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.

Austin Under 40 Awards winners are solid gold

We always cheer the Austin Under 40 Awards ceremony, not just because it benefits two worthy causes, YWA Foundation and the Austin Sunshine Camps, but also because so many rising social stars end up among the winners.

Toya Bell picks up the Austin Under 40 Award for Mentor of the Year. Contributed by Lauryn Vaughan of Not Purple Creative

Don’t worry about the future; these leaders will be in charge.

Saturday’s party at the JW Marriott grossed $280,000. The net amount for the charities has not yet been announced.

BENEFITS: Austin’s Sunshine Camps shine.

2018 AUSTIN UNDER 40 AWARD WINNERS

Civics, Government and Public Affairs: Virginia A. Cumberbatch

Journalism, Marketing and Public Relations: Kristie Gonzales

Medicine and Healthcare: David Shackelford

Nonprofit Service: Kandace Vallejo

Youth & Education: Ashley Alaniz-Moyer

Financial and Insurance: Lindsey Leaverton

Innovation and Startup: Stephanie Hansen

Real Estate: Emily Chenevert

Legal: Sujata Ajmera

Technology: Tricia Katz

Architecture, Engineering and Construction: Ada Corral

Arts and Entertainment: David Messier

Culinary Arts, Events and Hospitality: C.K. Chin

Energy, Mobility and Transportation: Kelly Daniel

Sports, Wellness and Fitness: Marc Tucci

Mentor of the Year: Toya Bell

Austinite of the Year: Sujata Ajmera