CHARITY: Is there a better public speaker in the Austin nonprofit world than Amy Mills? I think of Steven Tomlinson and Laura Huffman. Also Evan Smith with his signature fluid, short bursts of insight. Mills, however, kept 450 guests at the Emancipet (tasty vegan, gluten-free) luncheon spellbound as she explained the Humane Community movement. The Austin groups starts with a mobile unit that provides low-cost spay, neuter and vaccination services in underserved areas, where the vast majority of strays can be found. If the unit clicks, they put in a permanent clinic. They started in East Austin, then expanded to Pflugerville and Killeen. They’ve opened a mobile unit in Houston — home to a horrifying 1.2 million strays — and plan three permanent clinics there, as well as one in Austin’s Dove Springs district. With partners, they are even moving into North Philadelphia, Pa. Only 10 years old and aided by $1.1 million in grants from the national ASPCA, Emancipet treated 56,000 pets in 2014 alone. Area shelters have seen a 38 percent drop in intakes. Still young, Mills is becoming a recognized national leader on the subject.
LGBTQ: OutYouth must have seemed like an outrageous proposition 25 years ago. Offer support and a safe place for LGBTQ teens? What would their parents say? How would the community respond? Well, more than 5,000 youths have been helped by the program and, given the higher suicide rates among this population, OutYouth surely has saved many lives, while keeping others off the streets. Their Silver Anniversary dinner spread out under the giant eaves of the Palmer Events Center. This is a spectacular open-air space that is rarely used by Austin party planners. After some timely speeches and testimonials, this dinner took the character of a real party. Good to see so many members of the community supportive of this vital service.
ARTS: Any regional ballet company that aspires to national status must try something like a fully-fledged “Swan Lake.” As Dallas Observer writer Danielle Georgiou once put it: “The fear comes in quickly because while this classic ballet is every dancer’s dream, it’s also a nightmare, with its extreme difficulty, both technically and emotionally.” The challenge grew after Daniel Aronofsky film, “Black Swan,” enriched the original dance with fresh symbolism. Ballet Austin and Artistic Director Stephen Mills thrilled local audiences last weekend with the city’s first full-length stab at the “Swan.” During the intermission and after the show, folks talked about the immaculate timing of the corps de ballet and bravery of the principals. OK, a little wobbling on one pas de deux, but who’s counting? Executive Director Cookie Ruiz told me that they had sold all but 200 of the 8,000 seats.