by Restore Communities on September 29th, 2013

Restore Weekend

What is Restore Weekend? Every time there is a 5th weekend in a month, we serve the city in a two day event we call, which is called Restore Weekend.  On the last weekend of a month that includes a fifth Sunday, Restore Communities partners with several faith communities and local non-profits for a weekend of serving the Greater-Austin area.   If you would like to join us on our next Restore Weekend, June 28-29th, 2014.  If you would like to get a glimpse as to what actually happens, watch the video below:

by Roger Themme on March 4th, 2012

Personally we are very excited about this blog. Care Communities was one of the first Restore Communities and Austin New Church partners. We absolutely love their work. We love their hearts. We love their commitment to those who are often time forgotten and marginalized, and we love that we get to partner with them in this great city! This month's blog is from their Outreach Director, Roger Temme. If you are a Restore Group leader and you haven't had a chance to take Roger out and buy him a cup of coffee just to listen to his heart and his story, then this is a must for you in 2012. Here's the blog:
Before I tell you about the mission of The Care Communities (TCC), I would like to ask you a question and before you read on through this blog, think about your answer. Take your time to reflect on this question: "Do you have a Care Team?" Now take a few seconds to think about this.........Now you can read on. I don’t know who is reading this right now but I am going to make an assumption about the question. I am going to assume that you have a Care Team. You probably don’t call it that but you have family, friends, some members of Austin New Church/Restore Communities, neighbor’s, coworkers, etc. You have some people who are there for you in good times and bad times. You can count of them to be there for you. Now the reality is that there are many in our greater Austin community who do not have people there for them. And many are living with HIV/AIDS or cancer. The mission and vision of The Care Communities is that no one should face a serious illness alone. Our staff and volunteers demonstrate unconditional care through social services support, daily tasks and genuine companionship for people with cancer or HIV/AIDS. The Care Team consists of three to six volunteers (or an entire restore group), who after going through training, are matched with a Care Partner (client) and provide practical and emotional support. Here are a couple stories:
Doug states his care team has helped him stay alive and stay in his home.  He has no idea how he would have made it without their constant caring.    The care team members state that they are getting more out of the relationship with Doug than they could possible give to him. Helping Doug is especially rewarding since he was the first nurse at the AIDS hospice in Austin during his healthier years.  The Care Team has given Doug new friends and replaced lost hope in their time together.

Regina was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in 2002.  The cancer had since metastasized throughout her body.  She holds a part time job and took computer classes—all while loving and raising five children under the age of 10! Despite having painful days as a result of her cancer and seemingly never enough money for the family, Regina had a great outlook and loved to sing. Her outlook and song were inspired, in part, by a Care Communities care team assembled from St. James Episcopal in Austin. The work of the Care Communities’ care team ensured that the children were tutored and pampered even when Regina had rough days. The care team's support made the world a better place for Regina and her children.  Regina referred to her care team as “her angels."
These are just a couple of the people we care for. Our need for more volunteers and more Care Teams is urgent. We have about 30 people on our wait list. We would love to match some of those waiting with a Care Team, with a Restore Group. If you or your Restore Group or someone you know has four hours a month to give and would like to form a Care Team or get more details about how it works, contact me by clicking HERE or call me at 512-459-5883. Please also check out our website

Peace & good, Roger Temme, Outreach Director, The Care Communities
Thank you Roger for this blog, but we want to add one thing. Many people don't know about our first ever Care Team through the Care Communities, so if you scroll down, here's a short video:

Posted on February 1st, 2012

Welcome to our February guest blog. This month we wanted to introduce you to our friends at the Saint Louise House (SLH). The SLH provides affordable housing and essential services to mothers and children impacted by homelessness in Central Texas. Many of you provided Bookshelf gifts for some of their residents this past Christmas, but our hopes is that this is just the beginning of a new partnership. So, without taking too much time, here's the January Guest Blog, by Karen Ranus:
Mommy, they’re just like us.” Our eyes met in the reflection of the rearview mirror as I drove away from the 12-unit apartment complex off North Lamar called Saint Louise House (SLH). Eleven of the 12 apartments housed women and their children who’d experienced homelessness, living in shelters, cars, any place where they might keep their children safe. One apartment served as an office where we had played with the children for the previous hour and a half. She looked at me with her brown eyes sparkling. “Can we come back?” she asked in her small, high pitched voice. “You bet,” I smiled. That was 8 years ago, and many things have changed… My sweet little girl has blossomed into a beautiful teenager, an athlete, a lover of music and books, independent on most days, clingy on others. The 12-unit apartment complex has grown into two larger apartment complexes with the capacity to house 46 families. I “come back” almost every day now to Saint Louise House. After eight years of volunteering, I recently stepped into the role of coordinating SLH volunteers who believe, like me, in the limitless potential of families when they have a place to call “home."
But, one important thing has stayed the same, “…they’re just like us.” The mothers I meet at Saint Louise House are just like me. They prod their children to use good manners, worry that the runny nose and cough will mean another night without sleep, wonder how they’ll budget for the holidays when money is so tight. They talk to other moms when they’re at wit’s end. They fall into bed after all the kids are asleep, exhausted but thankful. They have hopes and dreams for their families, just like me. The simple yet profound observation of a 5-year old is the message I share when I talk about Saint Louise House in the community. I encounter good people with good intentions who have many preconceived notions of what homelessness looks like, and the truth is always this—“They’re just like us.”

Saint Louise House currently provides deeply affordable housing and supportive services (case management, life skills training, employment services, counseling) to 31 families who have been previously homeless. On any given night, there about 5,000 homeless individuals in the Austin area. Forty-percent of them are families and of those families, 90% are led women. While the Median Family Income (MFI) in Austin is $66,420, the average annual income for families at entry into Saint Louise House is $10,320 or $860 a month. Most of the mothers have never lived in one place for one year at any point in their adult life. The large majority have experienced violence of some kind and many of them are suffering from depression. These families are the most vulnerable in our midst, and we look to the community to partner with us in any number of ways to help these families break cycles of poverty, violence and reliance on social services. For more information about volunteer opportunities, you can visit at

The Saint Louise House has plenty of ways to volunteer, if you or your Restore Group are interested in volunteering at the SLH, click HERE. this would be a great way to kick off the new year!

by John Nehme on November 30th, 2011

We figured figured with January now officially being called, "Human Trafficking Awareness Month" and next month has Freedom Sunday it would be appropriate to introduce our readers to our parnters in the fight against human trafficking, ALLIES Against Slavery. We are proud to consider Allies a partner of Restore Communities and look forward to deeper work in the freedom of humanity:
The names of victims of trafficking in this article were changed to protect their identities.

Sindy was pregnant, expecting a baby boy in a matter of days. Her pregnancy, however, was more complicated than most. As a recently identified victim of human trafficking in Austin, Sindy was just beginning to receive assistance from the Central Texas Coalition Against Human Trafficking (the Coalition). And while the Coalition provided Sindy with valuable services, she had no baby supplies for her new son; nothing for her return from the hospital – no crib, no diapers, no bottles, no changing pads…none of the things so many mothers expect and value.

That’s when the Coalition made a call for help on Sindy’s behalf to the Allies Against Slavery. Allies Against Slavery, simply called Allies by most, is an organization of volunteers united to activate and sustain community involvement in the anti-trafficking movement in Central Texas and to support the efforts of the Central Texas Coalition Against Human Trafficking. To accomplish that goal, Allies aims to be a local, credible, and up-to-date resource for information and a network for activism. At the core, Allies is all about harnessing the collective passion, creativity, and generosity of community members. Collaboration is part of the Allies DNA; diverse members volunteer their skills, time and creativity to establish a zero-tolerance environment for slavery and to address unmet needs of victims identified by professional service providers and the criminal justice system.
The first meeting of Allies fell on Juneteenth of 2010, as an informal, grassroots gathering. Membership has steadily grown to encompass over 300 Allies members in the network. Though a young organization, Allies has already achieved many successes, including the first annual Free Austin anti-trafficking initiative that took place in September 2011. Within a few months, Free Austin grew to encompass 12 awareness events that reached approximately 1,000 people across Central Texas. That success was largely due to more than 20 Free Austin and Allies partners that hosted events, provided volunteers, and “owned” the Free Austin vision, including Restore Communities.
The history of Allies reveals the three reasons it was founded – community-initiated interest, a demand for community awareness of human trafficking, and unmet needs of survivors. First, the Coalition was inundated with requests for volunteer involvement from the broader community, and a simple, ethical avenue to volunteer in the anti-trafficking movement had not yet materialized in Austin. Second, the Coalition is committed to training professionals in the field of social services and law enforcement. This leaves little time or human resources for awareness-raising and speaking engagements with community groups. ALLIES, therefore, was conceptualized as a way to creatively fill gaps in community awareness, through activities like Free Austin. And third, the Coalition’s funding often did not cover all of survivors’ needs. Sometimes survivors are caught in a precarious time between leaving the exploitative situation and gaining work authorization and/or stable employment. Other times, survivors come to the end of eligibility in public assistance and federally funded support programs yet are still not financially self-sufficient. Thus they may remain vulnerable to being re-trafficked.

Sindy faced a similar lack of resources for her new baby – resources the Coalition didn’t have the means to supply. The Coalition’s call for help soon turned into a call to action that spread like wildfire throughout the Allies network. A Target baby-registry was created for “Sindy Survivor”, and in less than three days more than $300 of in-kind donations was mobilized. Allies collected the donations, which were sorted and gift-wrapped, and the Coalition threw Sindy a baby shower when she came home from the hospital. After the baby shower, Sindy turned to her newborn son and said, “No one’s ever done something like this for us before…we’re never going to forget this day, are we.” Sindy never had direct contact with anyone in Allies that helped her that day, and they never got to meet Sindy or her baby son. But Allies volunteers were willing to be anonymous extraordinaries, motivated by the fact that they made a tangible impact in her life without ever needing to be personally recognized.
The work to end human trafficking is not quick and simple; it’s a long process that begins with an individual transformation, demands perseverance, and requires that we all work together – often without being personally recognized for our work. But be encouraged! I believe we’ll begin to see the end of human trafficking when our dedication to solution is well coordinated and resourced. And Allies is creating a space for that sort of collaboration; a space where the whole becomes a more powerful force for good than the sum of its parts. So take that first step off the couch and take part in a growing group of anonymous extraordinaries working right here in Austin, TX, with the Allies Against Slavery.

John Nehme, M.A. Political Economy
Co-Leader, Allies Against Slavery
Director of Outreach, Trade In Hope

Laurie Cook Heffron, LMSW
Co-Leader, Allies Against Slavery
UT Austin Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault

Posted on July 4th, 2011

As Serve Austin Sunday approaches, we asked one of our partners, Blackland Community Development to write a guest blog. These folks are amazing, and have a mission and heart that we all can learn from. Take the time, to read our blog from the Blackland CEO, Dr. Bo Mcarver
The historic Blackland Neighborhood is east of the University of Texas between Manor Road and MLK Blvd. has been the site of many housing struggles. Prior to the 1928 Austin Master Plan that segregated the city and displaced people of color to the east side, the area was made up of Swedish cotton farms which were subdivided in the early 1900s. By the 1950s, the older Swedish homes were surrounded by many modest bungalows built by young black families. In the Blackland Neighborhood, however, those homes were consistently threatened by annexation by the University of Texas -- the 1928 Austin Master Plan called for eastward expansion by UT.

The sixth UT annexation in 1980 was met by stiff neighborhood resistance and the development of a strong neighborhood association and non-profit. After a 12-year struggle in the press, the university agreed on a permanent line at Leona Street and divested 16 houses and eight vacant lots it had purchased to the Blackland CDC. The houses were rehabilitated with a combination of HUD grants and volunteer labor. Because homeless organizations helped the neighborhood during the struggle, nine of the units were designated for homeless families. The Blackland CDC is the only neighborhood-based nonprofit in Texas for host homeless families. Since the inception of the transitional program in 1994, 161 struggling families have been helped as of June, 2011.
The vacant lots, which constituted scars left from the battle, were finally filled in 2008 with the help of UT departments that donated the School of Architecture’s 2005 Solar Decathlon House while the Office of Campus Land Development donated three conventional houses. Volunteers worked for two years to bring the Harden-Solar Duplex at 1701 in 2008.

The Solar “SNAP” House, so named because it was made up of four, modular compartments, was donated on the premise that surplus energy from the 8.5 kW solar array would be used by other rental units nearby. That concept was threatened, however, when it was discovered that Texas’ energy deregulation laws did not allow transport of energy across lot lines. At the advice of architect, Joel Martinez, the Blackland CDC solved the problem by legally combining the adjacent lots into one tract; then building a 15-foot breezeway between the solar house and the Harden House (named for its former owner, Minnie Harden). The result was a very strange-looking duplex -- but it is legal to share energy from the Solar House to both units. Dedicated in August, 2008, the Harden-Solar Duplex at 1701 East 22nd has since been home to several families. The SNAP House has been occupied by former UT architect students who have helped “debug” some of the technical problems in the design
The same approach is now being used to convert a bungalow at 1902 East 22nd into a “community conservatory” where Blackland residents can quilt, can vegetables, talk gardening and meet. That facility will be the center piece of an eight-unit multifamily development that will feature raised-bed gardens for persons with disabilities and restoration of a 9,000 gallon underground Swedish cistern that will be used to harvest water from nearby roofs. “Fannie Mae Stewart Village” is actually an ongoing part of the Blackland CDC’s work that began in 1984 when it acquired a lot at 1904 East 22nd from an African-American maid, Fannie Mae Stewart. Mrs. Stewart survived in her retirement by renting an adjacent house at 1900 but that house was condemned by the city in 1986. The neighborhood organized volunteers and garnered donations of materials to bring the house up to city codes. Among the volunteers who worked on the house for eight months were John Henneberger and Karen Paup, now co-directors of the Texas Low Income Housing Information Services. John and Karen helped start the Blackland CDC and managed its first project in 1985 that brought 11 housing units online.

Today, the Blackland CDC has 47 units that it rents to households earning less than 60 percent of the average for Austin; the actual rents for the units are far less than that at 34 percent MFI.
Although available land for more development is scarce, it is anticipated that another 15 units can be developed in the near future by infilling existing properties. With almost 25 percent of the single-family housing in the neighborhood, the non-profit offsets some of the gentrification that characterizes neighborhoods near downtown. The effort helps fulfill a motto adopted by the Blackland Neighborhood in 1984, “The dream starts here…” That dream was Martin Luther King’s dream of a community of diverse people living together in peace and harmony.

Bo McCarver, Ph.D., Chair Blackland CDC

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