FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AUSTIN, TX – Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott, Honorary Chair of the 2019 Governor’s Volunteer Awards, and OneStar Foundation today announced the recipients of the 36th annual Governor’s Volunteer Awards. These awards honor the exemplary service of individuals, groups and organizations that have made a significant and measurable contribution to their communities through service and volunteering.
“Texans are generous by nature,” Mrs. Abbott said. “And I am so honored to celebrate the amazing generosity of these ten outstanding awardees. By selflessly giving of their hearts and hands, their time and treasure, they have helped to make the future of Texas even brighter.”
The awardees will be honored in the fall at an evening reception at the Texas Governor’s Mansion. The recipients of the 2019 Governor’s Volunteer Awards are:
Governor’s Lone Star Achievement Award | Sammy Nieto
In 1997, Sammy Nieto founded the Valero Juvenile Justice Mentor Program, which works directly with the courts to connect truant youth with Valero volunteers. Gang violence, abuse, teen pregnancy, and drugs define the lives of many of these students. Sammy knew in his heart that a caring adult could make all the difference. The program has grown in scope and impact under Nieto’s consistent leadership. Since its inception, thousands of at-risk youth have turned their lives around and found a more positive path to successful adulthood.
First Lady’s Rising Star Award | Kara Weld
17-year-old Kara Weld is a 2019 graduate of Northeast School of the Arts at Legacy of Educational Excellence High School in San Antonio and will be a freshman at Texas A&M University in the fall. Kara is known for her strength of character, her academic prowess, her talent in the arts, and her heart of service. Kara volunteers her time to many causes and is a passionate advocate against cyberbullying. During the 2017 Texas Legislative session, Kara worked tirelessly to make lawmakers aware of the issue. Due to her tenacity, David’s Law was passed and signed by Governor Greg Abbott, making cyberbullying a punishable crime.
Partners in Education Award | Reading with Barbers
The Reading with Barbers Initiative, established by Fort Worth ISD’s Equity and Excellence Division, along with local barbers, aims to help students ages 4-14 maintain and improve their reading skills in a safe and trusted community space — the local barbershop. Fort Worth ISD provides the books and bookshelves, while the barbers serve as role models and mentors for children. Reading begins once the children walk through the door and select a book, continuing through the haircut. Barbers are there to guide the reading process, engaging with their young clientele over content and comprehension. Reading with Barbers supports Fort Worth ISD’s elementary literacy initiative — called 100 X 25 FWTX – which sets a goal of 100% of third-graders reading on grade level or above by the year 2025. Superintendent Kent P. Scribner is partnering with Mayor Betsy Price and retired BNSF Executive Chairman Matt Rose to lead the community-wide Read Fort Worth initiative. This collective impact strategy engages parents, grandparents and caregivers as well as volunteers from the city’s business sector, higher education, non-profit organizations, and the faith-based community.
Service to Veterans Award | H.O.N.O.R Mentoring
H.O.N.O.R Mentoring is a program for justice-involved veterans within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. H.O.N.O.R Mentors are veterans who have successfully worked through their own traumatic issues arising from their time of service. The H.O.N.O.R Mentoring program teaches participants to use their educational and life skills to tutor other veteran and non-veteran inmates. They teach math and reading to GED students, English as a second language, college prep, and reentry classes. H.O.N.O.R Mentors are modeling the way for all of the inmates they serve, showing that they too can not only survive their trauma, but also learn to thrive.
Higher Education Community Impact Award – University | St. Mary’s University
St. Mary’s students engage in intentional relationships that reach far beyond the physical boundaries of their campus. Whether it’s hosting a summer camp for neighborhood children from low-income households, providing pro bono legal services to veterans at the VA Hospital, facilitating ID recovery and warrant-relief services for individuals experiencing homelessness, navigating resources and services for individuals with intellectual disabilities, providing free tax preparation, or assisting Texans recovering from disasters, St. Mary’s students are truly making a difference in San Antonio and beyond.
Higher Education Community Impact Award – Community College | Austin Community College
The Office of Student Life at ACC provides students with a wide variety of student leadership, campus engagement, and experiential learning opportunities. Each program incorporates an aspect of service to reinforce learning outcomes and to encourage students to begin a lifetime of volunteering. One example is the ACC Food Pantry and Resources Program. ACC Student Life established food pantries, operated by student volunteers, on all 11 ACC campuses. With the ACC Board of Trustees supporting the charge, the entire institution answered the call for non-perishable items to stock the pantries.
Corporate Community Impact Award | Noble Charities Foundation
Established in 2015, Noble Texas Builders is a recognized brand in South Texas. One of their core values is COMMUNITY. To facilitate giving back to the communities in which they work, Noble Texas Builders created Noble Charities Foundation, focusing primarily on improving education and health outcomes in the Rio Grande Valley. Their mission statement is: “Inspire Hope, Improve Lives & Strengthen the Communities We Live In.” Examples include scholarships for students enrolled in Construction and Public Safety Programs at South Texas College, child care renovation projects for Easter Seals Rio Grande Valley, and the renovation of La Esperanza Park into an all-inclusive playground where both disabled and able-bodied children can play.
Community Leadership Award | Dr. John Fink
Dr. John Fink, a retired physician from Medina County, has been instrumental in engaging members of the community in numerous projects over the years, including Texas Ramps Project, Blessings in a Backpack, Medina County Food Pantry, Feast of Sharing, and Hondo Helping Hands. John also serves as president of the board of the Medina County Food Pantry. When notified that the regional Food Bank would no longer be able to partner with them due to the poor condition of their building, Dr. Fink found funding for a new facility. John’s selfless service is an inspiration to all.
AmeriCorps “Make a Difference” Award – VISTA | Katie Blair
As an AmeriCorps VISTA, Katie Blair works at Network of Community Ministries in Richardson. Katie took the lead in a large-scale project that has changed service delivery in Network’s Food Pantry and Clothing Closet. Clients are issued a Network debit card and allotted “Network Cash” to shop in either the Food Pantry or Clothing Closet. A complete remodeling and restructuring of the Food Pantry was required to make the area more “retail friendly.” To ensure the successful implementation of these new programs, Katie oversaw the training of over 200 volunteers!
AmeriCorps “Make a Difference” Award – Senior Corps | Douglas Brown
Douglas Brown has been an active volunteer with the RSVP Senior Corps Program in Denton County since 2003. A World War II veteran, Mr. Brown taught himself how to use, refurbish, and repair computers. Although Mr. Brown volunteers for many causes, his passion is repairing and donating computers at no cost to veterans. He also connects veterans to resume writing and job search skills, helping them translate their military service into skills suitable for civilian employment. Douglas brings at least three computers with him each Friday to give to the veterans with whom he works. At age 93, Douglas has donated over 1,000 computers.
OneStar Foundation was created to support the State of Texas by strengthening the nonprofit sector, encouraging civic engagement through service and volunteering, promoting innovative strategies to address local issues, and facilitating public-private partnerships to expand the reach of the sector. OneStar Foundation is the Governor-designated National Service Commission in Texas and administers the AmeriCorps State grant program. OneStar is also home to Texas’ Faith-Based and Community Initiative. OneStar Foundation connects partners and resources to build a stronger nonprofit sector in Texas. Learn more at onestarfoundation.org.
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