Austin Child Guidance Center, I Live Here I Give Here, SoCo at Night and more

David Herrera and BA Snyder at Austin Originals for Austin Child Guidance Center.
David Herrera and BA Snyder at Austin Originals for Austin Child Guidance Center.

HEALTH: An Old Austin group sheds new light. You know the type: The Austin group that has been doing good work for decades, but is not well known or understood by New Austinites. Consider, for instance, the Settlement Home, Helping Hand Home, Sunshine Camps, Caritas or Marbridge, all many decades old, but just now emerging from relative obscurity among those who arrived here during the past 30 years. Add to the list the Austin Child Guidance Center. Founded in 1951, the mental health provider was the first to bring a child psychiatrist to Central Texas and the first to treat children who had been sexually abused, well ahead of the national curve. It treats 3,500 clients each year on an out-patient basis. A sign that even newcomers are catching on: Its annual Austin Originals benefit jumped from 250 to 500 guests this year and moved from the old KLRU studios to the welcoming Austin Music Hall.

Adi Pavlovic and Valerie Cason at the Big Give for I Live Here I Give Here.
Adi Pavlovic and Valerie Cason at the Big Give for I Live Here I Give Here.

CHARITY: “I’m not the normal I Live Here I Give Here person.” Thus joked Julie Stevenson, selected as the Big Giver at the Big Give event for I Live Here I Give Here. “I’m not in my 30s.” Indeed, the group that encourages local charity skews younger than the traditional philanthropists around town. Stevenson had been nominated by Any Baby Can and SafePlace. The win automatically places Stevenson in the running for the national Jefferson Awards, sponsored locally by the American-Statesman. I Live Here, now headed by Tom Spencer, is best known for having raised $5.7 million for local nonprofits during a 24 hour period last year through its Amplify Austin program. The group’s playful Parisian circus party fit just right into the new Hyatt Zilker Banquet Room.

NIGHTLIFE: Seeking SoCo after dark. Taken from my story published in Austin360: “South Congress Avenue is for daytrippers. Right? Families with children on holiday. Locals looking to scratch the retail itch. Flâneurs lounging in the shade of more than 100 eateries, shops, coffee houses and watering holes. After the sun sets, however, SoCo gradually shifts gears. The children scatter. The sidewalks clear out. The cognoscenti slip into darkened rooms to do what adults do. Not that! (Well, maybe that too, but not in public. Life is no longer as louche as it once was along this former red-light district.) Rather, the revelers quietly turn SoCo into a nightlife district that rivals, at times, downtown’s more crowded — and infinitely noisier — precincts.” http://shar.es/1akzkK

Center for Child Protection Party, Roadmap to Equality with Annise Parker, Caritas 50th Anniversary and more

Alisa Weldon, Annise Parker and Lynn Yeldell at Equality Texas reception.
Alisa Weldon, Annise Parker and Lynn Yeldell at Equality Texas reception.

LAW: “I went berserk.” Twenty-five years ago, relaxing at her lake house, Maxine Roberts became furious when she learned that another Austin child had been brutalized. Could the latest crime have been prevented? She called everyone she knew. What could be done? Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle suggested looking at a public/private group in Hunstville, Ala. that reduced the trauma of child victims during the investigation and prosecution of their cases. With little cash in hand, Roberts, along with Sandra Martin, was among the founders of what became the Center for Child Protection, which hosted a 25th anniversary reception at the Austonian. Judges, advocates and civic leaders attended. “We now understand how horrible this is,” Roberts says. “I can’t believe it’s still happening to children. No baby should wake up in the morning to a nightmare in the house.”

CHARITY: Marcus Luttrell paced the stage like a caged tiger. The former Navy Seal whose battle in Afghanistan was featured in the book and movie, “Lone Survivor,” spoke about childhood in East Texas with a family that had always served in the military, about the formation of habits of duty and honor, and, in detail, about the protracted Operation Redwing in 2005. Luttrell is enormously dynamic — almost too much so for an after-dinner speaker. There was a good point: Caritas toasted its 50th anniversary with a focus on helping veterans among its food service, refugee and social service programs. Prior to Luttrell’s speech, a Central Texas veteran spoke effectively about his own struggle to stay off the streets. Powerful stuff.

POLITICS: “We had to write one from scratch.” Astonishingly, Houston didn’t have an anti-discrimination ordinance at all. Much less one that protected the LGBT community in a city of 2.2 million people. Houston Mayor Annise Parker carefully explained the step-by-step campaign for the ordinance — a repeal petition is being argued over in the courts — and also for city staff security at an Equality Texas gathering in the high-rise home of Dr. Nona Niland. A co-host for the event was the Gill Foundation, founded by Denver software executive Tim Gill, which advocates for LGBT equality. By the way, Parker recently married her partner of 23 years, Kathy Hubbard, in California.

BUSINESS: Competition works. Anticipating the 2015 opening of the giant J.W. Marriott at Congress Avenue and East Second Street, four downtown hotels — Radisson Austin, Hyatt Regency Austin, Omni Austin, Hilton Austin — recently unveiled millions of dollars worth of improvements. Others are on the way. These changes have included upgraded food service, renovated rooms and shared spaces, and at least one completely new banquet room. Hilton Austin, which pretty much had the big convention business to itself for 10 years, threw a gala to show off its enhancements. If the food, decor and courtesy shared that night can be maintained, the Hilton’s future will be bright.

Siblings Robert Watson and Paige Watson at Hilton Austin Gala.
Siblings Robert Watson and Paige Watson at Hilton Austin Gala.

HISTORY: More than 100 Austin history stories at this digital page. It started with a street sign. It ended with a stroll around the grounds of an abandoned Civil War fort in South Austin. You didn’t know Austin — far from any battlefield — played a part in Confederate defenses? In fact, slave labor built three forts around Austin to ward off possible invasions from the south, north and east. Two decades ago, I noticed a street sign off South First Street, just north of the former discount store that now serves as a (sigh) Chuck E. Cheese outlet. It pointed to the narrow Fort Magruder Lane. Nearby is military-sounding Post Road Drive.Now I’m no Civil War buff, but why hadn’t I heard of Fort Magruder while reporting on the people, places and scenes of our fair city? Questions to longtime residents drew blanks. Published references were few and far between.” http://shar.es/1aw9Rd

Ballet Austin Fete, Bill Wittliff, Rick Perry Legacy and more

Cortney Anderton and Wes Perry at the Ballet Austin Fete.
Cortney Anderton and Wes Perry at the Ballet Austin Fete.

ARTS: Uniting through beauty. No Austin party devotes so much attention to beauty. The Ballet Austin Fête immerses guests in it. At the lustrous W Austin Hotel, the two-tiered benefit opened up to a room full of rose petals inventively refashioned into thematic table settings by the Avila family of Mandarin Flower Co. The halls were filled with lovely tunes sung with consummate skill by Liz Morphis. The W staff expertly stage-managed the excellent dinner, then made sure the guests for the lower-priced Fêtish late party were treated with equal care. And yet, still, what do we remember? Heartfelt, thoughtful conversations with folks such as fitness trainer Maria Groten and Llano-based Lynda Gammage, widow of the late U.S. Rep. Bob Gammage. In the end, as Groten said, it’s about bringing people together.

STYLE: An Austinite’s tributes to Queen Elizabeth II. Taken from my story in the Statesman: “In 1947, Princess Elizabeth visited South Africa at the invitation of Prime Minister Jan Smuts. For this carefree postwar outing, she was joined by her sister, Princess Margaret, along with their father, King George VI, and their mother, known then as Queen Elizabeth (later beloved as the “Queen Mum”). Austin architect Hillel Daniller, now 88, was a student at the time. He welcomed the young Elizabeth — future reigning queen — to the University of Cape Town campus, dramatically perched on the slopes of Devil’s Peak. “When she turned 80, I reminded her that I had welcomed her to the university,” the punctilious Daniller says in a crisp South African accent. “A lovely letter came back from a lady in waiting, because, of course, the queen does not do her own letter writing.”

CHARITY: Capital Area Food Bank seeks to expand. Taken from Marty Toohey’ story in the Statesman: “Last year, the Capital Area Food Bank distributed the equivalent of a Boeing 737’s weight in food every day. Not the equivalent of the cargo on a 737 — the plane itself. It wasn’t enough, according to the Food Bank. The organization’s leaders on Friday are kicking off a 10-month campaign to raise $10 million for a new storage facility. The problem isn’t donors’ willingness to give food or even necessarily to get it distributed among the 300-plus organizations across Central Texas that get the food to residents’ tables, Food Bank leaders say. The problem is simply storage space, especially for fresh fruits, vegetables and meats that need to be refrigerated or frozen.” http://shar.es/1a7vXd

BOOKS: Bill Wittliff draws on his ancestors’ stories for novel. Taken from Jane Sumner‘s story in the Statesman: “It’s mythic. It’s historic. It’s folk wisdom and wit. Best of all, it’s a master storyteller at the top of his game practicing the ancient art he heard as a kid growing up in Edna in the 1940s. In his magical first novel, “The Devil’s Backbone,” screenwriter-producer Bill Wittliff, who took us up the trail with Gus and Call in his beloved teleplay for “Lonesome Dove,” takes us on a different kind of journey. This time it’s a quest that the young hero named Papa undertakes through the rough Hill Country of Texas, circa 1880, when bears still raided corn cribs and panthers still screamed in the night. For Wittliff, whose forebears were among the Old Three Hundred settlers who received land grants in Stephen F. Austin’s first colony, all life is an adventure. And so is the act of writing — in this case, a wild, rudimentary, intuitive one.” http://shar.es/1a77ph

POLITICS: Rick Perry’s appoints people who are like him and give him lots of money. Taken from Christian McDonald and Asher Price‘s story in the Statesman: “When Gov. Rick Perry leaves office in January after 14 years in power, one of his legacies will be a roster of state government overseers that harks back to a Texas of decades past. Of the thousands of people he has appointed to boards and commissions — one of the few powers granted governors by the Texas Constitution — the overwhelmingly majority are white, even as the state has become much more diverse. Two-thirds are men. The governor has appointed reliably like-minded people — donors to his campaigns, one-time staffers in his office, former lobbyists — to dozens of boards, commissions and judgeships. The picks have largely reflected Perry’s distaste for regulation, including those appointees overseeing state regulators; suspicion of Washington interference; and appetite for pleasing business interests.” http://shar.es/1a7vN5