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.


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.


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.


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
(512) 415-4012
1100 Main St. Buda, TX 78610

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

SAT, June 5: Dads, we need you!

River City Youth Foundation Father's Parade and FiestaFather’s Day is still a couple of weeks away, but let’s face it  — dads have no idea when Father’s Day actually is. Bless their hearts.

So you won’t spoil anything if you bring him to the River City Youth Foundation‘s 10th Annual Father’s Day Parade & Festival. In fact, I’m sure he’ll love it.

This celebration just makes sense. RCYF believes that father’s play an important role in a child’s academic and general well being, so it offers this event as a way to seal that bond between dads and their kids. And in the end, dads will be glad they went.

River City Youth Foundation Father's Parade and Fiesta

The celebration kicks off with a parade — which you can be in! — starting at Mendez Middle School at 11:30 and ending the RCYF on Pleasant Valley by noon. Once you’re there, you’ll get to do a little Flying Pinto Game, a Dragon Game, a watermelon seed spitting contest, (of course, dads love spitting) and more. Then they’ll read some essays written by students, hand out a couple of awards and crown a few dads. Crowns! What dad doesn’t love crowns?!

River City Youth Foundation Father's Parade and Fiesta

No one else in Austin offers a celebration of dads like this, and River City Youth Foundation has been doing it for 10 years. Check out this video to see families having a great time at previous years’ events.

I hope you’ll check it out, and then tell us all about it….

River City Youth Foundation’s
10th Annual Father’s Parade & Fiesta


11:30 am – 2 p.m.
5208 South Pleasant Valley Road (map here)

(Re)Introducing GivingCity Austin

It was almost exactly three years ago that I wrote the first blog post for GivingCity Austin. A few months later I started messing around on Twitter, then we launched our first digital issue, then a Facebook page and suddenly I was calling Evan Smith to write an article for the magazine … as if I had any idea what I was doing.

Luckily, GivingCity had a few guiding principles (and the best designer in Austin) on its side. Among those guiding principles were these:

1. People like stories. Of course, people like infographics, databases, reports, charts, graphs, lists and I hear some weirdos enjoy Excel pivot tables. But nothing inspires, intrigues and connects people like a story does. And thanks to the Internets, there are a million more ways to tell a story.

2. Magazines can support communities. I love the way Tribeza supports the community of Austinites who love fashion; how Edible Austin supports local foodies; how AustinFit supports people who look great in workout clothes. The trick to making a magazine that supports a community is in the editing — or what they call “curating” these days. Curated, targeted and relevant content can foster shared affinities. And again, the wonderful Internets is a great place to grow a magazine.

3. Austinites want to help, it’s just hard for us to fit it into our lives. But I think the same city that can support magazines about fashion, foodies and fitness can also support a magazine about philanthropy. Because as Austinites, we truly have a passion for making our city one of the country’s best places to live.

I’m glad Torquil Dewar felt the same way. He’s a sucker for magazines, like I am, but he has the rare ability to turn a bunch of copy and pictures into an “experience.”  Plus, he’s made more digital magazines than just about any designer in the country. And it helps that he apparently doesn’t sleep.

GivingCity had always been a labor of love. I hate that phrase, but there’s no better way to say it. We put our own personal resources into it and have never seen anywhere near a profit, but that’s not what it was about for us. What kept us going was the creative freedom and, more than that, your support. Unfortunately, between the day jobs, the kids, the other freelance work, we had to stop producing the magazine. On our list of priorities — namely our families and our need for steady incomes — GivingCity just didn’t make the cut.

Now after four issues, hundreds of blog and Facebook posts, thousands of Tweets, and lots and lots of caffeine, we’re very proud to say that GivingCity has found a home.

The Austin Community Foundation has decided to support GivingCity Austin as part of its mission to grow a culture of generosity and philanthropy in Central Texas. The good people there have hired us to produce GivingCity Austin just the way we’ve produced it in the past as a service to the community. GivingCity Austin’s mission won’t change much; it will include stories from all over the community, not just ACF; and we’ll continue to distribute it digitally to our audience, ACF’s audience and whomever else wants it, free. Look for the first issue this fall.

In addition to this, on July 1, I’ll become the Austin Community Foundation’s first ever communications director, which I’m over the moon about. The Austin Community Foundation has a truly amazing story to tell. They are one of the pillars of the philanthropic community in Austin, and it will be my mission to tell more Central Texans about the important services and support it provides.

Seth Godin says we should “delight and overwhelm” our true fans, and that’s what we’re going to aim to do. Yes, GivingCity Austin is about bringing new people to the philanthropy community, but when we make it, we think of you — those of you who are already plugged in and looking for more, those of you who have told us this is exactly what you’ve been looking for, and those of you who’ve emailed, called, commented, friended, liked, re-Tweeted, #FFd and all the other means you’ve used to keep us on the right path.

Thank you so much, a thank you especially to ACF. Look for major improvements in the coming year, and, as always, let us know what you think.

A new record for state employees: $2.3 million donated!

We really like follow-up stories like this.

In the last issue of GivingCity Austin (link opens PDF), we ran a story about the Texas State Employees Charitable Campaign and how Central Texans who work for the state donate a phenomenal amount of their paychecks to the local nonprofit community. In 2008, donations from Central Texas state employees were just under $2.2 million.

No one expected the SECC to beat the 2008 number – a record… until 2009. In its most recent campaign, which ended in October, Central Texas state employees committed to almost $2.3 million. Not only that, many more nonprofits are raising their hands to be a part of the campaign.

The SECC organizers – all volunteers and state employees – raised margaritas to themselves last week, congratulating themselves, and all the employees who signed up to donate, for beating the odds in this down economy. Way to go, Tammy, Debbie, Reuben, Gretchen, and the rest of the SECC team!

Central Texas nonprofits interested in being a part of the 2010 campaign should contact Jackie Rogers  (512.225.0378) at United Way Capital Area (which helps administer the campaign) by Friday, April 2, at 5 p.m. There’s an application to complete.

Introducing … the Austin fundraising event calendar

Since the beginning, one of the killer apps (does anyone use that term anymore?) we planned for GivingCity Austin was a fundraising events calendar. If you’ve ever tried to organize a fundraiser for a nonprofit organization, one of the hardest things to come up with was the date – you don’t want to compete with another fundraiser or, worse, a Longhorns game.

Beyond planning, a calendar of Central Texas fund raising events would hopefully garner enough eyes to serve as a cross-promotional tool, too. When a nonprofit publicizes its fund raiser, it struggles to reach beyond its own group of supporters for attendees.

Right now I’m in love with Eventbrite. It seems like lots of Austin events are taking advantage of its simple platform, promotion and ticket selling tools. I’ve registered for a number of events through Eventbrite myself, and found it totally easy to use.

The GivingCity Austin fundraising calendar wouldn’t replace online applications like that. In fact, it could link directly to your Eventbrite page. Rather it would include your event on a public calendar – online, in email blasts and in the magazine – publicizing your event to anyone who comes to or gets GivingCity.

(And the other part of the plan is that everyone would come to or get GivingCity to see the fundraising calendar.)

Oy. Don’t get me started about how excited I am about this calendar thing.

I’m looking for feedback, ideas, requests as we speak. And we have top men working on the development now. Top. Men.

Stay tuned!

What it takes to have nonprofit collaboration in Austin

A successful collaboration or merger can seem like a miracle. As the former associate director of Community Action Network and a nonprofit consultant, Sam Woollard, a GivingCity contributor, has participated and lead the formation of a number of collaborations around  Central Texas.

“Collaborations and mergers are all about the timing,” she says. “Even if there’s a consensus to work together and a strong action plan, a single change in a funding model or at the legislature could seriously impact the effort. Plus, participants must come to the table with the needs of the entire community in mind, not just the needs of their board  or their constituency.”

Here are some Central Texas collaborations in which Woollard has participated.

Aging Services Council: Addresses  depression in older adults; coordinates home  repair programs; started a caregiver university.

Success by 6: Supports the annual child  well-being report card; supports quality child  care initiatives; supports education about early  childhood.

Central Texas Afterschool Network: Hosts the annual Lights on After School;  convened a forum about middle school students  and afterschool needs; conduct training for  after-school teachers and administrators.

Ready by 21 Coalition: Created a local  youth council; just released a Go to College  Guide for Educators and Youth service  professionals; manages an initiative to  increase the quality of after school  programs.

Basic Needs Coalition: Coordinates the annual Poverty  Awareness month each January;  coordinate the Best Single Source  program; coordinating a benefits  enrollment assistance training on  May 28th.

Children and Youth Mental Health Planning Partnership: Conducts an annual awareness event each  May; addresses the systemic issues impacting  children and mental health.

Re-entry Rountable : Addresses issues related to people leaving the criminal justice  system.

Ending Community Homelesnes Coalition (ECHO): Coordinates the  Continuum of Care grant every year; conducts  an annual homeless awareness forum in the fall;  sponsors the Let’s Get to Work Forum on May  21st to identify pathways to work for people  experiencing homelessness.

Victim Services Task Force: Conduct  awareness activities during the annual Crime  Victims Rights Week, support legislative efforts to  increase the crime victims compensation fund.

HousingWorks: Hosts annual housing  summit each fall; provides a speaker’s bureau for  housing issues; identifies and advocates for  policies that will support affordable housing.

Are there too many nonprofits in Austin?

This article first appeared in GivingCity Austin #3 magazine. To download the entire magazine, click here.
The data referred to in this article can be accessed via Greenlights here.

The data is in – the Austin community has more nonprofits per capita than any other city in Texas. Now what should we do about it?

We demand efficiency from nonprofits, requiring them to do more with less – and these days to do even more with even less. So when we see two or more nonprofits with the exact same mission, going after the same donations from the same people, we might wonder why they don’t join forces.  We might also wonder how they survive in this economy. Inevitably, the market will take care of it, right? Just as it does in the for-profit world?

Well, sometimes the market doesn’t  take care of it. That’s because nonprofits aren’t fueled by just donations, they’re also fueled by passion – which is sometimes all you need to keep your organization going. And thank goodness for that; we’d be in serious trouble if it weren’t for volunteers and underpaid nonprofit professionals. On the other hand, you have to ask yourself, as a donor or a volunteer, “Am I supporting a nonprofit that shouldn’t exist?”

Austin has more nonprofits per capita than any other city in the Texas. Which means we’re caring and entrepreneurial on the one hand, but probably frustrated and disillusioned on the other. When someone starts a nonprofit it means they feel there’s a need in the community that’s not being met And while one can appreciate their energy, it takes more than a 501c3 classification from the IRS to be an effective nonprofit in the long-term.

We asked five nonprofit advisors their views on the issue; these aren’t just nonprofiteers, rather they’re people in the position of changing the way Austin nonprofits work as a community. Here’s what they had to say.

Deborah Edward of RGK Center

Deborah Edward professor at the RGK Center, a nationally recognized philanthropy think-tank.

The idea that there are too many nonprofits in Austin is a refrain. But while we complain about it, a city like Boston boasts about it.

From our perspective that means we’re not thinking collaborations or efficiencies. We’re not taking advantage of opportunities. In business, these new ideas for a company come up, and you get investment bankers invested so they can see the idea, and in the end, everybody makes money and everybody’s happy.

But in the nonprofit world, we don’t have those investment bankers…except for these funders. They are in the wonderful position to respond to these new nonprofits and say, “Hey, why don’t you get together?” I bet you can find a number of funders that have experience asking two organizations to merge, but the lessons learned are kept within the family. They don’t have a forum to share those stories and encourage people to think differently about going from the initial idea of merging to creating a program that’s sustainable.

I think we need to map the different nonprofits visually in terms of access, value, and fees you can see distinct dimensions … but who’s going to make that happen? The funder’s in the position because he gets 20 groups that knock on his door, and he can do a better comparison than the groups on the ground. It’s not that he has the responsibility to do it, but he does have the opportunity.

Greenlights has done a great job of helps nonprofits discover opportunities for synergy. But otherwise there’s nobody driving the train. The Austin Community Foundation would be a great place, though traditionally it has been donor centered. The Community Action Network or the United Way have that macro view that could be enlisted to help with this. The zeitgeist is to say that there are too many nonprofits. The challenge is to flip that and say, “We are the best connected system of nonprofits in the United States.”

Matt Kouri of Greenlights

Matt Kouri, executive director of Greenlights, which helps Central Texas nonprofits by providing consulting, resources, and nonprofit training in areas from fundraising to how to start a nonprofit.

What’s most remarkable about this data we’ve put together is that it validates what I’ve been hearing from funders anecdotally – that we do have a disproportionate share of nonprofit organizations, especially compared to other cities of similar make-up. The data for Austin is not totally inconsistent with what we see in other communities. And we might have a disproportionately large share of nonprofits that don’t serve Central Texas solely or that serve all of Texas. But we share the belief with donors that having too many nonprofits is a problem.

That being said, there are some positive sides to having so many. It can mean that more is being done in our community and that there’s lots of innovative problem solving at work. But it can also mean there are some redundancies and inefficiencies in the sector.

The silver lining in this down economy is that it might force more nonprofits to realize that they can’t cut it on their own and maybe it’s time for them to make some hard decisions. That’s our hope. I can think of at least 10 different organizations now that really need to do it, and they’ve needed to do it for a long time, yet they continue to bang their head against the same wall every year.

As to who’s responsible for identifying and leading these mergers and collaboration, I think funders need to be careful. They aren’t at the street level. They can demand and expect results and impact but it’s the nonprofit’s job to make sure those dollars are spent accordingly. At the same time, funders can exhibit influence over their grantees, especially when they see logical opportunities for collaborations.

Greenlights is investing a lot of time into this issue this year. We worked with RGK to develop a continuum of steps nonprofits can take in terms of strategic consolidation. A lot of nonprofits are already engaged in some form of collaboration, which donors may not realize. But there needs to be a lot more, and it needs to move further down the continuum toward merger.

People who follow the nonprofit sector know that in 2010 it’s going to see some radical changes. We want to help make that change intentional as opposed to just happening to us.

Barry Silverberg of TANO

Barry Silverberg , president and CEO of Texas Association of Nonprofit Organizations, a statewide organization that offers training and support to Texas nonprofits and individuals who want to start a nonprofit.

Personally, I don’t believe in the numbers games because they’re always a function of who’s asking the question. I’m also not concerned with donors who believe they are getting too many requests. I encourage them to make their requirements more clear.

I don’t believe it’s our responsibility to eliminate those choices. Obviously funders can openly decide the fate of the industry by not giving funds, but I don’t believe they’re in the position to say what a nonprofit should do to be more effective. I think the question should be, “How do we get nonprofits to be more effective?”

TANO believe individuals have the right and the means to create better possibilities to serve the community. We help people understand the issue and determine if the best response is to create a nonprofit. From there, we emphasize what it means to run an effective nonprofit.

I think the nonprofit sector has a significant advantage in that people engaged in that sector are able to “do good,” and I don’t think we do enough to leverage that. There are probably too many nonprofits that are ineffective… because they ignore the stuff that could help them be more effective. I also think that funders need to strike a balance between the information they can gather quantitatively on the various forms they use, with the information they gather qualitatively. The fact is, some folks aren’t as good as completing a grant application – but they have a passion that’s unbelievable. That passion, if it’s combined with skill sets and competencies, will result in something effective if it’s guided and focused.

Janet Harman of KDK-Harman Foundation Austin

Janet Harman , founder, and Jenifer Esterline, program officer, KDK-Harman Foundation, a family foundation that focuses on education for economically disadvantaged Central Texans.

Harman : It’s a complex issue because at first glance one would say there are so many that we should consolidate and reduce. However, there’s a lot of room for creativity, so squashing that innovation would be a mistake.

We have actually brought several national nonprofits to Austin, so I couldn’t very well argue that there are too many nonprofits here.

I really think it’s the job of a lot of area foundations and organizations like the Austin Community Foundation and Greenlights, to point out where there is some opportunity to optimize by merger.

We reach out to other funders on a regular basis. In fact, we co-founded an education funders group, Central Texas Education Funders, a little over a year ago. We meet every other month and there are 30 members. One of the projects we’re working on is to put together a matrix of our fundraising efforts to identify the gaps.

Esterline: The model for Central Texas Education Funders is based on the Ready by 21 Coalition, which put together this matrix identifying common indicators, and we’re trying to create a similar one for the funding community. It would help us, but it would also help the nonprofits; they create about 15 different reports to different foundations, so we’re doing this to learn what they’re doing and how they can do it better. Then the other part of that is communicating this information.

As far as whether there are too many nonprofits in Austin, I would say that we are not overwhelmed with requests, but we are pretty focused on what we fund. In conversations among the education funders, we see that everyone’s funding the same nonprofits. They’ve been identified as effective and able to show their impact, so they rise to the top every time.

Everyone has the responsibility to collaborate and communicate. The new face of philanthropy is more transparent, more cooperative. A lot of our colleagues are embracing this because of people like Janet Harman who are young, entrepreneurial, and have a new way of thinking about philanthropy.

To see a list of existing nonprofit collaborations in Austin, click here.