Work the phones and help hurricane evacuees find help this weekend

Have you heard of 2-1-1? It’s like 4-1-1 except that it offers free, statewide, 24-hour access to health and human services and disaster information through its multilingual helpline.

As you can imagine, it’s a great resource for people all over southeast Texas who are being displaced by the hurricanes. They call to find out where to find shelter or food, how to get help moving special needs people, even how to get help moving pets.

Thanks to Gustav, the 2-1-1 line had a 300% increase in volume of calls over one weekend. And hurricane season is not over yet. You’re heard of Ike, right?

There are a couple of ways you can help:

The first is to make a donation to 2-1-1 so they can get the folks and other resouces they need to serve the people displaced by Hurricane Ike.

The second is to VOLUNTEER YOURSELF in Austin this weekend. There will be training, and all you need to get the job is the ability to care about people and help them find their way. If you’re bilingual, you’re especially needed. Just register with United Way Capital Area to get started.

OR if you are interested in becoming a Disaster Response Volunteer for 2-1-1 Texas, call 2-1-1 or email Kimberly Blackburn.

Thanks for your help!


What Austin kids should know by kindergarten – and almost half don’t

My 5-month-old daughter "reading"

My 5-month-old daughter

On the I Live Here, I Give Here site this month, the highlight is education. Here’s a disturbing number:

The sad truth is that a whopping 40 percent of children entering kindergarten in our community – the majority of whom live in poverty – are 12 to 18 months behind developmentally.

I have a preschooler (and an infant, Olivia, picture above, “reading”), and since he entered daycare a year ago, my husband and I have done little things here and there to prepare him for kindergarten. As he is my first child – and I didn’t go to kindergarten nor would I remember much about it, if I had – I really don’t know what he needs to know by kindergarten. But we’re working on the basics: his alphabet, some reading, counting to 100, shapes, colors, science, calculus… (no, not calculus. maybe a little trig.)

So what does it mean to be “12 to 18 months” behind? What does being prepared for kindergarten mean?

One collaborative effort lead by United Way Captial Area is called “Success by 6,” as in six years old. One of their guidelines for success is a document called “Austin Vision for School Readiness.” It lists a number of emotional, intellectual and health goals for children entering kindergarten. Here are some of the skills children should demonstrate by kindergarten:  

· Children are able to communicate ideas, interests, needs, and understandings in their native language.
· Children can tell or retell a story that is read or told to them.
· Children know some songs and rhymes
· Children show an interest in books and are familiar with basic book conventions such as how to turn the pages of a book.
· Children recognize some environmental print, for example “McDonalds”
· Children recognize and name some letters
· Children scribble or pretend to write
· Children can distinguish between and label basic shapes: square, rectangle, circle, and triangle.
· Children can distinguish between objects that are the same or different.
· Children have basic understandings of size and quantity relationships – big/small, bigger/smaller, more/ less.
· Children can sort objects into basic categories by color or other common
shared characteristic.
· Children can count at least three objects.
· Children use their senses to describe and learn about the world.

So are you telling me that 40 percent of Austin children entering kindergarten next week do not have all of these skills? I don’t mean to sound so shocked nor do I mean to offend, but for those of you who don’t have children, I’m telling you: The pre-K kids I know have these skills. My son is four years old and he has these skills, and it’s not because he’s a prodigy. These are basic.

SO what to do?

1. Give money, obviously. One place to start is the United Way, which funds a number of specific programs – not nonprofits, but programs – with measurable results. Other things you can do…

2. Donate preschool level booksto Eastside churches, preschools, and libraries
3. Volunteer to read to kids at the library and People’s Community Clinic
4. If you know any struggling families or single moms with preschoolers and toddlers, offer to help the mom once in a while to give her more energy to read to her kids
5. Read to your kids.We make it a special trip when we go to the bookstore or library. Sam thinks books are a treat. He insists on reading at least three every night. We act like he’s a hotshot when he reads a word by himself (Most recent scary reading moment: him reading “Google” in the top-left corner of my browser window, over my shoulder.) We read the comics to him.

You get the idea. We’re not the best parents in the world, these are just the tricks that we use.

One more suggestion: Turn off the TV (after the Olympics are over). There’s stuff we can do, people!

Sept 3:Tweet-Up hits Food Bank next!

Those same crazy folks who brought you the Tweet-up Blood Drive are now taking aim at the Capital Area Food Bank.

They’re calling it the HAM-Up Tweet-Up, which actually does mean something. Wait for it… September is Hunger Action Month… HAM… Tweet-up is a meeting of Twitter followers and followees… so HAM-Up Tweet-Up.

Okay, don’t try to explain the name to anyone who isn’t online 20 hours a day, just tell them to mark their calendars for September 3 when something special will happen. The organizers are still working on what, exactly, but you know it’s gonna be good.

Sept 6: An irresistable bingo/shopping combo

Actual Domain PlayBingo shoppers in silhouette

Actual Domain PlayBingo shoppers in silhouette

You’d think from my post about Macy’s Shop for a Cause a few weeks ago I would be turned off by such events, and yet… I can’t stop posting about the shopping/giving combos coming up.

And here’s the latest: Buy a $25 bingo card – or, heck, by a few of them – and take it over to the Domain the Satuday after labor day weekend. Go from store to store getting your card marked (and maybe doing a little shopping, of course), then turn your blacked-out card in for a chance to win a $1500 Simon giftcard. Even if you don’t black out your card, you’re eligible to enter for a chance at a $500 Simon giftcard.

All proceeds from card sales go to the Center for Child Protection. (Great name. I don’t even have to tell you what they do, do I?)

The Domain PlayBingo Shopping Extravaganza
Saturday, September 6, 10 am to 6 pm
All proceeds benefit the Center for Child Protection
Buy bingo cards online now or at the event

Presented by Friends of Christopher Guild

Remember getting new sneakers?

Give $20 to Shoes for Austin and a disadvantaged child gets a brand new pair of sneakers? How cool is that?

When I was little, the first thing I wanted to do when I got new sneakers was run, run, run. Remember that feeling? I knew they were dorky and super-white, but they felt great.

That’s why Shoes for Austin is such a great cause. The charity gives brand-new, named brand athletic shoes to disadvantaged kids – about 8,000 in all – to motivate them to move. Every $20 donation means a new pair of sneakers for a deserving child.

Shoes for Austin

Shoes for Austin

Here are some ways to donate:

  • Give online
  • Give at any RunTex location
  • Eat at Guero’s this Wednesday, August 20
  • Stop by the booth at Blues On the Green, Wednesday, August 20
  • Eat at at Maria’s Taco Express, Friday, August 22
  • Go to the 2nd Annual Boots and Books Charity Concert with a live performance by the Band of Heathens. Scholz’s Garten, Thursday, August 21 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. $25 General Admission Ticket

OMG: Goodwill’s cool idea

I’m okay with used clothes. I had to share a wardrobe my whole life with two sisters, the three of us one year apart, so I’ve actually taken a shirt off someone else’s back and put it on mine. Did we ever fight about who was going to wear what? You’d be surprised… by my big sister’s natural left hook. I mean, the raw talent and brute force combo in that punch literally took my breath away.

So I’m cool with Goodwill shopping. I cruise the dusty racks often, especially since my two chitlins keep dipping in to my clothing allowance. I consider it a smart move.

But this Goodwill shopping event is borderline genius. First of all, they’re running this “Brand U” campaign to encourage people to “be creative and express themselves through clothing.” But as part of that campaign, they’re also running a sweepstakes. This from Andrea Ball’s column:

Everyone that registers between August 2-17 has the opportunity to win a $100 Goodwill shopping spree with a personal shopper/designer, hair cut/style/coloring, manicure/pedicure, a before and after photo shoot, and the chance to be a model in Goodwill’s next ‘Brand U’ shopping ad, courtesy of Salon Keriz’ma and Almost Impatient Productions.

I could do some damage with that $100, not to mention the needs of my gray hair and biscuit heels. Sign me up!

Just go to a Goodwill and sign up anytime between August 2 -17. Hey, look. I’ve got one right next door. Hmm. Lunchtime diversion.

HEM Jeans: Your old jeans = Help for SafePlace

Hem's Jeans for SafePlace event


I love when local businesses find a cool way to help local nonprofits.

I don’t know why it’s different from what Macy’s does… wait! Yes, I do!

It’s different because it’s local and because, again, Macy’s “Shop for a Cause” event is yucky.

Macy’s asks nonprofits to sell $5 shopping passes to customers that would give customers an extra 20% off on this one day in September. Usually, Macy’s runs 20%-off coupons in the paper (aka, buys an expensive newspaper ad), which are available to anyone who buys a paper for 50 cents. What “Shop for a Cause” does it put the burden on nonprofits to hawk their coupons (aka “$5 shopping pass”) – except nonprofits get to keep the $5. Gee, thanks.

Now if any local nonprofits do participate in this, I hope it goes really well for you. I know you need a variety of revenue streams to stay afloat these days, and I hope this works out to be one.

But then we get local Austin businesses like Hem Jeans, this super-cool denim store born and raised in Austin. From August 13 – 31, when you bring in a gently worn pair of jeans to Hem Jeans, they give the jeans to SafePlace and give you $40 off a new pair.

No special “shopping pass” needed, other than a pair of jeans that don’t fit you anyway. An Austin business giving to an Austin charity. Nice.