Clients were the stars at three big Austin benefits

It’s a delicate maneuver to book a charity’s client to speak at a benefit event. After all, they usually are not practiced public speakers. And without the intervening filter of an edited video, pathos too easily could turn to bathos.

Yet nonprofits are taking that chance more often. In three recent and very different cases, it was extremely effective.

Melanie Barnes and Melba Whatley at ‘Words of Hope’ dinner for Caritas of Austin. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

For instance, during the “Words of Hope” dinner for Caritas, one could hardly beat the soaring but grounded rhetoric of Lynn and Tom Meredith, winners of the Harvey Penick Award. Their message of inclusion, collaboration and innovation as part of Austin problem-solving should be distributed to everyone who shares a love for this city.

RELATED: Austin couple shares the secrets of civic leadership.

Yet it was formerly homeless client of Caritas who also held the hundreds of guests in her spell. She grew up in an abusive household and married into one. Her life on the streets included acts which she now cannot bear to mention. For the first time in her long life, she lives in a safe, clean place of her own, thanks to Caritas and its partners. Powerful stuff.

Roberto Varela, Nico Ramsey and Johnny Devora at ‘Building Healthy Futures’ luncheon for AIDS Services of Austin. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Similarly, at the “Building Healthy Futures” luncheon for Aids Services of Austin, a parade of speakers and videos briskly and efficiently made the case for the nonprofit’s efforts to end new HIV cases in the coming decade or so. Nobody harnesses the power of numbers and graphs like this group, which recently opened its one-stop ASA Moody Medical Clinic.

RELATED: Clinic is one-stop center to help treat, prevent HIV.

All this was upstaged by two women — one transexual — who told their contrasting life stories linked together by HIV status. They were identified as Foxy and Charlotte. The first described her life on the streets — euphemistically a “social worker” — with trenchant wit. The other was quiet, serious as she talked about the special challenges for her family.

Dionne and K.C. Barner at ‘Imaginarium’ for the Thinkery. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Lastly, the “Imaginarium” for the Thinkery always promises a circus-like offering of educational entertainment. Thus we witnessed the vintage tools of the Daniel G. Benes Science Show and the electrifying — up to a point — Tesla coils of Arcattack. (Repetition does not always increase attraction.)

RELATED: Putting the think into the Thinkery.

Again, it was two Thinkery clients, Kendall Farr and Caleb Farr, who, through clever videos made the best case for the hugely popular outfit formerly known as the children’s museum. (At least I assume the Farr siblings are Thinkery regulars.) These bantering kids dressed scientific costumes are so talented, let’s hope they continue to show us exactly what it means to teach and to please.

 

ASA Moody Medical Clinic is a one-stop center to help treat, prevent HIV

Crusading for a time when the rate of new HIV cases in our area drops to zero, AIDS Services of Austin ceremoniously unveiled its new one-stop ASA Moody Medical Clinic on Cameron Road on Monday.

Ross Moody, Greg Casar and Kathie Tovo at the opening of the ASA Moody Medical Clinic. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Generously supported by the Moody Family Foundation — which recently made the critical differences for major projects by the Contemporary Austin – Laguna Gloria, Waller Creek Conservancy and Pease Park Conservancy — the clinic is aimed at the 7,000 people in our area already with HIV, including the 20 percent who don’t know it yet. Still others may use it during the HIV prevention process.

RELATED: Volunteer logs almost 3 decades at AIDS Walk.

Surrounded by ASA staff and volunteers, dignitaries including U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo and City Council Members Greg CasarOra Houston and Jimmy Flannigan applauded the nonprofit’s progress on what 30 years ago seemed like an impossible campaign to fight AIDS and help those living with it. Now ASA employs 70 people, many of them at the Cameron Road location, as well as at a dental clinic and remote prevention sites. A new one is planned for the area around Airport Boulevard and Springdale Road.

One of the most impressive sights hidden from the public at the Cameron Road HQ is ASA’s food bank, which began with distributions from the trunk of a car, and now looks like a miniature but substantial version of Capitol Area Food Bank.

 

Best Austin parties after Labor Day, Game Day

We survived Labor Day and Game Day and now it’s time for the great Austin social machine to crank it up.

These are some upcoming parties I hope to make.

Sept. 9: Picnic Bombazo for Puerto Rican Cultural Center. 701 Tillery St.

Sept. 10: Opening of ASA Moody Medical Clinic. 7215 Cameron Road.

Sept. 13: I Saw the Future, There Are Books” for Austin Book Arts Center. Austin Central Public Library.

Sept. 13: Red Dot Art Spree. Women & Theatre Work Gallery.

Sept. 13: The Fabulous People Party for YWCA Greater Austin. Gather Venues Monroe Street.

Sept. 13: 1968: The Year the Dream Died” reception. Briscoe Center for American History.

Sept. 14-15: Austin Symphony season-opening concert. Long Center.

Sept. 14: “Wide Open Spaces: Texas Landscapes by Gay Gaddis” reception. Submerge Art Gallery.

Sept. 16: Authentic Mexico for the Hispanic Alliance. Long Center.

Sept. 16: Seed & Thread Gala for the Filigree Theatre. Treaty Oak Distillery.

Sept. 17: Roger Comes to Austin: A Conversation with Andy Roddick and Roger Federer for the Andy Roddick Foundation. Paramount Theatre.

Sept. 18: “Passport to your Dreams” for the Dream Come True Foundation. Brodie Homestead.

UT’s Latin American Collection is a wonder of the library world

The Nettie Benson Latin American Collection is a University of Texas treasure you should get to know better.

Leslie Montoya, Maria Farahani and Ernesto Rios at a UT dinner for The Benson Latin American Collection.

Founded almost 100 years ago in 1921 with the acquisition of Mexican historian and bibliophile Genaro García‘s library, it grew vastly under the direction of UT professor Carlos Castañeda — partial namesake for the Perry-Castañeda Library — then under historian Nettie Lee Benson. For decades, the Collection has been the finest and most complete library of its kind in the Americas.

When I did research there in the 1980s for my doctoral dissertation, it was referred to by scholars as the “Library of Congress for Latin America.” Sort of like the Ransom Center across campus, its leaders had collected so many books, manuscripts and other objects in its chosen fields, people travel from around the world to visit it.

Crucially, it houses materials that back up some of what was lost in the recent fire that gutted the Brazil Museum.

The Collection, as well as its intimate partner, the Teresa Lozano Long Institute for Latin American Studies, are now receiving more attention locally.

At “An Evening for Discovery,” a recent benefit dinner at the AT&T Center, I ran into many old and new friends, including Maria Cisne Farahani, the woman behind Fara Coffee, which benefits workers in her native Nicaragua (we talked about the brisk change in political will in that country); Monica Peraza, who updated me on the latest at the Long Center, where she now captains the board of directors; attorney and event host Becky Beaver, who is becoming one of the Benson’s most eloquent promoters; Leslie Montoya, a local Univision reporter; Ernesto Rois, who is in the medical parts business (I don’t think that’s the right term, but you understand); and Adriana Pacheco Roldán, a scholar who, with Fernando Macias-Garza, gave $50,000 for an endowment to kick off the Benson’s centennial celebration.

RELATED: We bow before these honorees, including Maria Cisne Farahani.

Need inspiration? Try UT-student cyclists going the distance for cancer research

If you can resist the exaltation of the annual Texas 4000 Tribute Dinner, you are made of sterner stuff than I.

Texas 4000 for Cancer was founded in 2004 by Chris Condit, a Hodgin’s lymphoma survivor who appeared at the charity dinner at the Hyatt Regency Austin on Friday looking as if he just graduated from the University of Texas.

Hannah Knaup and Graham Bryan at Texas 4000 Tribute Gala. Knaup rode this year and encountered a bear with cubs on the trail in Alaska. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Each year, more than 60 UT students make the 70-day, 4,687 mile trek via one of three routes — Sierras, Rockies and Ozarks. Crucial to each trip, the young men and women focus on the people for whom they ride. They work as teams — virtually everyone makes it — and they stay as guests, often of UT alums along the way.

I came in around the time of the first Tribute Dinner and could not resist the electric vibe shared by riders past, present and future, as well as their volunteers, backers, staff, directors and fans — some of whom were honored during the dinner with the Chairman’s Pin Awards, handed out by Wes Carberry.

So far the group has netted $8.4 million for cancer research, with an aim to reach $10 million by 2020. They also make incredible videos that would be envy of any nonprofit in the country. The variety of backgrounds and experiences among the students — some haven’t ridden road bikes before — is astounding.

Just one more thing that makes UT singular.

Best parties as Austin social season kicks into gear

Austin’s social season picks up again next week after the icy blast of the Ice Ball and Texas 4000 Tribute Dinner and a few other late summer enticements.

RELATED: Catch the best parties of the new Austin social season.

Sept. 5: Red Shoe Luncheon for Ronald McDonald House. Brazos Hall. rmhc-ctx.org.

Sept. 6: An Evening of Discovery for UT LLILAS/Benson Latin American Collection. AT&T Center. Benson Collection.

Sept. 7: The Big Give for I Live Here, I Give Here. Hotel Van Zandt. ilivehereigivehere.org/the-big-give.

Sept. 9: Long Center Birthday Bash with Grupo Fantasma. Long Center. thelongcenter.org.

 

 

Catch the best parties of the new Austin social season

Welcome back to the Austin social season. Some of you never went away.

But all of us can agree that catching up with old friends and making new ones — just as the summer fades a bit — is part of the Austin way of life.

These are eight late August parties I hope to attend.

Aug. 22: Burning Down the House for Millett Opera House Foundation. Austin Club. millettoperahouse.com.

Aug. 24: Chapel Restoration Celebration. Oakwood Cemetery, 1601 Navasota St. austintexas.gov/oakwoodchapel

Aug. 24: Texas 4000 for Cancer Tribute Gala. Hyatt Regency Hotel. bit.ly/tributegala.

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Aug. 24:  Study Social for Literacy First. 800 Congress Ave. literacyfirst.org.

Aug. 25: Ice Ball for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Fairmont Hotel. austiniceball.org.

Aug. 25: Studio 54klift for Forklift Danceworks. forkliftdanceworks.org.

Aug. 29: The Man. The Legend. The Chick Magnet. Happy 90th Shelly Kantor, longtime regular customer and champion dancer. Donn’s Depot. donnsdebot.com

Aug. 31-Sept. 3: Splash Days for Octopus Club, Kind Clinic and OutYouth. Various locations. splashdays.com.

Austin won’t ignore Ann Richards School or People’s Community Clinic

It’s impossible to ignore how composed and accomplished they are.

The students from the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders are the real celebrities during the annual Reach for the Stars benefit for the Ann Richards School Foundation, now held at Four Seasons Hotel Austin.

Teacher Anah Wiersema with students Haley Loan and Julie Apagya Bonney at the fabulous Reach for the Stars gala for the Ann Richards School Foundation. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

They speak with such assurance and wisdom. They are headed to top colleges all over the country. Many are the first in their families to do so.

Julie Apagya Bonney and Ebheni Henderson led the charge before we saw a video interview with Girl Scouts national leader — and former Austinite — Sylvia Acevedo conducted by Maddy Schell and Maggie Saucedo. As if to trump that, young journalist Haley Lone interviewed Oprah pal Gayle King on the set of her TV show.

We throughly enjoyed our conversations at a table front-and-center sponsored by Ellen Richards, the late governor’s daughter who doesn’t have a new book out. (We talked mostly birds and nature.) Then we heard from more Class of ’18 — Eleanor Bailey and Maria Cruz, before Becky Alonso and Gus Flores introduced the winner of the Ann Richards Legacy Award, who happened to be super-sharp former principal Jeanne Goka.

Sorry guys, but I’d trade her for any principal from my past.

I barely glimpsed Ann Richards writer/actor Holland Taylor before slipping out during the “pompoms up” funding round.

My only private concern: Is anyone doing this sort of things for the Bertha Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy across town? We’ll ask around.

People’s Community Clinic

Anyone who thinks that repasts such as There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch are merely light social duties has not been to this fundraiser for People’s Community Clinic now held at the Four Seasons Hotel Austin.

Regina Willis, Mitali Kapadia and Haley Aldrich at Tjere’s No Such Thing As Free Lunch for People’s Community Clinic. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Surrounded by folks at our Becky Beaver-led set of tables such as Nancy ScanlanMelissa Miller and Nancy Inman would have been intellectually exhilarating enough. But then we heard from clinic CEO Regina Rogoff, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Louis Appel and longtime board member Dr. Nona Niland, all of whom could easily hold my studious attention.

Niland introduced Philip S. Dial, reluctant winner of the W. Neal Kocurek Award, named for the strategist behind much of the city’s enlightened civic health. Despite his reluctance to take the limelight, financial expert Dial made a fine speaker and reminded us that the quiet money aces often make a nonprofit grow and thrive, as he has done for People’s.

The meat of the lunch, so to speak, was a public conversation between Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith and Dr. Karen DeSalvo, former acting assistant secretary for health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and now at the University of Texas Dell School of Medicine.

DeSalvo was head of the health department in New Orleans during the Hurricane Katrina crisis and learned much about decentralizing health care and going “upstream” to encourage health before care is needed through community clinics. She believes we need to get past debates on coverage — everybody should be — to talk more about how to save money and lives through community solutions, including a “blue-cities-in-red-states” ones, like the grand experiment going on in Austin right now.

She’s a firecracker and I’d love to profile her for this publication.

 

 

What caused all the excitement at Austin nonprofit pitch fest

I would have given each group $100,000. No, make that $1 million.

At the LBJ Auditorium, reps from each of seven nonprofits made their cases for three minutes at Philanthropitch, then followed up with three minutes of answers to questions from six judges, all successful entrepreneurs.

Chelsea Elliott of the Half Helen Foundation and Kevin Iraheta of the Global Good Fund at Philanthropitch Austin. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

That’s it. No stacks of paperwork. No hours of pleasing donors.

Just pure, compact rhetorical power. And oh yes, a good cause. And a plan that includes growth and internal sustainability. This is how the celebrity judges split up the money:

– Half Helen Foundation: $64,100
– Thinkery: $38,210
– Code2College: $35,553
– College Forward: $18,913
– Generation Citizen: $11,722
– VentureLab: $7,052

But wait, there’s more.

“There was this amazing moment in the judges’ deliberation room where Kendra Scott asked if she could announce two internship placements for Code2College (which coaches nontraditional students to code) and the answer was obviously, YES!” reports Dan Graham, CEO of BuildASign.com cofounder of Notley, the group behind Philanthropitch, which has spread across the country and to the U.K.. “Immediately Gay Gaddis from T3, Jag Bath from Favor and Mellie Price from the Dell Medical School also committed to two internships each!”

CODE2COLLEGE: How to make any student ready for tech career.

On stage, as the the winners received big checks, Lisa Graham announced “Oh and Mr. Stephenson, we have another announcement for you” and proceeded to announce all the internships, which give Code2College added credibility and sustainability.

“As Lisa was finishing, Matt Stephenson (founder of Code2College) began running around hugging the judges and that’s when a woman starting sprinting up the aisle,” Dan recalls. “It was Amy Averett with Alamo Drafthouse announcing that they, too, were committing to two internships! That’s a total of 10 internships.”

 I love Austin.

Last chance to hit the best of Austin spring party circuit

Soon it will be hot. Very hot. For many, too hot to party in Austin. That’s why we urge you to savor the last semblance of spring and hit this circuit of more than 40 parties hard.

April 26: Little Artist, Big Artist for Chula League. Mondo Gallery.

April 27-29: Austin Food + Wine Festival. Auditorium Shores and Fair Market.

April 27-28: Texas Burlesque Fest. Paramount Theatre.

April 28: Putting on the Ritz Gala for Sam Bass Theatre. Marriott North La Frontera.

April 28: Songs for Trees for TreeFolks. Lemon Lounge.

April 28: Town Lake Links 30th Anniversary Celebration. UT campus locations.

April 28: Council on At-Risk Youth Distinguished Speaker Event. AT&T Conference Center.

April 28: Viva EASB! for Elizabeth Ann Seton Board. Camp Mabry.

April 29: An Afternoon in Neverland from Ballet Austin Guild. Driskill Hotel.

April 29: A Marvelous Party: Delovely for Penfold Theatre. Kindred Oaks.

April 29: Bollywood Meets Borscht Belt from Hindu Charities and Shalom Austin. JCC Community Hall.

May 1: Great Futures Spring Luncheon for Boys & Girls Clubs. Fairmont Austin Hotel.

May 1: Hope Awards for iACT. Bullock Texas State History Museum.

May 2: Taste of Mexico for Mexic-Arte Museum. Brazos Hall.

May 3: I Heart HealthStart Gala. Gather Austin.

May 3: Opal Divine’s American Whiskey Festival. Austin City Hotel.

May 3: Evening of Honors for Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights. UT Alumni Center.

May 4: The Blue Bash for Austin Chamber Music Center. River Place Country Club.

May 4: Best Party Ever for Leadership Austin. Brazos Hall.

May 4: Austin Book Awards for Austin Library Foundation. Austin Central Library.

May 4: HeartGift Gala. JW Marriott Hotel.

May 4: Texas Monthly Live. Paramount Theatre.

May 5: Red, Hot and Soul. Zach Theatre.

May 5-6: Pecan Street Festival. East Sixth Street.

May 5: Down & Derby for the Shade Project. Mercury Hall.

May 6: Urban Roots Austin Tour de Farm. Fair Market.

May 8: Philanthropitch Austin. LBJ Auditorium.

May 8: Shoal Creek Awards. Cirrus Logic Conference Space.

May 9: Farm to Plate for Sustainable Food Center. Barr Mansion.

May 10: Due West: West Austin Studio Tour kick-off party. Central Austin Library Gallery.

May 10: Official Drink of Austin Party for Austin Food and Wine Alliance. Fairmont Austin Hotel.

May 11: Reach for the Stars Gala for Ann Richards School Foundation. Four Seasons Hotel.

May 11: Emancipet Luncheon. Hyatt Regency Austin.

May 12: Paramount Gala with the Gipsy Kings. Paramount Theatre.

May 12: Mother’s Day Jazz Brunch for the Frederick Douglass Club of Austin. Crowne Plaza Austin.

May 14: There’s No Such Thing As a Free Lunch for People’s Community Clinic. Four Seasons Hotel.

May 15: Spring For Water for Clean Water Action. Zilker Clubhouse.

May 17: Molly Awards Gala for the Texas Observer. Four Seasons Hotel.

May 19: Austin Under 40 Awards Gala. JW Marriott Hotel.

May 20: Cochon555 Culinary Competition. Four Seasons Hotel.