Season of Giving: Keep Austin Generous and Helping Newtown

Having children makes us all remember the magic of this time of year. The sparkle in their eyes as you unpack the decorations. The inevitable laughter from watching their favorite holiday movie — for the hundredth time. The palpable warmth that comes from snuggling beside each other as you sip hot chocolate (even if you wore shorts just yesterday). The pure joy of watching your child open the gift he or she so desperately wanted.

For some families, however, the holiday season is not as joyous. Parents are dealing with job loss, illness and difficult circumstances. Some have lost their homes. Children’s tummies are rumbling. The simple joys of the holidays are suddenly not so simple.

That’s why we here at LiveMom started the Season of Giving, a time each year when we can recognize that there is more to this time of year than the perfect centerpiece, the over-the-top meal and the mountain of wrapping paper when the presents are opened. It’s a time when we demonstrate our commitment to building a stronger village. It’s a time to show our children that we can all make a difference in our community, and that giving is something we can do all year long. And, perhaps most importantly, that there can be joy in the giving as well as the receiving.


You may have noticed we haven’t posted anything on our website or on Facebook since Thursday. Like many of you, our holiday spirit was shattered upon hearing the news of the tragedy in Connecticut. Our hearts have broken, again and again, thinking about the victims and their families. And all of us, really, trying to navigate what certainly seems like a different world. How can you simultaneously feel the overwhelming desire to smile at every person you see, determined to fight the horror with kindness, while at the same time, carry a heavy burden of worry that your children aren’t safe at school, as you walk past policemen and hope your children don’t ask why they are there?

If you are anything like me, I feel the need to channel my tears into good, to turn my grief into action. In the hopes that it brings us all out of this mire of sadness we are all in. In memory of those faces that keep flashing through my mind. Let’s all do our part to begin to repair the world.

If you’d like to do something to directly help the residents of Newtown, you can:


One Austinite who is determined, in his words, “on transforming the philanthropic landscape in Central Texas in a very fundamental way”, is Leo Ramirez. Having lived in Austin for 16 years, Leo was baffled by the fact that Austin has the highest per capita rate of nonprofits in the country, yet ranks 33rd among the 50 largest US cities in philanthropic giving. At first, the self-proclaimed “serial entrepeneur” considered launching a local day of giving, but sought to expand the reach and impact.

By partnering with Paul Carrozza and the Trail of Lights, what began as a day-long observance has now morphed into Keep Austin Generous, a week-long effort taking place December 15-23, 2012, highlighting the wide array of charities in Austin, including such causes and organizations as:

  • Local Philanthropy and Volunteerism: The Austin Community Foundation, United Way of the Capital Area, I Live Here, I Give Here, Greenlights, and Citizen Generation
  • Corporate Social Responsibility: The Entrepreneur’s Foundation, Austin Chamber of Commerce’s Austin Gives
  • Giving Circles: Impact Austin, FuturoFund, Austin Involved
  • Youth Philanthropy: A Legacy of Giving, Little Helping Hands, Positive Footprints

Keep Austin Generous hopes to encourages individuals, retailers, restaurants and other organizations to promote giving. For those interested in a way to make a financial contribution, Leo started MiniDonations, a giving platform intended to make philanthropy easy, accessible, and transparent for everyone. The site’s tagline embodies this philosophy: A little change makes a world of difference™. The way it works is that purchases at participating businesses can be rounded up, and this “spare change” can “grow” online over time. MiniDonations can provide you with one online portal to manage and streamline all of your giving.

Can a little bit really add up? According to Leo, if everyone in Austin rounded-up their purchases to the nearest dollar and donated the difference, we could raise $5 million for charity in a single weekend. That’s one city, one of 52 weekends, with people simply giving away their change. Pretty amazing, huh?

Each $10 or more donation made through MiniDonations, by Austin residents, during Keep Austin Generous Week 2012 is an entry into a donation giveaway, where randomly-selected donors receive $1,000 MiniDonations Credits. These Credits can be donated to any U.S. nonprofit [501(c)(3)] in good standing.

For those interested in participating in events and/or activities, Keep Austin Generous has an online calendar which you can add to your Google Calendar with over 50 happenings at about a dozen participating businesses.

In the future, Leo plans to expand Keep Austin Generous into other communities throughout Texas, with the hopes of taking the campaign nationally, so any city in America can celebrate this yearly week of giving alongside Austin.

The power of change. Multiplied.

 

A native Austinite and soccer-playing mom, Nicole uses her 6-year-old son as an excuse to rediscover her hometown through his eyes. In Thoreau’s words, her mission is to “suck out all the marrow of life”, or in her son’s words, to cultivate in him a love of “advenchers”.