggers. Michael is a social entrepreneur who created the conference in response to what he wanted for his own teenage sons. The success of the first conference was phenomenal, so much so that AISD asked him to create a similar program for its students. This man has so much data in his head, and he’s tied it all together to create a stirring message about what’s going on in African American Austin.

Then I remembered Gator and The Cipher. I don’t get out a lot, so I hadn’t really heard of this organization before I saw them at last year’s MLK Day of Caring. When I saw them, I immediately filed them under the “Who Knew This Was Austin?” category. Wow. Gator has a compelling story of his own, leading up to his co-founding this nonprofit organization. It’s a testament to the power of creativity and culture, and how introducing these concepts to young people can set them on a positive path.

The Cipher uses hip-hop to help young people express themselves, but there are other forms of music with a much longer history in Austin that black Austin helped create. I’m not talking about all the alt-country junk promoted to within an inch of its life by our visitors bureau, I’m talking about Jazz and Blues, and there’s one man who’s made it his life’s work to tell people more about the rich history of these music forms – Harold McMillan of the nonprofit, DiverseArts. Harold lives in Clarksville but has lived in Austin more than two decades since when he came here for his master’s degree. Think he doesn’t have anything to say about East Austin?

So I prayed to the scheduling gods, and they created a slot during which Michael, Gator, Harold, Owen, Randy, and Torquil could all meet. Then Torquil called The Driskill Hotel, which graciously let us create this content in their Jim Hogg room. We got Chris to pose the qusetions, and then we just let Michael, Gator, and Harold tell us everything they could about the election, East Austin, gentrification, high school drop-outs and more. And we recorded, shot, and videotaped the whole interview, just to make sure we didn’t miss anything.

What they told us in no way tells the whole story about black Austin. That’s way too complicated for just three men to explain. But I learned a lot. I’m not sure what I can do personally to help East Austin beyond supporting the residents and their efforts to maintain their community and culture.  Mostly we wanted to offer another opportunity for their story to be told.

I hope you’ll take a look at the story, photos, and video when it comes out next month.