Thanksgiving at the Salvation Army

It has been our tradition at JB Goodwin Realtors for the last 22 years to volunteer serving Thanksgiving lunch at the Salvation Army, and this year for the first time I was honored to take part in it as a server.

Some of the JB Goodwin volunteers, with Major Kelley (center), head of the local Salvation Army

The  Salvation Army’s Downtown Austin shelter feeds and houses hundreds of folks in need every day.  In addition to that, at Thanksgiving they offer a sit-down holiday meal to their residents and to the homeless community at large, serving up some excellent home cooking from Chef Lynda Jones and her awesome kitchen staff.

Placemats were made by some of the residents

Seating was family-style at large round tables, which were dressed for the occasion with fall centerpieces and colorful placemats made by some of the shelter’s young residents.  Instead of standing in line for a plate, guests were waited on by a crew of volunteers, giving them a chance to take a load off and visit a little while enjoying some turkey, gravy, cornbread stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes (grown in a local community garden, these potatoes were the biggest I’ve ever seen — quite literally the size of a baby’s head!), roles and butter, cranberry sauce, and a wide variety of pies and cakes for dessert, plus all the sweet tea or punch a body could handle.

I think we served in excess of 600 meals and everyone was grateful for the feast.  I heard numerous compliments to the chef, and I have to say it all looked and smelled delicious!  I don’t think anybody went away hungry.

Chef Jones and helper with some of their amazing cooking

I truly enjoyed getting to serve and meet folks.  There were a few souls who didn’t seem up for a lot of conversation, which I can absolutely understand and respect, but most folks seemed to welcome a little chitchat along with their grub.  I was talking with one gal in particular who was sharing her concerns about her grown son, who has gotten into some trouble with the law but now seems to be on a good path.  Listening to her speak I had a few of those “there but for the grace of God” moments; I realized anew how blessed I am and how much I have to be thankful for in this life, but also how easily things can turn in the wrong direction.

This holiday season (or any time of year), if you’re looking for a place where your charitable donations will have the greatest impact, I’d like to make a plea for the Salvation Army.  You can donate your time, money or all kinds of stuff from their list of items they are in need of  and know that approximately 83% of the money they take in goes directly to benefit the  individuals and families they serve in Travis and Williamson counties, plus 100% of every dollar donated for disaster relief goes to help survivors and first responders.

Wishing y’all a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Race for the Cure

Our team, the Goodwin Gladiators made a great showing at the annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5k run today.  There were about 5,000 runners and walkers, and we won an award for having the second largest team (I think we ended up with something like 82 team members).  The weather was mostly cooperative, with really high humidity but good cloud cover and a gentle breeze to cool things off.  Energy was high and everyone seemed to be in a celebratory mood!  We had an absolute blast, and were able to do some good for a seriously good cause: raising awareness about breast cancer and getting the dollars to fight it.  Plus there was a live band, music, dancing, and more than one pink doggie!

Some of our team members
The starting line, and a little of the leftover morning fog
I ran (almost all of it) with my soul sister and our team captain, Indu
Dancing in the streets
Who doesn’t love a pink pug?
This seems like a weird spot for group photos, but at least SOMEBODY was into it!

It really was a joyous and fun event, and I look forward to doing this again next year!

Goodwin Gladiators

It’s Bats, Man!

Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na…

This has been an incredible last few days for witnessing awe-inspiring natural phenomena for your friendly neighborhood Realtor here.  Although Monday’s solar eclipse was both far bigger and way more rare an occurrence, Tuesday night I finally got to experience firsthand one of our local marvels — the emergence of Austin’s bat colony for their evening feeding!

Bats emerging from under the South Congress Bridge – August 22, 2017

For those unaware, Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America.  While we actually have several colonies around the Austin area, the most famous is the one living under the South Congress Bridge, and the best views are to be had on a bat cruise, which is how I got to experience it. (Shout outs to Premier Nationwide Lending and Capital Cruises for providing us a wonderful evening of tasty eats, adult beverages and amazing bat watching!)

Click here if you’d like to read a little more about our local bats and where and when to best see them; otherwise, I’ll just let the video below speak for itself.  (Note, you don’t really need sound for the video.  You’ll mostly hear a lot of Realtors and lenders exclaiming in awe — surprisingly, the bats themselves are pretty much silent!)

Amazing, no?  If you’re looking for a cool experience to share with visitors, or if you’re a local like me who has never done it before (WHY did I wait SO LONG?!) I can’t recommend an Austin bat boat tour highly enough!  It really is incredible.

 

What to do? What to Do?

I don’t want to hear anybody saying they’ve got nothing to do this weekend

Our Austin events calendar is usually pretty full — let’s face it: Austin is a VERY happenin’ city — but this weekend seems particularly packed with all kinds of cools goings-on.  Enough to warrant a post in my little blog, at least.

Presented without prejudice and in no particular order, here’s what’s going down this weekend in the ATX:

Eeyore’s Birthday — No, not exactly a kids’ event, though there’s a little something for everybody (and it’s decidedly Austin-weird).

Austin Bookstore Crawl — Celebrate Independent Bookstore Day in style!

Beast of the East Backyard BBQ Cook Off —   The name says it all.

Austin Food & Wine Festival — Food, wine, sunshine.*  What else do you need?  (*Okay, the sunshine might not happen.  Best two out of three.)

Annual Dragon Boat Festival & Races — A family-friendly event, with music and dance performances, martial arts demonstrations, Taiko Drums, Lion Dance and a Kids’ Zone with special activities for children.  All that, plus dragon boat races on Lady Bird Lake!

National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day — Barkworthie’s Chews Rescue program will be funding adoptions for all eligible dogs this weekend through Austin Pets Alive.

Jazz & Art on Main — This event in Cedar Park features arts & crafts, live music & tasty eats.

Vintage Market Days of Austin-Hill Country –  A vintage inspired open-air market in Dripping Springs featuring original art, antiques, clothing, jewelry, handmade treasures, seasonal plantings and more tasty eats.

Mommy, Daddy & Me Book Club — Featuring children’s book author Yolanda King, this book club encourages children to read with their parents.

The Grease & La La Land Double Feature Sing Along — Double feature movies, music & singing at the Blue Starlight Drive-In — what could be more fun than that?

Daniel Tosh — The star of Comedy Central’s Tosh.0 is appearing at the Frank Erwin Center.

Now, I don’t want to hear anybody saying they’ve got nothing to do this weekend!  Even if the weather is looking kinda iffy…  🙂

Have fun out there, y’all, and be safe!

 

Giving Back/Small Kindnesses

A lovely reminder that kindness is not lost

This past weekend I had the privilege of volunteering at the Austin Junior League’s Coats for Kids drive, which is an annual event designed to get warm coats to kids in need of them whose families can’t necessarily afford to buy them.  Traditionally, we don’t have a lot of cold weather here in Central Texas, but for the 6 weeks or so that we do, we really do!  We are all about weather extremes in our neck of the woods!

For years JB Goodwin Realtors (where I happily work) has been a big participant in this charity event, donating coats, time, and money.  And although I’ve donated coats in the past, this was the first year that I’ve also been part of the on-site crew helping families “shop” for coats.

It was a rewarding experience, as you might imagine.  It can be a lot of work: the coats are for ages 0 – 18, so there is an endless variety of sizes and styles to sort through.  But everybody is grateful: the parents are thrilled and the kids are so excited to be getting a new coat.  And it’s wonderful for the volunteers too.  It is honestly humbling to be part of an event where you can really connect with people, even for a short time.  I’ve been very blessed; it was a great feeling to be able to give back to those in the community less fortunate, as cliché as that might sound.

Of all the lovely, human moments throughout the day there was one in particular that stood out for me.  I had a Muslim family I was paired with to help search the racks for coats for their three boys.  The boys — aged 10, 11 and 13 — were very friendly and polite, but the oldest boy, Muhammad by name, I was especially taken with.  His manner was quite sweet, and he was outgoing and chatty.  He found a coat he liked in short order, then turned his attention to his brothers.  He was great with the two younger boys, offering fashion advice as well prompting them to search for sizes they wouldn’t grow out of too soon.  He was very mature for his age (though he did at one point put the middle brother in a playful headlock when the boy suggested he had stinky armpits, demonstrating he still also knew how to just be a 13-year old boy).

While the boys were trying on various coats, their mother happened to see a very nice long coat that looked to be her size.  She just sort of idly tried it on and it actually fit her beautifully.  She seemed almost surprised by how nice it looked on her.  She asked me if there was any way she could get the coat for herself and I unfortunately had to tell her no, as we could only give them the 3 coats they were allotted.  She was gracious and said of course she understood, but I couldn’t help but see that she was a bit disappointed.

Muhammad noticed as well.  So when he thought his mother was out of earshot he came up to me and asked if he could give back his coat so that she could keep the one she had tried on.  Before I could even answer — I was honestly gobsmacked for a moment — his mother, employing her preternaturally keen mom ears, immediately rushed over and said, “No, baby.  I won’t let you do that.  But thank you.”  In that moment her look said everything about how touched she was, and how proud of her boy.

Like his mother, I was also touched by the kind and selfless gesture of this young man.  It was a small thing, I guess, but also huge.  And for me it was a lovely reminder that kindness is not lost, and that the desire to give back and to make someone else’s day a little brighter (or a little warmer, in this case) isn’t just limited to those with the apparent means to do so.

 

 

Veterans Day

Our humble thanks

November 11 is the day we honor the US armed forces for their military service.  Considering that we currently have about 1.4 million active service members serving in the five branches of the military — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard — out of a population of around 324.9 million (at this writing), I am especially grateful to the very small fraction of people who are shouldering the burden of our national security.

So… to all our military members, active or retired, let me share my heartfelt thanks to you for all that you do, and all that you sacrifice. (Also, a shout out to the military family members who have experienced or continue to live with the unique burdens of carrying on a quasi-normal life while your loved ones are off doing their duty.  I know that ain’t easy.)  We owe you all a huge debt of gratitude.

A few things for veterans around Austin, in no particular order:

Veterans Day Deals & Freebies

Austin Veterans Day Parade

Veterans Day Giving Back Programs

Veterans Services in Travis County

Also, not in Austin but a really cool place to check out even if only online:   the Veterans Memorial in Anthem, Arizona.  It features 5 staggered-size pillars with ellipses (representing the 5 military branches) which, at precisely 11:11 am each Veterans Day, the sun’s rays will pass through “to form a perfect solar spotlight over a mosaic of The Great Seal of the United States.”  Cool, right?  It’s some amazing engineering, and quite lovely to behold!  You can watch a time lapse of it it here if you can’t get out to see it in person.

A final note, for any active or retired military who are considering buying a home and would like information on VA loans, please feel free contact me.  I work with an excellent team of folks at Premier Nationwide Lending; they are extremely knowledgeable and caring, and have programs designed for service personnel and their unique situations.  Together we’d love to work with you to get you and your family into a new home — or if nothing else, a chance to say thank you in person.

Happy Veterans Day!

thank-you-veterans