What Austin philanthropists can do right now about the state budget cuts to nonprofits

Last night, Jason Sabo terrified a small group of philanthropists by describing the devastating effects of the budget cuts being considered by the current Legislature. Many of the cuts would put the neediest Texans in real life-or-death situations.

Sabo has been the United Ways of Texas man at the Capitol for more than 10 years, and represents the interests of nonprofits across the state. His message: Nonprofits need to decide and then focus on what’s most important to save, because we can’t save everything.

His talk was an updated version of the cover story of the current issue of GivingCity. Please read this story and share it with others. Thank you.

Here’s a link to download a PDF printable version of the story.

OR

Here’s a link to start reading the story right away in the magazine.

The more we know as a community, the smarter our decision-making will be. As Debbie Bresette, president of Austin’s United Way said last night, “Most people don’t want to come and hear this news.” But if you care about Austin, you must.

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Have your day at the Capitol

Today is CASA Day at the Capitol, and here’s why this is important.

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) is taking a strong stand to stop budget cuts proposed for Child Protective Services, the agency charged with protecting children and caring for those in the Texas child welfare system and advocating for full funding for CASA.

Hundreds of CASA volunteers from across the state of Texas will gather at the Capitol to dedicate a memorial in honor of the 227 children who die from abuse and neglect each year in Texas. For more than 30 years, CASA has been speaking up for abused and neglected children in the Texas foster care system, often helping children who are in life-or-death situations. CASA programs recruit and train committed volunteers to help guide children through the foster care system and into safe and permanent home.

Tim for CASA storyIn our current issue, we have a story about Linda, a CASA volunteer who was assigned to Tim when he was just three years old. Linda has stayed by Tim (in photo, left) his whole life, protecting him from getting lost in the system and helping him become the productive and capable human being he is today.

We also have a story advising Austin nonprofits to step up to the Legislature and speak up for the children and people they represent.

There will be many more of these “Days at the Capitol” during this session. You don’t have to attend them to support the cause.

Send a letter or email today to your representative and let them know why they should work harder to keep these vital services intact. Just go to Texas Tribune to find your representative. Speak up for Austin this session.

Free Thanksgiving Meals in Central Texas, from Food Bank

Thanksgiving Feast of SharingMany of us are making do with less this year. Some of us less than others.

I’ve learned that we get a wide range of people who come across this blog, so we can’t just post “how to help” content without also listing “how to get help” as well.

So I’ve divided this special Thanksgiving post into three categories. Why Help, How to Help, and How to Get Help. Here’s hoping you’re in the middle.

WHY HELP

This one’s easy. The Capital Area Food Bank has created this amazing site called Hunger is Unacceptable. Consider these facts from the site… then think about you’re going to spend your Thanksgiving.

  • 1 in 5 people Austin food bank serves experience the physical pain of hunger.
  • 41% of Austin food bank clients are children.
  • Almost half of Austin food bank clients have at least one working adult at home.

HOW TO HELP

The good news is, this one is hard. Nonprofits tell me that volunteers spots for Thanksgiving meal events fill up by mid-October, so if you haven’t signed up yet, you’re probably too late.

But, of course, there’s a very simple way to redeem your tardiness. Donate. Here. Done. Enjoy your Thanksgiving.

HOW TO GET HELP

Here is a list created by the Capital Area Food Bank of places where anyone can get a free Thanksgiving Meal in and around Austin. Many of these places offer clothing and other items besides food.

11/18/2010 Thursday

Travis County Health and Human Services, NW Rural Community Center
11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
(512) 267-3245
18649 FM1431 Ste 6A Jonestown Austin, TX 78645
Open to the Public – Free

City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department, Montopolis Recreation Center
6:00 p.m.
(512) 385-5931
1200 Montopolis Dr. Austin, TX 78741
Open to the Public – Free

City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department, Givens Recreation Center
7:00 p.m.
(512) 928-1982
3811 E. 12th St. Austin, TX 78721
Open to the Public – Free

11/19/2010 Friday

Travis County Health and Human Services, EAST RURAL COMMUNITY CENTER
11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
(512) 272-5561 / 278-0414
600 W. Carrie Manor St. Manor Austin, TX 78653
Primarily for Precinct 1 – No one turned away

Southside Community Center
6:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m.
(512) 392-6694
518 S. Guadalupe St. San Marcos, TX 78666
Open to the Public – Free

11/20/2010 Saturday

Rosewood-Zaragosa Neighborhood Center (sponsored by Mt. Carmel Grand Lodge)
11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
(512) 972-6740
2808 Webberville Rd. Austin, TX 78702
Open to the Public – Free

City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department, CANTU/PAN AM RECREATION CENTER
11:00 a.m. –2:00 p.m.
(512) 476-9193
2100 E. 3rd Austin, TX 78702
Open to the Public – Free

Helping Hands Center
11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
(512) 472-2298
1179 San Bernard St. Austin, TX 78702
Open to the Public – Free. Meal at Olivet Baptist Church

Shoreline Christian Center at East Campus
12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
(512) 983-1048
East 6th and San Marcos St Austin, TX 78702
Open to the Public – Free. Distribution of 1000 sleeping bags, backpacks and socks

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church
5:00 p.m.
(512) 251-0698
14311 Wells Port Dr. Austin, TX 78728
Open to the Public – Free

11/21/2010 Sunday

Austin Area Interreligious Ministries (AAIM) at University Baptist Church
Meal follows 3:30 p.m. Service
2130 Guadalupe Austin, TX 78705
Pot Luck served after the service -not a meal

11/22/2010 Monday

Mobile Loaves & Fishes at First Baptist Church
5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
(512) 328-7299
First Baptist Church 901 Trinity St. Austin, TX 78701
Open to the Public – Free

City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department, Virginia L. Brown Recreation Center
6:00 p.m.
(512) 974-7865
7500 Blessing Ave. Austin TX 78752
Open to the Public – Free

St. John Community Center
5:59 p.m. – Food Gone
(512) 972-5159
7500 Blessing Ave. Austin, TX 78752
Open to the Public – Free

11/23/2010 Tuesday

United Way / HEB Feast of Caring at Palmer Events Center
4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
(512) 421-1000-HEB Public Affairs
900 Barton Springs Rd Austin, TX 78704
Open to the Public – Free

City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department, Dove Springs Recreation Center
6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
(512) 447-5875
5801 Ainez Dr. AustinTX78744
Open to the Public – Free

11/24/2010 Wednesday

City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department, Parque Zaragosa Recreation Center
9:00 a.m. Service Project/ Lunch to follow
(512) 472-7142
2608 Gonzales St. Austin, TX 78702
Open to the Public – Free. For teens only

Baptist Community Center
1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
(512) 472-7592
2000 E. 2nd St. Austin, TX 78702
Open to the Public – Free

11/25/2010 Thursday

North Austin Christian Church
11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
(512) 836-3282
1734 Rutland Dr. Austin, TX 78758
No one turned away – primarily for community around the church.


St. Louis Catholic Church

11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
(512) 454-0384
Wozniak Hall 7601 Burnet Rd Austin, TX 78757
Open to the Public – Free

Bethany United Methodist Church

11:30 a.m.–2:00 p.m.
(512) 258.6017
10010 Anderson Mill Rd. Austin, TX 78750
Open to the Public – Free

St. Martin’s Evangelical Lutheran Church
Noon – 2:00 p.m.
(512) 476-6757
605 W. 15th St. Austin, TX 78701
Open to the Public – Free


The Salvation Army Social Service Center

Noon – 5:00 p.m.
(512) 476-1111
501 E. 8th St. Austin, TX 78701
Open to the Public – Free

Ministry of Challenge
Noon – 3:00 p.m.
(512) 370-3960
1500 E. 12th Austin, TX 78702
Open to the Public – Free

Santa Cruz Catholic Church, Buda
Noon
(512) 415-4012
1100 Main St. Buda, TX 78610
Must RSVP

St. William’s Catholic Church
Noon – 2:00 p.m.
(512) 255-4473
620 Round Rock West Dr. 78681 Round Rock, TX 78610
Open to the Public – Free

For more information on how to get food, visit www.austinfoodbank.org/get-help/

Advice for ending homelessness

!2 Baskets Magazine The latest issue of 12 Baskets Magazine has some heartbreaking stories, I think. You’ve got to read the one about Rain. (That’s her, left.) She’s a homeless girl who lives on the streets of Austin with her friends. She shouldn’t have to sleep on the street. She didn’t do anything wrong.

She did, however, get a ticket for violating Austin’s Sleep-Lie Ordinance, which prohibits anyone from, well, sitting or lying on a downtown street. (Austin is one of the few cities in the country that has such an ordinance.) She couldn’t possibly pay the ticket, but she still carries it in her backpack, along with tampons, a change of clothes, a blanket and a spiral with some of her drawings. These are all of her possessions. Everything she owns.

We could help her, and in fact, LifeWorks does. Probably a number of other basic needs and emergency needs nonprofits, too. If you support these nonprofits, you’re doing a good thing. But maybe there’s something else you could do…? Something that might prevent more girls like Rain from sleeping on the streets…?

Here are some things you could do:

  1. Be a good neighbor.
  2. Make up with your sister after that fight.
  3. Take the morning off of work to visit your friend’s kid in the hospital.
  4. Knock on the door of the old lady down the street, the one who just talks and talks, and ask her how she’s doing.
  5. Drive an hour out of your way to visit those cousins you haven’t seen in a while.
  6. When you’re out shopping for yourself and you see something your mother might like, get it for her even if it isn’t her birthday or anything.
  7. Send a card to your uncle that made you think of him.
  8. For heaven’s sake, babysit your sister’s children for one lousy Saturday night so she and her husband can remember what it feels like to be married for a few hours. Would it kill you?

 

A person falls through many, many cracks before they wind up living out of their car or on the streets, or in a weekly hotel or an abandoned building. What finally snaps and drops them to the bottom is their ties to people who love them.

LEARN MORE ABOUT HUNGER & HOMELESSNESS IN AUSTIN THIS WEEK. MANY EVENTS AND OPPORTUNITIES TO CHOOSE FROM. VISIT http://hhweekaustin.com/

Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week

Austin’s Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is almost upon us; it takes place November 13-19. Awareness days/weeks/months are interesting things: as Austinites, we’re all pretty aware that homelessness exists – we see it every day. And we know that people go hungry. So why have an awareness week for problems we all already know about?

Part of it is that we don’t understand the magnitude of the problem. Nearly one in five adults and one in four children in Austin struggle to meet basic nutritional needs. A 2009 census of the homeless in Austin counted 2585 homeless men and womyn, barely more than half of them in shelters. Then there are the nuances of the problem that we’re not aware of: the relationship between homelessness and mental illness, chronic medical problems, or legal obstacles like obtaining identification.

So Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week is a great opportunity for Austinites. There are events of every sort going down: opportunities to give, volunteer, learn, and party! Here are a few of the events happening. You can find the full schedule here.

Homeless Memorial Sunrise Service

House the Homeless - Homeless Memorial Service

What: Memorial service for the homeless men and womyn who lost their lives this year living on the streets of Austin.

When/Where: 6:58 am Nov 14, Homeless Memorial & Tree of Remembrance at 1st and Riverside

No More Hunger Luncheon

What: Educational luncheon with representatives from Capital Area Food Bank and Meals on Wheels and More.

When/Where: 11:30am-1pm November 15, California Pizza Kitchen at Barton Creek Mall (2901 S Capital of Texas Highway)

Free Showing of The Soloist

What: Free showing of The Soloist, a 2009 film dealing with homelessness and mental illness starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr.

When/Where: 7:00 pm November 17, Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar (1120 S Lamar Blvd)

The Dynamics of Domestic Violence and its Connection to Homelessness

What: Interactive presentation on the connection between homelessness and domestic violence, hosted by Safeplace.

When/Where: 3-5pm November 18, Safeplace (2001 South Chicon St)

Understanding Youth Homelessness in Austin

What: Educational presentation on youth homelessness in Austin with interactive simulations and Q&A with Lifeworks staff.

When/Where: 4-7pm November 19, Lifeworks (408 W 23rd st)

Give… but don’t give… to help panhandlers. I think…

PERSONAL NOTE: I keep a few dollars in my cupholder to hand out to panhandlers at a red light. I “tip” panhandlers on the street better than I tip the waitstaff when I go out at night. And when I don’t hand out money, I try to smile and say hello. So all this below is my confused — and confusing – attempt to try to understand this “Know Before You Give” campaign. Geez, people!

Today there was a news story about the “Know Before You Give” campaign, which encourages people to give to social service agencies. Great idea! Please do give to social service agencies.

Need a beer sign

You ever hold a sign like this?

And if you feel like giving a few bucks to a panhandler on your way to drink beers with your friends, go ahead. Throw a few at the valet and the bartender, while you’re at it. Why not? Those guys could use a beer, too!

Wait. What I meant to say was, don’t give money to the panhandler, who probably has to sleep under I-35 (and who will probably just spend the money on beer).

The best way to help him is to give to a charity like Front Steps. Front Steps is a nonprofit that operates ARCH, the homeless shelter. The City of Austin provides the building and a grant to Front Steps to operate the shelter.

So if the city’s giving to Front Steps and you’re giving to Front Steps, these poor bar and club owners won’t have to worry about people outside their doors asking for money — and they can get more of your money inside!

Uh, and what I meant by that was that we should support local businesses and work together to keep downtown safe AND help the homeless. (Except that… well, studies have shown that most panhandlers aren’t homeless, and most homeless people don’t panhandle.* Hmmm.)

Anyway! That’s why we’re asking you, Austin partiers and beer drinkers, to take more responsibility. Know Before You Give partners created this campaign, now it’s your turn: Stop feeding the cats! They’ll just keep coming back! If we stop feeding them, maybe they’ll just go away!

Let’s educate ourselves on the importance of not giving to panhandlers. (At the same time, just in case, feel free to brush up on your own panhandling skills.)

* “Contrary to common belief, panhandlers and homeless people are not necessarily one and the same. Many studies have found that only a small percentage of homeless people panhandle, and only a small percentage of panhandlers are homeless.”  (U.S. Dept of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services)

I’m all for slacktivism after all.

Does this guy look like a slacktivist to you?

Oh, haters. I understand you. I am one, too — critical of anything that looks too cool, to0 simple or too clever.

I’m the one who coined the term “slacktivism” in the first place … well, I mean, I used it on this blog about a year ago, before it was cool. (Is it cool, yet?)

Back then I was worried that these acts of slacktivism were replacements for genuine engagement in social issues, and now I know better: They’re not replacements, they’re a part of something bigger.

Let’s take HelpAttack, for example. It’s  a new application that works with your Twitter account. You register with HelpAttack by connecting it with your Twitter account, pledging a penny or 10 cents or a dollar – any amount – per Tweet to any nonprofit organization of your choice. The system estimates how many Tweets you tweet per month and estimates what you might donate to that nonprofit per month, and even lets you set a limit just in case you find yourself in a Tweeting frenzy and wind up pledging your house away.

Simple? Yes. Too simple? Maybe. And your point is…?

“But these people aren’t doing anything! They don’t care about that organization! Why wouldn’t they just donate the money directly to the nonprofit? This makes them feel like they’re doing something — they’re not!”

Here are three reasons I think these actions are worthwhile.

1. Slacktivism is an entry point to philanthropy. For people who have never donated to a cause before, apps like these can be a simple way to start. Philanthropy has offered these types of opportunities for years; think about the Salvation Army’s red bucket or the Jerry Lewis telethon. What’s the point of making it difficult for people to make a donation? Remind me…?

2. Slacktivism is another way for people who already give and care about a cause to give even more. If I’m already a volunteer and I make an annual donation, why not tag on an extra 10 cents per Tweet? It’s simple to do and even kind of fun. Again, remind me why this is bad…?

3. Slacktivist enablers (yes, I just coined that term) bust their asses to bring you these “simple” applications. Have you ever met Alex Winkelman, founder of Charity Bash? She has every opportunity to spend the bulk of her time shopping, but she’s chosen to organize these parties that raise about $5,000 per month for charity. Yes, attendees just have to pay $10 at the door and look hot, but if you’ve ever organized an event with sponsors, entertainment and a beneficiary, you know what a ton of work it can be. Sure Alex is an enabler… an enabler that donates about $75,000 a year to local nonprofits.

And as for HelpAttack… I was actually asked by Dave Neff to serve on the board for HelpAttack, and I have to say I’ve learned more than I’ve given back (as usual). What I’ve learned is how much time, money, sacrifice and long nights it takes to create and launch these applications. Sarah, Dave and Ehren have every right to have ignored their idea for HelpAttack and pursued something sexier — like bringing the world another location-based application. (Yawn.)

But they chose to use their powers for good. In the meantime, they’ve taught themselves how to launch a new business, how to promote cause-oriented applications, how to partner with nonprofits and how to work together as a team. And, by the way, they’ll probably raise thousands of dollars for charity.

Too simple? Hardly. Worthwhile? Totally.