Sunday, October 26, 2014

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GIVING BACK

Every community has unsung heroes who dedicate their spare time to helping and improving the way of life for others. Giving Back is a segment that uncovers dynamic individuals in our community, giving them the recognition they deserve. Each week, TWC News' Jess Mitchel tells a new story of giving.





10/22/2014 08:05 AM Posted By: Jess Mitchell
TWC News: March of Dimes Volunteer Dedicates 10 Years to Organization
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Austin is fortunate to have some incredibly dedicated volunteers in the area, some of whom have dedicated years of service to a particular organization.

Nancy Sheppard is a prime example. She's been a volunteer with the March of Dimes for the last 10 years.

"This is ... one of the organizations in Austin that work with pregnant and newly parenting families which has always been a passion of mine," Sheppard said. "I think it's so important that we work with these families early on."

Sheppard says over the last decade, she's done pretty much everything — from presentations to helping with the walks and awareness — with the organization, something for which she is grateful.

"To be able to volunteer with an organization that is so aligned with what I care so much about means everything," Sheppard said. "You see these healthy families and these healthy babies — it's pretty much instantaneous gratification there."


10/15/2014 08:50 AM Posted By: Jess Mitchell
TWC News: Hospice Austin Volunteer: 'We're Not Given a Handbook on Living'
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Grieving the loss of a loved one is extremely difficult, but Hospice Austin is there to help.

"Hospice Austin helps that loved one who's passing away on that last journey to die well," Hospice Austin volunteer Sharon Edwards said. "That's why Hospice Austin is so special to me, because they help that person feel loved, feel secure; they can have peace."

That cause drove Edwards to help out. She started volunteering with Hospice Austin after her husband died.

"I learned that there's no way around it, over it or under it; you just have to go through it," she said.

And she wants to help others through the process. Edwards has dedicated 11 years to fundraising for Hospice Austin.

"We're not given a handbook on living, nor are we given a handbook or taught how to die," she said. "That's the great thing about hospice; they can get as close to that dying part of it as anybody can."


10/08/2014 07:13 AM Posted By: Jess Mitchell
TWC News: Volunteer has Personal Connection to Down Syndrome Association
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There are many ways in which people in the community choose to help out, whether it be by cleaning the environment, helping the elderly or taking care of children.

Kristin Cox volunteers with the Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas.

"I like that it's a family and a community, and it's not about the disability," she said. "It's more about what we can do and what we can give back to our community and other families like ours."

Cox got involved in the organization because of a personal connection to it. She has a daughter with Down syndrome.

"[The Down Syndrome Association] reached out to us when she was little and gave us an opportunity to meet other families like ours and get involved in play dates and play groups and other activities," Cox said.

And as much as Cox gets from being part of the group, it's helping others. That's truly rewarding for her.

"It's given us an opportunity to reach out to other families who may not have known that there's outreach and support groups for us," Cox said. "We've made lifelong friends and also gotten to involve our family more in the community."

The Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas is hosting a Buddy Walk on Oct. 19. You can sign up and find out more information at the Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas' website, DSACT.org.


10/01/2014 08:10 AM Posted By: Jess Mitchell
TWC News: Mother, Former Teacher Volunteers at Texas School for the Deaf
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In a Texas School for the Deaf classroom, second graders are learning about measurements from a former teacher and mother.

"I took a break from teaching to raise my children, but I really miss it," volunteer Donna Valverde said. "I miss the interaction with students, chatting with them, and so I really love doing that — the chatting, the teasing, forming those relationships."

Valverde volunteers in her son's classroom. She walked the same Texas School for the Deaf halls years ago.

"It just feels like home I guess," she said. "It's my second home, in and out of here. Home away from home."

Some volunteers are tied to that home as parents or former students, but most are local college kids studying deaf education.

"Giving back means being committed, supporting a school and also being able to enhance their programs here," Valverde said. "Whenever we volunteer, we give back, we see programs grow, we see children grow, we see relationships building."

More than 500 students attend the Texas School for the Deaf.


09/10/2014 10:57 AM Posted By: Jess Mitchell
TWC News: AmeriCorps Volunteer Sees Service as a Lifestyle
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Sonja Ringlever is on her third year as an AmeriCorps volunteer. She serves as the Communities in Schools representative at Burnet Middle School, which gave her a 20-kid case load right away.

But she doesn’t mind.

"I really love direct service. I really love children and families and I love working in communities," Ringlever said. "They treat their volunteers very well and treat them like they're part of the organization."

Students spend about an hour week with volunteers like Ringlever.

"The best part is seeing them succeed, sometimes it can be pretty slow,” she said. “That's why we work with them throughout the year--but just seeing them succeed just as far as their behavioral goals, or their academic goals."

AmeriCorps volunteers work 40 to 50 hours a week. OneStar Foundation operates the Texas program, and pays AmeriCorps volunteers get $12,000 for living expenses.

"In Texas, every year, we have about 4,500 AmeriCorps members through a number of different organizations take the pledge,” Elizabeth Darling with the OneStar Foundation said. "It helps them during that time in which they are giving of themselves in full time service."

Service as a lifestyle is how some choose to give back.

"As I've gotten older I've realized there is this level of civic duty to help others and things don't get done unless people join the pack and try to make a difference," Ringlever said.

If you would like to nominate someone for giving back, fill out the form at the bottom of this page.


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If you'd like to nominate someone to be featured in a TWCN Giving Back segment, send an email describing their qualifications and fill out this form:
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