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

Bragging Rights

“It’s not bragging if you can back it up.” — Muhammad Ali

I know I’ve mentioned more than once how much I love the company I work for — JB Goodwin Realtors — and just how AWESOME we are.

And I also do recall learning, from about kindergarten on, that it’s not good manners to brag.  Which is technically true, but in the immortal words of Muhammad Ali:  “It ain’t bragging if you can back it up!”

While the Austin real estate market has slowed down a little recently, industry-wide we are still up 4% year-to-date in units sold from this time last year.  Which is not bad at all… until you learn that JB Goodwin agents are actually up 9%!

Whaaaat?!

Yep, it’s true.  We have increased more than twice what our counterparts have done so far in 2017.  Which makes us WINNERS.  Winner winner chicken dinner even! (Because I’m actually 8 years old.) 🙂  JB Goodwin agents are out there KILLING IT on a daily basis!

Another notable bragging point for JB Goodwin Realtors: the Austin Business Journal has released their 2017 list of nominees for Austin’s Best Places to Work — which we WON last year, because of our AWESOMENESS!! — and we are AGAIN in the running for the top spot!  (The winners will be announced June 23rd, so expect me to circle back around on this.)

Also, check out our Google Reviews.  Not for nothing, but we’ve got a 4.9 star rating — out of 5!  So much awesome.

Alright, lest Mrs. Godfrey be tempted to return from the grave and smack my knuckles with her lightning-fast ruler for my boastful nature (as she was wont to do during my second grade year) I’ll button that up now and close with my second favorite Muhammad Ali quote:

“If you even DREAM of beating me, you’d better wake up and apologize!”

That has NOTHING to do with this post, I am just really tickled by that quote.

Cheers, y’all! 🙂

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.