Lifestyle

These Austin Charities & Organizations Need Your Help in 2020

Growing fresh produce is just one way that Austin charities support the community. | Urban Roots
Growing fresh produce is just one way that Austin charities support the community. | Urban Roots

If one of your long-forgotten resolutions was to “volunteer more” or “give to charity,” then you’re in luck: We’ve rounded up more than two dozen excellent organizations in Austin who would benefit from your time and money. There’s a cause for everyone, and some of our locally based favorites are right here. If you want to take the easiest route possible, check these out too: Charity Charge, a credit card that pays 1% forward to your desired 501C3, and In Lieu, an app that lets you donate to an organization in lieu of giving a gift.

Encourage, inspire, and educate young women

This world can be hard to navigate, especially when you’re an adolescent girl. Girls Empowerment Network Austin teaches self-efficacy to young women, the belief in their own abilities. Via their conferences, workshops, and classes, they address everything from getting an A on an exam to breaking off an unhealthy relationship. You can contribute to the cause by volunteering to teach, funding a scholarship, or attending one of the many events that benefit GEN Austin.

Con Mi Madre focuses specifically on young Latinas and their mothers in a program designed to engage mothers in their daughters’ educational journey from sixth grade through college. Their program is multi-faceted, including relationships, academics, social and emotional education.

Pollyanna Theatre Company
Actresses get into character for a youth-oriented production. | Pollyanna Theatre Company

Create communities with vibrant art, theater, and dance

While social issues loom large, it’s crucial for communities to encourage personal expression through art, theater, and dance. Though their curriculums differ, organizations like Forklift Danceworks and Esquina Tango bring people together in creativity and dance, fostering values like equality, diversity, and connection. Then there's Pollyanna Theatre Company, a nonprofit that commissions and produces theater for young audiences to expose them to the arts and improve the academic foundation of at-risk kids.

Break the cycle of poverty through learning

In Travis County, 49% of children under the age of six are low-income. Both Todos Juntos and AVANCE serve low income families in Texas, intent on breaking the cycle of poverty; this includes core programs centered around parenting, ESL, nutrition, literacy, and familial relationships. This can also mean food and transportation services, and monthly home visits when they’re needed.

Nurture healthy communities through farm work and time in nature

Urban Roots provides young leaders with paid opportunities to grow food, learn new skills, and participate in farm fellowship; they reach over 16,000 people every year, and have grown 322,426 pounds of produce since 2008. Wholesome Generation is also focused on connecting youth to the world around them via outdoor learning, mindfulness programs, training, and research offered at their five-acre campus.

Service Dogs, Inc.
What did we do to deserve dogs? | Service Dogs, Inc.

Help save doggies and kitties (and rabbits, too)

We love Austin Pets Alive and the Austin Humane Society, but there are more pet rescues where those come from. Consider donating to Texas Humane Heroes: They rescue pets with a high risk of being euthanized from municipal shelters around the state. Service Dogs, Inc also rescues animals… but they train them to aid people with hearing loss or mobility challenges. Clients receive the training and the dogs free of charge, and Service Dogs, Inc has also teamed up with the Texas Juvenile Justice department to create a juvenile dog training program.

But what about those wascally wabbits, you ask? House Rabbit Resource Network facilitates rabbit rescues and adoptions, promotes rabbit advocacy, and helps educate people on rabbit care.

Support people with different abilities

The co-founder of Ruby’s Rainbow says of her daughter: “She came early, tiny and rockin’ an extra chromosome.” This delightful organization grants scholarships to adults with Down syndrome who are seeking post-secondary education, enrichment, or vocational classes. They also spread awareness of the awesomeness and capabilities of folks with Down syndrome.

Empowered Coffee also makes the leap into the working world, and though it’s not a nonprofit, it may as well be. This coffee shop is the very first of its kind in the US: It’s staffed entirely by adults with intellectual and physical differences. Stop in, get a cup of joe, and high-five their awesome team.

Chula League
Working on a watercolor painting together | Chula League

Preserve our East Austin heritage

East Austin is starting to look a lot like West Sixth Street -- which is alarming, to say the least. It's a good thing, then, that organizations like Chula League and Six Square are working to preserve the cultural legacy and well-being of East Austin. Chula produces events like the Cherrywood Art Fair and the arts-mentoring program Little Artist BIG ARTIST, as well as helping to preserve outdoor public spaces through art and design. Six Square celebrates the history and legacy of the African-American community through programming that focuses on cultural arts, education, and economics.

Show some love for our seniors

One of the most frustrating things about aging is loss of autonomy, especially as it pertains to driving. Drive a Senior matches volunteer drivers with seniors who need a way to get around. Until our public transportation catches up, many seniors rely on outside help (read: you!) for mobility. AGE of Central Texas also provides much-needed services for the oldest and wisest of our community; in addition to education and resources, they furnish early memory loss support, health equipment lending, and peer-based computer classes for seniors.

Support LGBT youth with Out Youth

Young people of all sexual orientations and gender identities can find support at Out Youth; for 28 years, they’ve provided counseling, transgender wellness, school-based services, and a myriad of programming for Austin’s LGBT community. Their Glitz Gala helps raise funds every year, and you can help by donating; they also participate heavily in advocacy.

TreeFolks
Planting trees with the Austin Community College. | TreeFolks

Plant trees, save our springs, and watch the rivers

We can all agree that trees are a good thing, and the impetus behind TreeFolks is simple: to build stronger communities through planting, growing, and caring for trees. Join their tree planting events, help support a reforestation project, or get a free tree at one of their giveaways.

For Austinites, Barton Springs feels like the beating heart of our city… so you’d think that it’s immune to development. Well, it’s not, and the the Save Our Springs alliance has worked hard for years to protect all offshoots of the Edwards Aquifer with a special emphasis on Barton Springs. Donate time, or money, or hacktivism.

Speaking of rivers, Austin Youth River Watch engages youth with the environment through education and adventure. Students collect, analyze, and publish water-quality data from Austin-area streams and rivers, learning to work for positive outcomes for themselves and the environment.

Support local food efforts

Sustainable Food Center and the Austin Food and Wine Alliance are two organizations that have had an incredible impact on Austin’s heightened awareness about food. SFC’s ultimate goal is a food-secure community, and to that end, they offer cooking classes, host the farm direct program, and manage the SFC farmers markets. Austin Food and Wine Alliance is a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering awareness and innovation in the Central Texas culinary community. They offer grants to local culinary innovators, produce a conference for aspiring high school students and host events year round; attend an event and donate to support AFWA.

Fresh Chefs Society
Cooking is a valuable skill. | Fresh Chefs Society

Be a friend to those in foster care

Austin’s thriving food scene is the perfect place for Fresh Chefs Society, an organization that connects local chefs -- both home cooks and professionals -- with young people in the foster care system who want to learn to live on their own. Volunteer to teach or donate.

Providing life-enhancing experiences is a lofty goal, but Foster Angels of Central Texas pulls it off. In addition to furnishing basic needs, the organization gives away homecoming dresses, trips to summer camps, shopping sprees, and Christmas gifts. Volunteer, buy items off their wishlist, or donate.

Help the children actually become our future

As adults, we incorporate volunteering in our lives. But teaching kids about volunteerism and engaging the early is what Generation Serve is all about. Through their programs, they encourage excellent habits, future leadership, and of course, future service. Bring your kiddos in for volunteering, be a family or corporate sponsor.

Getting kids moving is crucial for physical, mental, and emotional health; Marathon Kids helps young people unlock their potential, and adults discover their inner coach. Over 31,000 different kids at 81 AISD schools participate. Adults can assist by joining, starting, or supporting a Marathon Kids running club in their home, school, out-of-school time organization or camp.

Help the huddled masses yearning to breathe free

Immigrants need all the help they can get right now, and Casa Marianella is an amazing resource, providing shelter, food, and supportive services. They serve women and children, some escaping violence among with adult immigrants from over 40 countries; you can volunteer in several capacities, including driving people to legal and doctors appointments.

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Kelly Stocker is a contributor to Thrillist.