Across Texas, there are countless examples of how volunteering can transform lives and communities. The Governor’s Volunteer Awards shine a spotlight on these inspiring stories and offer statewide recognition to the diverse ways that Texans are giving back with their time and talents. This annual volunteer recognition program, administered by OneStar, culminates in a special ceremony at the Texas Governor’s Mansion hosted by the First Lady of Texas, Honorary Chair of the Governor’s Volunteer Awards.
Nominations for the 40th Annual Governor’s Volunteer Awards are now closed. Award recipients will be announced in January 2024.
OneStar is pleased to celebrate the incredible work of the 39th Annual Governor's Volunteer Award recipients.
Governor's Lifetime Volunteer Achievement Award
Governor's Lifetime Volunteer Achievement Award
Governor's Lifetime Volunteer Achievement Award
First Lady’s Youth Volunteer Rising Star Award
First Lady’s Youth Volunteer Rising Star Award
Volunteer of the Year Award
Volunteer of the Year Award
Volunteer Family of the Year Award
Corporate Volunteering Champion Award
Innovation in Volunteerism Award
Innovation in Volunteerism Award
Excellence in Disaster Volunteerism Award
Excellence in Disaster Volunteerism Award
National Service “Make a Difference” Award
This award recognizes individuals who have made significant and sustained contributions that positively impact their community. This nominee:
This award recognizes young people under age 21, that go above and beyond to serve and support their community while also inspiring others through their actions. This nominee must:
This award recognizes individuals who go the extra mile in their work by providing exceptional leadership and dedication to address community challenges while inspiring others to serve. This award recognizes:
This award recognizes true champions of service and role models for family volunteerism in their community. This award recognizes families that:
This award recognizes corporations and small businesses that actively engage employees in serving their community by centering volunteerism as a core value in their business strategy. A Corporate Champion:
This award celebrates groups and/or community organizations that lead the way in advocating for civic engagement by mobilizing people to serve and make a difference in their community. A Community Champion:
This award recognizes those who go above and beyond to develop the next generation of civic-minded, socially engaged volunteers. This award recognizes an educator or educational institution that utilizes service and volunteering as a key component of their school curriculum. The Education Champion nominee:
This award recognizes organizations (faith and community-based organizations, VOADs, LTRGs), cities, and counties that do an exceptional job of utilizing volunteers to meet the needs of Texas communities during all phases of disaster – mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. The nominee:
This award recognizes the exemplary achievements of AmeriCorps alumni (AmeriCorps State and National, NCCC, VISTA, AmeriCorps Seniors) who went above and beyond the scope of their service requirements in addressing the nation’s most pressing challenges and continue to model that spirit of service while inspiring others to follow them and make a meaningful impact on Texas communities. The nominee:
Each year, OneStar recognizes standout service and volunteerism efforts across a number of awards categories that recognize the diverse ways Texans are serving their communities. Learn more about our past award recipients and view photos from the Governor’s Volunteer Awards ceremonies!
|Governor’s Lifetime Volunteer Achievement||Harriet Marmon Helmle (San Antonio)|
Mindy Gross (Fort Bend)
Rose Wilson (Lubbock)
|First Lady’s Rising Star Youth Volunteer||Catherine Bai (Houston)|
Vedha Vaddaraju (Dallas)
|Volunteer of the Year||Elizabeth Watkins (Frisco)|
Dr. Gary Beach (Austin)
|Volunteer Family of the Year||Diana & Glen Egley (New Danville)|
|Corporate Volunteering Champion||LGI Homes (Fort Bend, Harris & Montgomery Counties)|
|Innovation in Volunteerism||Midland High School Football (Midland)|
Unite & Inspire (Houston)
|Excellence in Disaster Volunteerism||Coastal Bend Disaster Recovery Group (Houston)|
Texas Search and Rescue (Statewide)
|National Service “Make a Difference”||Samiksha Deme (Houston)|
|Governor’s Lifetime Volunteer Achievement||Chuck & Gena Norris (Navasota)|
Cindy Brinker Simmons (Dallas/Fort Worth)
Betty Ann Taylor (Houston)
|First Lady’s Rising Star Youth Volunteer||Hannah Guan (San Antonio)|
|Volunteer of the Year||Madan G. Luthra (Houston)|
|Volunteer Family of the Year||Linda & Richard Zoll (Houston)|
|Corporate Volunteering Champion||Diamondback Energy, Inc. (Midland/Permian Basin)|
|Service-Learning Champion||The Edinburg High School Chapter of the National Honor Society (Edinburg)|
|Innovation in Volunteerism||Hookset Brothers Combat Recovery 501c3 (Bullard)|
|Excellence in Disaster Volunteerism||Somebody Cares America (Houston)|
|National Service “Make a Difference”||Nuria A. Diallo Padro (San Antonio)|
|Governor’s Lone Star Achievement||Bill Gilliland (Abilene)|
|First Lady’s Rising Star||Annie Zhu & Shirley Zhu (Houston)|
The Three Mask-eteers (Houston)
|Partners in Education||The Women’s Fund (Houston)|
|Service to Veterans||Brandy Baxter (Dallas-Fort Worth)|
Carry The Load (Northeast Texas)
|Community Leadership||Blake Jennings (College Station)|
Crime Stoppers of Houston (Houston)
AmeriCorps Central Texas (Central Texas)
|Corporate Community Impact||Texas Mutual (Central Texas & statewide)|
|Higher Education Community Impact||Rebuild Texas Carpentry Skills Training Program at Del Mar College (Coastal Bend)|
|National Service “Make a Difference”||Samantha Mariel Sandoval Hernández (Manor)|
|Governor’s Lone Star Achievement Award||Sammy Nieto (San Antonio)|
|First Lady’s Rising Star||Kara Weld (San Antonio)|
|Partners in Education||Reading with Barbers (Fort Worth)|
|Service to Veterans||H.O.N.O.R. Mentoring (Lovelady)|
|Community Leadership||Dr. John Fink (Hondo)|
|Corporate Community Impact||Noble Charities Foundation (La Feria, New Braunfels)|
|Higher Education Community Impact||St. Mary’s University Office of Community Engagement, Center for Legal and Social Justice and Office of University Ministry (San Antonio)|
Austin Community College Student Life, Food Pantry & Resources Program (Austin)
|National Service “Make a Difference”||Douglas Brown (Denton)|
Katie Blair (Richardson)
|Governor’s Lone Star Achievement||John Poston (Waxahachie)|
|First Lady’s Rising Star||ZeeShawn Wani (Houston)|
|Partners in Education||Fidelity Investments (Dallas-Fort Worth)|
|Service to Veterans||United Way of San Antonio & Bexar County’s MISSION UNITED (San Antonio)|
|Community Leadership||Katie Bourgeois (Austin)|
Rust Street Ministries (San Angelo)
Marissa Vogel (Austin)
|Corporate Community Impact||TeamCITGO (Houston, Corpus Christi)|
|Higher Education Community Impact||The University of Texas at El Paso (El Paso)|
|National Service “Make a Difference”||Ron & Linda Aten (Abilene)|
Sara Lamog (San Angelo)
David Porter, IV (Austin)
|Governor’s Lone Star Achievement||David Godwin (Houston)|
|First Lady’s Rising Star||Micah Pinson (Shady Shores)|
|Partners in Education||Fort Bend Education Foundation (Sugar Land)|
|Service to Veterans||Tony Smith (Copperas Cove)|
|Community Leadership||Haven for Hope (San Antonio)|
|Corporate Community Impact||USAA (San Antonio)|
Granite Properties, Inc. (Houston, Dallas)
|Higher Education Community Impact||University of Houston SURE™ Program (Houston)|
|National Service “Make a Difference”||Erin Moody (Lockhart)|
Shelby Thomas (Houston)
Arlen & Mary ‘Beth Lohse (San Angelo)
|Governor’s Lone Star Achievement||Dennis Cavner (Austin)|
|First Lady’s Rising Star||Taylor Thompson (Austin)|
|Partners in Education||Literacy First (Austin)|
|Service to Veterans||LaTronda Humphries, Healing Our Heroes Project (Pflugerville)|
|Community Leadership||Medical Center of the Americas Foundation (El Paso)|
Spring Branch Family Development Center (Spring Branch)
Bastrop County Long Term Recovery Team (Bastrop)
|Corporate Community Impact||Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, Blue Corps® (Statewide)|
Carmelo’s Ristorante Italiano (Houston, Austin)
|Higher Education Community Impact||Texas Christian University Office for Community Engagement (Fort Worth)|
|National Service “Make a Difference”||Brenda Gormley (Denton)|
|Governor’s Lone Star Achievement||Will Williams (Round Rock)|
|First Lady’s Rising Star||Cullen Corr (Dallas)|
|Partners in Education||Teach for America – Rio Grande Valley (Rio Grande Valley)|
|Service to Veterans||Military Veteran Peer Network of Houston (Houston)|
|Community Leadership||Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas (El Paso)|
|Corporate Community Impact||ExxonMobil Pro Bono Program (Houston)|
|Higher Education Community Impact||Texas A&M University, The Big Event (College Station)|
|Senior Corps Community Impact||Ed Boyer (Dallas and Collin Counties)|
|National Service “Make a Difference”||JoAnn Gama (Weslaco)|
|Governor’s Lone Star Achievement||Daniel McClellan (Austin)|
|First Lady’s Rising Star||Sarah Young (Pflugerville)|
|Community Leadership||Food on the Move (Dallas)|
|Senior Corps Community Impact||Lew Burnett (San Angelo)|
|VISTA Capacity Building||Annalisa Ring Siegle (Euless)|
|AmeriCorps State-National “Getting Things Done”||Nicole Gabler (Schulenburg)|
|Governor’s Lifetime Volunteer Achievement||Name (City)|
|First Lady’s Rising Star Youth Volunteer||Name (City)|
|Volunteer of the Year||Name (City)|
|Volunteer Family of the Year||Name (City)|
|Corporate Volunteering Champion||Name (City)|
|Service-Learning Champion||Name (City)|
|Innovation in Volunteerism||Name (City)|
|Excellence in Disaster Volunteerism||Name (City)|
|National Service “Make a Difference”||Name (City)|
Cullen Corr began volunteering at age 13 as an after school tutor for underprivileged kids at Family Gateway in Dallas. He soon went on to found a Texas nonprofit called Kids Helping Kids (KHK), which today is powered by student leaders from eleven Dallas area high schools. Hundreds of KHK volunteers affect the lives of thousands of at-risk and homeless children in Dallas by providing school supplies, books, tutoring, and raising funds to benefit youth and children in need.
As an AmeriCorps member with Communities In Schools of San Antonio, Nuria A. Diallo Padro was innovative in the programming and outreach she provided to empower middle school students to excel academically, grow in their social-emotional learning, and explore future aspirations. Through a combination of trusting relationships and strategic execution, Nuria was able to effectively respond to the needs of families during the COVID-19 pandemic and Winter Storm Uri. In the midst of disaster, Nuria worked systematically to compile and share resources and outreach to disproportionately affected families. Responding to the urgent need for sustained food assistance, Nuria raised emergency funds to deliver grocery gift cards, and she partnered with the San Antonio Food Bank and the local school district to host a Mobile Food Pantry at her campus. As an AmeriCorps VISTA alumnus, Nuria used the skills from her VISTA experience to promote a food distribution event that engaged local community pantries and provided food support to 450 families.
Cindy Brinker Simmons has devoted her life to uplifting the lives of pediatric cancer patients throughout Texas and supporting those battling illness, hopelessness, or isolation fostered by this disease. Since Cindy established Wipe Out Kids’ Cancer (WOKC) in 1980, it has grown to be one of Dallas’ largest pediatric cancer organizations, providing critical seed money for childhood cancer research, supplying comfort items to young cancer patients during hospital stays, and offering year-round social events and programs designed to encourage these brave heroes and their families. She has proven to be a powerhouse fundraiser while also personally engaging with young “WOKC Warriors” and their resilient families battling pediatric cancer.
For 24 years, Betty Ann Taylor has run the Year-Round Manna Ministry, a program of Chapelwood United Methodist Church that builds a bridge of hope for families in crisis in the Houston community. What started as a Christmas giving campaign has evolved under her leadership to provide basic necessities—rent, utilities, food, and clothing—to more than 3,600 families. By working with the Spring Branch Independent School District and Communities in Schools social workers on school campuses, Betty Ann has created a sustainable system for serving the most vulnerable families in the community, even throughout the past pandemic year.
At age 11, Hannah Guan founded San Antonio Math Include (SaMi) to offer greater access to STEM education to all students from different backgrounds, experiences, and cultural perspectives. In four years, Hannah has grown SaMi into an international network connecting more than 36,000 students to tutors, principals, counselors, teachers, and after-school program coordinators in hundreds of schools across the world. SaMi offers free classes, develops curriculum, and awards scholarships to close the digital divide for students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Through partnerships with the United Nations Major Group of Children & Youth and the Global Youth Constituency for Quality Education, SaMi’s online curriculum programs are accessible to more than 300,000 students around the world. As a leading member of the Texas Student Bill Demands and vice-chair of San Antonio Youth Commission, Hannah leads the AI Closing the Digital Divide Move to introduce artificial intelligence and provide training to teachers in all high schools in San Antonio.
Since COVID-19 hit the Houston community, Madan G. Luthra has volunteered more than 30 hours a week to support families in distress through Sewa International’s Family Services program. In addition to answering calls on the nonprofit’s helpline and connecting families to groceries, supplies, funeral arrangements, and other social services, Madan actively volunteers with local food and COVID-19 vaccination drives organized in collaboration with local faith-based and community organizations. As a retired research scientist, Madan has spearheaded the creation of a donor registry website that connects plasma donors with COVID-19 patients undergoing convalescent plasma therapy. Madan was honored by the Hindus of Greater Houston with the 2020 Akhil Chopra Unsung Heroes Award and was featured for his efforts in Houston Chronicle’s “Heroes of the Front Line” series and in Alumni Magazine of University of Leeds UK, where he received his doctorate education.
Richard and Linda have served with SEARCH Homeless Services for over 20 years — from preparing and serving meals to essentially adopting one of the sites at which SEARCH’s clients reside. Every month, the Zolls visit the Temenos apartments to create connections and celebrate milestones with those making the emotional transition from homelessness to housing. They host BINGO games with birthday celebrations and lead field trips, allowing residents to integrate more fully into the community. They also verified and assisted with voter registration for all 115 residents at Temenos.
The Edinburg High School Chapter of the National Honor Society has been a major asset in helping the South Texas Literacy Coalition with community outreach. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the group was instrumental in setting up and preparing for drive-by distributions and handed out more than 10,000 free books to students whose families are financially challenged. In addition, they have developed literacy activities, presented bilingual online book readings, and are presently hosting a virtual book club with the goal of helping students develop a love for reading and writing. Many of the members also serve with South Texas Literacy Coalition as interns, helping to manage the office and organize literacy resources. In addition to these efforts, the members of the Edinburg Chapter of the National Honor Society assist other nonprofits in the South Texas Region, including the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley, Ronald McDonald House, Greater Gold Foundation, Capable Kids Foundation, and Kiwanis International.
Hookset Brothers Combat Recovery 501c3 provides free hunting and fishing trips to aid veterans recovering from combat-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Founded by wounded soldiers from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this small East Texas nonprofit engages volunteers to support more than 100 combat veterans and their families each year. In addition to reaffirming the outdoors to veterans who are struggling with PTSD or suicidal thoughts, the organization provides Gold Star Families with hunting and fishing excursions while serving as male role models to help youths heal during their time of need. Beyond the outdoor programs, Hookset Brothers Combat Recovery has raised funds for funerals of fallen servicemen and women and host holiday celebrations for military families. They also volunteer as boat captains for high school fishing teams and as youth sports coaches within their community.
Diamondback Energy, Inc. understands the importance of building a culture of giving back and has channeled this into support for local public schools. With the Permian Basin’s growing population of English as a Second Language learners, the company encourages employees as well as other local groups to get involved and has implemented literacy and STEM programs at school campuses and other youth nonprofits. In addition, Diamondback Energy leaders and employees are encouraged to actively serve on boards that support the work of educating students, providing adequate facilities, technology, and safety for public schools, and building up the local workforce. In addition to their support of education, the Diamondback Energy team also assists local nonprofit Keep Midland Beautiful with efforts to keep the city growing and green. Since the start of 2020, the company has contributed about 430 hours of service and over $5.2 million dollars to the Permian Basin community.
During times of disaster, Somebody Cares America (SCA) mobilizes local churches and partner organizations to serve communities by providing financial and material resources along with training, manpower, leadership, and expertise. As a result, churches and their members become a volunteer army equipped to meet the needs of their neighborhoods. In every region of Texas and following every major disaster, SCA partner volunteers have distributed meals, supplies, and resources and assisted survivors with property repair and clean-up. Following Winter Storm Uri, SCA distributed plumbing supplies to address problems created by the freezing cold and provided nearly $100,000 in community grants and individual assistance to those impacted. In response to COVID-19, SCA supplied thousands of N-95 masks to first responders, medical professionals, and others throughout Texas. In the greater Houston area alone, SCA gave out $280,000 in funding as well as valuable in-kind gifts through dozens of partner churches and ministries to assist with hardships caused by the pandemic.
Samiksha Deme joined Sewa International’s Disaster Preparedness Group as an AmeriCorps Outreach Specialist. With her educational knowledge and skillset in environmental science, Sami is transforming critically needed disaster preparedness training for underserved and often marginalized communities. Sami’s preparedness trainings are centered on environmental justice, healthcare equity, and the crossroads between natural and human-made disasters. Sami also takes on volunteer projects outside her service responsibilities—from vaccine clinics to clothing drives for Afghan refugees to personal essentials for the homeless.
Twin sisters Annie Zhu & Shirley Zhu (17) take decisive action when they see a need in their community. To tackle the issue of food insecurity in Houston, they launched Project Fresh Hub, a student-led volunteer service initiative dedicated to providing under-served communities with rescued food. From April 2018 to October 2020, the two young women led 18 food distribution events, rescuing 11,800 pounds of unsold fresh produce and bread from grocery stores and delivering them to 1,550 residents in food deserts. Upon learning about budget cuts in their school district, Annie and Shirley also started summer math camps and workshops in 2019 that helped more than 90 fourth- through sixth-graders prepare for their standardized tests.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Amar Sehgal (17), Karthik Bhagavatula (15), and Praneel Bhagavatula (13)— known as “The Three Mask-eteers”—banded together to apply their ingenuity and community spirit toward designing and producing high-quality, long-use masks that have prevented Houstonians and other Texans from falling prey to the deadly virus. The team spent weeks researching and developing a reusable 3-D printed mask prototype with disposable filters, then collaborated with Environmental Officers at local hospitals to further refine the mask design. Over the course of five months, more than 200 masks and 2,000 filters have been distributed at no cost to vulnerable populations across the state, including healthcare workers and first responders.
The Women’s Fund understands that “good health promotes education, and education promotes good health.” For more than 40 years, The Women’s Fund has provided creative and effective health education programs for at-risk adolescent girls in the Greater Houston community. Their programs engage well-trained volunteers to serve as mentors and facilitators at campuses and community centers across the Houston area, and the organization collaborates closely with health professionals and teen groups to produce up-to-date, research-based curriculum. The Women’s Fund serves more than 12,000 girls annually.
Air Force veteran Brandy Baxter has collaborated with nearly every veterans organization in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to increase awareness about the unique needs of women veterans. She uses her professional experience in personal finance to host webinars and workshops for women veterans who may need assistance in managing their household income, and she has been a voice for women veterans as a frequent speaker on panels, podcasts, and advocacy and training events. Through her work with At Ease Texas, a non-profit for women veterans, by women veterans, Brandy was instrumental in bringing the Women Veteran Network program to Dallas and has created many networking opportunities for women veterans who want to connect with each other.
Three years after enduring the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, Del Mar College remains invested in the long-term recovery of Texas with its innovative Rebuild Texas Carpentry Skills Training Program, which launched the summer of 2019. This unique 10-week program was created to address the Coastal Bend region’s immense housing loss and growing unemployment numbers with a practical and versatile solution rooted in community service. The coursework combines traditional classroom instruction with hands-on experience in construction and carpentry: participants engage in a service learning project using the essential skills they learn to build a tiny home that is donated to a local school or church.
On a mission to build a stronger, safer Texas, Texas Mutual has a culture of service spurred by team members who are dedicated to making our state a better place to live and work. In 2019, 473 Texas Mutual employees volunteered an impressive 5,300 hours for 103 nonprofit organizations across the state. The depth of Texas Mutual’s engagement can be seen in their longstanding partnership with the Central Texas Food Bank. In addition to providing nearly 550 hours of volunteer support to the organization, they also used their business expertise to revamp pantry distribution logistics and operations to better serve families in need.
Pastor Blake Jennings noticed a need in 2015 when multiple single mothers in his College Station congregation came to him with vehicle problems. Blake and his wife Julie created a nonprofit called OnRamp that provides reliable transportation to people in need, setting them on the path to self-sufficiency and enabling them to better care for their families. OnRamp’s impact has been substantial, donating 51 vehicles to date, and repairing approximately 30 more. OnRamp actively engages volunteers in both vehicle repair and client care and partners with more than two dozen local businesses and charitable organizations.
AmeriCorps Central Texas (formerly ServeAustin Collaborative) is a collaboration of nine organizations that offer a wide range of opportunities to create a better future for everyone in Central Texas through paid AmeriCorps service. Together, the organizations engage 500+ AmeriCorps members annually in providing direct services to youth and adults living in low-income communities across the region. Because completing a service year can be a life-changing experience that builds skills, expands networks, and creates pathways to higher education and employment, ACT is working to build a more local, more diverse service corps whose members will shape their own futures while strengthening their local community.
Samantha Mariel Sandoval Hernández has served as an advisor to Manor New Technology High School juniors and seniors for the past two years as an AmeriCorps member with College Forward, which pairs recent college graduates with students to empower them to achieve their post-secondary goals. During the 2019 school year, she served a caseload of 16 seniors and 17 juniors in the College Forward program. All 16 seniors completed the FAFSA or TASFA compared to a national average of 60%. In addition to managing her required caseload, Coach Sam provided individualized support and guidance to many additional New Tech students—100% of graduating seniors and 75% of juniors—introducing them to the college application process and discussing post-secondary plans.
Crime Stoppers of Houston is leading Texas and the U.S. with innovative crime prevention programming to keep our communities safe. Established in the early 1980’s as solely a Tip Line Program, Crime Stoppers remains committed to its mission to solve and prevent all crimes and now offers a robust public safety program that is reaching millions each year through its Safe School Institute, Safe Community Program, and victim services and advocacy programs. In 2019, Crime Stoppers reached more than 5.2 million community members, educated over 1.2 million students, and provided crisis services and support to nearly 250 victims and survivors. Through the power of volunteers, they also led the State to pass three legislative bills to enhance victim’s rights and public safety and reached over 850 victims through peer support, legal advocacy, parole board hearings, support group meetings, and annual events.
Known as an actor and martial arts legend, Chuck Norris, alongside his wife Gena, has channeled his skills and celebrity into helping youth develop the mental and physical strength to deal with life’s challenges. Chuck launched Kickstart Kids in 1992 with the goal that students will develop character, create stronger school and family connections, strive for higher academic and social success, and become productive members of their community. The program engages students, often from vulnerable communities, with a healthy peer group and the positive influence of a strong role model and mentor in their instructor. More than 110,000 students have benefitted from this life-changing program since its inception. In addition to their ongoing leadership of Kickstart Kids, the Norris’ volunteer efforts also include visiting hospitalized and active troops, serving as a spokesperson for United Way, and serving on the board of the Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools and Rachel’s Challenge. Additionally, Gena serves on the Advisory Board for the Council for Life and Board of Reference on the Christian Film and Television Commission.
Texas Search and Rescue (TEXSAR) is composed of volunteers who are dedicated Texans serving Texans with a spirit of “service above self” during times of emergency, loss, disaster, and pain. TEXSAR makes itself available as a resource to all 254 counties in the state when requested by local, state, or federal agencies. Though “search and rescue” is part of the organization’s name, TEXSAR has played particularly significant roles in disasters of various sorts, ranging from floods to fires to pandemics to winter storms. TEXSAR volunteers are valuable additions to the efforts of law enforcement, fire, and other agencies because of their spirit, dedication, training, empathy, professionalism, and preparedness—all of which adds up to excellence at times that Texans need it most.
What started in 2011 as an event with the mission to restore the true meaning of Memorial Day, has grown into a nationally recognized nonprofit organization that provides active ways to connect Americans to the sacrifices made by our military, veterans, first responders and their families. As Carry The Load celebrates its 10-year anniversary in 2021, its awareness program, which began as a 20-hour walk in Dallas, has grown into a national movement featuring a national relay which travels through 45 states, 70+ city rallies throughout the month of May and culminates in Dallas over Memorial Day weekend. Volunteers participate year-round by cleaning headstones at the National Cemeteries, attending Patriot Day and Veterans Day events, and helping educate the next generation through the Carry The Flag education program.
Sarah Young is an exceptional young woman with a philanthropic resume that far exceeds many adults. At age 10, she decided to add a commitment to the environment to her already full plate of Girl Scout, church and military youth activities. Sarah became a founding member of Discover Green – Environmental Leaders, Inc., a youth operated 501c3 using youth and family activities to educate, involve, and inspire environmental stewardship. In 2011, not long after her 13th birthday, Sarah took on the role of Youth Director for the organization. When Sarah realized that founding members were going to age-out and the next generation of environmental stewards needed to be trained, she launched a structured training program for “ecoinspiration” coaches for the youth leaders she was recruiting. She developed a pre/post training assessment and tracking tool to measure success and needed refinements in an effort to ensure ongoing improvement. In 2012, Sarah trained fifty new eco-inspiration coaches, will train another twenty in 2013 with a goal of at least twenty new coaches each year in the future. Under her guidance, coaches have started their own projects and even their own chapters throughout Texas and 3 other states. Sarah is a Parks and Recreation Commissioner for the City of Pflugerville, a 4-H club officer, and a Lower Colorado River Authority Water Quality Monitor. Sarah’s volunteer efforts have created a solid foundation for developing lifelong leadership skills.
Elise Clements volunteers her time with several organizations. She completed a yearlong project to earn her Girl Scout Silver Award by having a Texas Historical Commission Marker made for Miss Beulah Harriss, Denton’s very first Girl Scout. Elise persuaded Mayor Mark Burroughs to proclaim 2/27/14 as Beulah Harriss Day. Girl Scouts can now earn a Beulah Harriss patch designed by Elise. Elise was also given permission by the Denton Parks Board to place a Beulah Harriss Texas Historical Marker in the Quakertown Park where the Girl Scout Little House once stood. Elise volunteers at least 100 hours each year and has received the Gold President’s Volunteer Service Award for the last 3 years.
The Texas Master Naturalist Program (TMN) sponsored by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension has trained over 8,850 Certified Master Naturalist Volunteers who have contributed over 2.4 million hours valued at more than $53.9 million to date impacting over 206,300 acres and over 1,866 miles of trails. Twenty new partnerships were developed by TMN chapters statewide in 2013 with over 370 partnerships established statewide. The Master Naturalist program has been so successful in Texas that it has been replicated in 29 other states.
Heart of Texas RSVP provides support and services to over 75 nonprofits, schools, nursing homes, and citizens in their community. They work with students from McLennan Community College, Baylor University, Texas State Technical College and Tarleton University who directly assist community agencies with food drives, civic development, public safety and education. As a result of the explosion of the fertilizer plant last year in West, Texas, Heart of Texas RSVP provided over 10,075 man hours and supervised over 400 volunteers and continues to provide services still today to a recovering community.
AmeriCorps member, Katie Martin, served as the inaugural Site Coordinator at Charles Rice Learning Center, a new partner for Reading Partners Dallas and built one of their most successful school sites in Dallas. Due to Katie’s great work ethic, professionalism, and individualized approach with teachers and volunteers, over 90% of all enrolled students narrowed their achievement gap while in the program. Katie also attained a new partner in Zeta Phi Beta Sorority which led to increased volunteer numbers bringing the Reading Center to capacity for students and tutors. In addition, she organized for the Reading Partners Dallas team to serve at a “9/11 Day of Service” event.
For 21 years, Oscar Cole, “Grandpa”, has been volunteering his time as a Senior Corps Foster Grandparent with the youth at Boys Haven, Inc. which serves boys ages 5 to 17. Many come from single parent homes and will stay until they graduate high school. He has accumulated over 20,000 hours of service to these young men. Oscar also received the President’s Volunteer Service Award. Boys Haven, Inc. recently announced they are adding an additional building to their campus. In recognition of the service and dedication “Grandpa” Oscar Cole has given to Boys Haven the new building will be named the “Grandpa Cole Education Complex” in honor of Mr. Cole.
For almost eighteen years Dan has achieved a feat deemed impossible for volunteers and even paid public servants; he has facilitated the continued operation and future sustainability of the Child Fatality Review Team (CFRT), collaboration between bureaucracies. Since 1995, Dan McClellan has been a member of the Child Fatality Review Team, a collaboration brought about through the Center for Child Protection. The CFRT is a multidisciplinary group consisting of law enforcement officials, medical professionals, social workers, prosecutors, and child advocacy professionals working together toward a single goal: to prevent the senseless and needless deaths of children in Travis County. In the early years Dan volunteered to collect records and data from the Medical Examiner’s Office and the Department of Human Services as well as compiling and comparing the collected data which led to the creation of the CFRT Report in 1997. The report notes not only how many children died, but why they died, and what the community might do to prevent those deaths. Each April, using the data from the CFRT Report, the Center holds a conference to honor the children who have lost their lives, and to alert the community about how to keep children safe. Dan is known as humble, quiet and selfless, knowing that his work will never receive a thank you from a child saved. Our community’s children are safer because of his commitment and lifetime of achievement.
Nicole Gabler serves as a SWIFT (Schulenburg Weimar In Focus Together) AmeriCorps member in Schulenburg and Weimar. SWIFT serves two Title I rural school districts as well as two rural parochial schools. As Health Coordinator for nine on-campus Healthy High/Healthy Choices events, Nicole helps raise awareness of healthy eating habits; the consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle; and the importance of daily exercise. She serves as liaison between the presenters (local resident physicians, police officers, nurses and nursing students, and nutrition experts from AgriLife) and the Healthy High program. Nicole is actively involved in facilitating and creating a permanent site for The Benefit Bank of Texas (TTB-TX) in Schulenburg and Weimar. The TTB-TX site is a secure web-based portal and counselor-assisted program helping low to moderate income individuals and families connect with programs for which they qualify. A group of SWIFT AmeriCorps members, with Nicole in the lead, travelled to the Fisher House at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio for an AmeriCorps Week service project serving wounded military members and their families. They assembled over sixty care packages filled with useful items. Nicole, then used her journalism degree to cover that story in the local newspaper. According to Heather Eilers, SWIFT Program Coordinator, “Nicole is a leader in this year’s Corps and tackles all projects with a can-do attitude and a smile. She volunteers for all extra service projects and displays genuine concern for the members of the communities SWIFT serves.”
Since April 2012, Annalisa Siegle has been a Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) at Volunteers of America Texas (VOATX), and has recently re-enrolled for a second year. As a VISTA member, Annalisa is helping VOATX develop and implement a volunteer management program in the Fort Worth region. The goal of the program is to provide senior and developmentally disabled clients with volunteer companions; to provide mentors to clients recovering from substance abuse; and to provide role models to ex-offenders re-entering the community. Annalisa has helped assess program and community needs, developed volunteer program policies and practices, recruited and placed volunteers, tracked volunteer hours, solicited donations for the program through service projects, and evaluated the effectiveness of the program. During her time as a VISTA she has helped establish partnerships with organizations such as: Take Up Thy Cross Ministries, Carroll Independent School District, Keep Fort Worth Beautiful, Literacy Instruction for Texas, Collin County Community College, Lowes Heroes, and CWS Apartments Property Management Company. Over 100 volunteers have been coordinated by Annalisa to work on group projects including the Lowes Heroes Project and the 9/11 service project, both of which received thousands of dollars in materials and financial support. Annalisa and other VISTAs at VOATX ensure that programs are tracking and reporting their volunteer activities on a monthly basis. Over time, VOATX was able to report an 11 percent increase in volunteer hours and an increase in the number of older adults and individuals with disabilities having increased social ties or perceived social support.
Lew Burnett, a retired Army Chaplain, has been active with Concho Valley Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) since 2004. For over eight years, Lew has chaired the Faith In Action (FIA) Advisory Board, whose mission is to offer support services to frail elderly and physically disabled adults so they may live independently and with dignity. Lew has contributed over 1,750 + hours of service through FIA, raising funds, recruiting new volunteers and coalition partners and teaching a component of the FIA volunteer training. Lew was named “Volunteer of the Year” by Faith in Action and received an Air Force Volunteer Excellence Award from the military. He was inducted into the Concho Valley Senior Hall Of Fame during Older American’s Month in 2010. He also was recognized by Concho Valley RSVP as the Humana MarketPoint Honoree in 2011 for Outstanding Volunteer Service Supporting Independent Living for the Elderly. RSVP and Faith in Action have conducted surveys with FIA care recipients, and almost 100% of the respondents reported they were satisfied with the services received from FIA volunteers and that this service was instrumental in keeping them living independently in their own homes. Lew has spearheaded fundraising for FIA which helps support over seventy trained volunteers who provide more than 2,600 units of transportation service to help FIA clients lead more productive lives each year. This is in addition to other services provided by FIA. Lew sums it up by saying, “Faith in Action has become a full-time calling. I enjoy working with other volunteers who provide special kinds of ministry to the frail and elderly.”
CitySquare’s Food on the Move program began four years ago in collaboration with local apartment communities, AmeriCorps, Texas Department of Agriculture and PepsiCo. Throughout the summer months, Food on the Move operates thirty mobile teams across Dallas, Houston and Austin, with each team rotating among seven sites daily. Food on the Move combats childhood hunger by providing a half million meals through a mobile feeding program targeting children and youth at low-income apartment sites, churches, and nonprofits. Through this program they deliver daily food to over 15,000 children who are not enrolled or involved in any organized summer program. Meeting the truck at each site is a mobile team of CitySquare AmeriCorps members. Teams arrive on site fifteen minutes before the mobile food truck to prepare the site and to round up the children. Once the truck arrives, AmeriCorps members assist with food distribution, and as children finish eating, engage them in a minimum of sixty minutes of recreational activity based on the Playworks model. According to Matthew Smith, Manager, Food for Good at PepsiCo, “CitySquare’s Food on the Move program has proven to be a national best practice for delivering meals to previously un-reached children…The result has been a critical balance of addressing immediate nutritional needs while equipping the children to lead healthy lives. And, maybe most importantly, CitySquare is providing hundreds of jobs through AmeriCorps for young leaders (often from the neighborhoods they serve) to be role models for the children, showing first-hand that it is possible to break the cycle of poverty.”
Mindy Gross has worked with the Fort Bend Women’s Center since the late 1990s to assist domestic violence and sexual assault survivors and their children in achieving safety and self-sufficiency. Mindy’s countless volunteer hours and continued commitment have enhanced the Richmond community, volunteers, and staff. In various leadership roles, Mindy has worked with Child Advocates of Fort Bend County and the United Way. She also founded the STARS volunteer auxiliary in 2004, co-founded and served as inaugural co-chair for their annual Girlfriends Giggle benefit, and raised more than $1 million for Fort Bend Women’s Center’s programs and services.
Coastal Bend Disaster Recovery Group (CBDRG) is an established network of business, nonprofit, faith-based, private sector, and government organizations partnering to support long-term disaster recovery in 11 counties of the Coastal Bend. In response to Hurricane Harvey, CBDRG rebuilt 81 homes, replaced 79 manufactured homes, and completed 181 major repairs at a cost of $8.5 million. CDBRG provided disaster case management for 1,282 clients, with 450 of the clients fully recovered from the disaster. In Winter Storm Uri, they helped 133 clients restore basic water service that was lost due to freezing pipes.
Harriet Marmon Helmle has dedicated most of her life to improving education, helping the homeless and disabled, improving medical care for all, and giving girls and women the tools needed to succeed. During the past four decades, she has raised tens of millions of dollars for San Antonio area nonprofits. In 1984, Harriet founded San Antonio Youth Literacy to reach high-risk high school students and their families in disadvantaged neighborhoods that now serves over 900 students on 75 campuses.
After seeing the loneliness experienced by many nursing home residents, Catherine Bai started an Adopt a Senior program for residents rarely visited by family members. She soon realized the power of music therapy to help people with dementia and founded the Pearland branch of WeCareAct, a student volunteer organization to involve youth in community service in the Greater Houston area. So far the group has more than 100 volunteers, 1,000 hours dedicated, nine formal holiday concerts organized, and 900 seniors and community members served. Catherine presented her music community service project to the 2022 Future Problem Solving International Conference to raise awareness of the elderly in need.
Vedha Vaddaraju co-founded Letters of Gold, a Texas nonprofit with the mission of uplifting Texas residents and individuals around the world with letters of light in times of darkness. Letters of Gold delivers more than 3,000 letters to different groups in need every month, primarily in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and Texas. As a rising senior in high school, Vedha leads a team of almost 100 youth volunteers throughout Texas and has chapters of her organization in nearly 10 schools in the DFW area. Having the opportunity to speak in global conferences for the past two years and featured on various news sources in Texas, Vedha uses her skills to empower those around her to write letters and offers monthly training sessions for youth to encourage them to act in their community.
Elizabeth Watkins founded Refresh Frisco in 2019 to provide hygiene products to students in need. With the mission in mind that proper hygiene is critical for a child’s health and self-esteem, Elizabeth set out to ensure that every child in her community has access to personal hygiene items. As an example of their rapid growth, Refresh Frisco served around 150 students in November 2019 and, by May 2022, had expanded to serve over 1,400 children in K-12 in Frisco ISD. She has recently expanded to Refresh Little Elm, serving more than 300 LEISD students and growing.
Rose Wilson continues to leave an outstanding legacy in Lubbock with decades of volunteer service spanning from fighting food insecurity to mentoring students to advancing social justice causes. At 95 years old, Rose continues to engage in new volunteer opportunities, help organize events, and serve on boards. Rose has been active with the Lubbock NAACP since the 1960s, becoming the first African American woman to be elected president in 1978 and remaining president for 30 years. She continues to serve on the executive board of the Lubbock NAACP, helping with membership drives and fund development and serving on the finance committee.
Dr. Gary Beach began volunteering with The Volunteer Healthcare Clinic in 2008 and has improved the lives of countless uninsured patients. As a Vietnam veteran, Gary received the Meritorious Mast from the U.S. Marine Corps and went on to become an acclaimed physician for more than 42 years. He has repeatedly won Top Doctor awards in both Texas Monthly and Austin Monthly. Gary also uses his volunteer time at VHC to mentor the next generation of healthcare providers. He has supported and taught many pre-med students who have gone one to medical schools such as Dell, Southwestern, McGovern, Baylor, UTMB, TAMU, and Stanford.
Diana and Glen Egley are committed volunteers at New Danville, a rural nonprofit community in Willis for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Diana is president of Legally Authorized Representative Alliance, an organization that sponsors activities and supports New Danville’s day program clients and residents, where Glen also often volunteers. The family is central to the annual Christmas Market at which clients get to shop for free gifts to give to their family and friends, and they are also key volunteers for theater productions performed by New Danville clients. The Egleys also volunteer for Love Fosters Hope, a nonprofit that serves children and teens in foster care who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned.
LGI Homes has made a tremendous impact by planning, completing, and funding a $25,000 project for SIRE, a nonprofit that supports individuals with special needs through therapeutic horsemanship. More than 40 LGI Homes employees provided over 500 hours of volunteer labor for the organization, constructing 10 stalls and outfitting a building for saddles and equipment. In October 2022, LGI Homes also oversaw the completion of a new 4,500-square-foot education and visitors center, valued at $1.2 million, which provides classroom space for SIRE programs, meeting space for local organizations serving people with disabilities, and office space for SIRE staff. LGI Homes is also very involved with Habitat for Humanity in Montgomery County and has employees serving on the board of directors at both SIRE and Habitat for Humanity.
The Midland High School Football program has developed a reputation of being the go-to for volunteers in Midland. Head Coach Thad Fortune has built the MHS football program to include intentional and service leadership-based volunteer programming. It starts with his “Path of the Bulldog” principles given to every football player and parent beginning in 7th grade through 12th grade, reaching more than 600 students. MHS Football players are led by Coach Thad in intentional and coordinated volunteer service, including summer trash pick-ups in partnership with Keep Midland Beautiful and “Books and Bulldogs” summer reading programs with the Midland YMCA.
Unite & Inspire is a youth-led nonprofit with a mission to unite and inspire children, youth, and adults into giving back to their communities through volunteering and to share resources that cultivate their growth as responsible global citizens. Their volunteer projects include disaster relief campaigns, STEAM education, cause-related internships, services for children and seniors, and medical and health support of cancer patients, first responders, and military. During Winter Storm Uri, they provided 500 families with hot meals, essential supplies, and recovery care packages.
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.
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 in Texas.
JoAnn Gama is a former AmeriCorps member and Teach for America (TFA) alumna. A first generation college graduate, JoAnn founded IDEA Academy, a state-approved charter school for grades 4th through 8th in Donna, Texas. Fifteen years later, IDEA has become a network of 44 schools throughout Texas. Today, IDEA Public Schools is recognized as one of the highest performing charter school networks in the nation.
Brenda Gormley has been a volunteer with the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) for 15 years, and became a CERT Master Instructor in 2010. For many years, Brenda logged over 40 hours per week as a full-time volunteer CERT Coordinator and Master Instructor. She has also trained over 2,000 Denton County volunteers, from ages nine to ninety, to assist local law enforcement in wide area search and rescue, crime scene preservation, and sheltering animals during disaster. Brenda is also a Senior Corps member through RSVP: Serving Denton County. She has received awards for her dedicated service from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Texas Division of Emergency Management.
Haven for Hope of Bexar County is the largest homeless service center in the State of Texas and is a national model in moving the homeless to self-sufficiency. Founded in 2010 with a focus on seeking innovative solutions to San Antonio’s homeless problem, Haven for Hope guides a person from homelessness to housing through a recovery framework and comprehensive on-site social services. With 137 nonprofit partners housed either on campus or in the community, Haven for Hope provides services to address the systemic causes of homelessness, including job training, basic reading to college preparation, professional certifications, financial literacy, behavioral health services, spiritual care and more. Its Ambassador Program is led by men and women residing at Haven and addresses community needs while providing those experiencing homelessness with the opportunity to give back. More than 3,600 Haven resident volunteers have participated in the Ambassador program through neighborhood cleanup and beautification projects, demonstrating Haven’s strong commitment to the San Antonio community. Through its unique model, Haven for Hope is making a difference in the lives of San Antonio homeless, local businesses and the community at large.
Erin Moody is currently completing her second term of service as an AmeriCorps member with Communities In Schools of Central Texas, a dropout prevention program. During her service term, Erin has carried a caseload of more than forty 6th through 8th grade students at Lockhart Junior High School with whom she meets individually for at least one hour per week. Last year, one hundred percent of Erin’s students improved in academics and behavior, ninety percent passed all four of their core classes, and one hundred percent were promoted to the next grade level – making Erin the only AmeriCorps member to have these results with such a large caseload of students. Erin has also facilitated numerous student-led projects on campus during her service. Erin has gone above and beyond to build relationships and initiate strategies that encourage and empower the youth at Lockhart Junior High so that they have the best opportunity to reach their full potential as well-educated, engaged young citizens.
Shelby Thomas is an AmeriCorps VISTA serving in the Disaster Relief and Recovery Division of the Alliance of Community Assistance Ministries, a member of the Greater Houston Storm Recovery Network and the Texas Gulf Coast VOAD. Houston was impacted by four major storms from 2015 to 2016, and Shelby’s work as a VISTA was invaluable to recovery efforts. One of the greatest challenges in times of disaster is communication across the many volunteer organizations involved in response and recovery. Seeing this, Shelby implemented systems and processes to address this challenge. Not only were Shelby’s efforts a success, but they are already being replicated by associated ministries, and will remain in place even after her service is completed. This will ensure that Shelby’s significant contributions during her time as a VISTA will have a lasting impact.
In 1999, Dennis Cavner helped to create a “Founder’s Circle” of individuals who pledged $9 million of social venture capital to launch an organization that is today recognized around the world as LIVESTRONG. Dennis believes in engaged philanthropy and social innovation and has served as Board Chair of LIVESTRONG, College Forward and Mission Capital. An inspiring and visionary leader, Dennis embodies a strong philanthropic spirit that inspires others to serve.
After losing his mother to a battle with cancer in 2014, Taylor decided to honor her by building a home in her name through Austin Habitat for Humanity. Taylor woke up early every Saturday for 16 weeks to build a home that would benefit a low-income family and create a lasting legacy to his mother, an architect and volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. Taylor raised the $85,000 necessary to build the “In Memory of Maureen” home, volunteered 120 hours, and inspired over 600 others – ages 17 to 70 – to volunteer as well.
For over twenty years, Literacy First (formerly ACE: A Community for Education) has provided one-on-one tutoring to low-income Austin ISD students in Kindergarten through Second Grade to “advance students to grade level in reading by third grade.” Literacy First accomplishes this by providing 150,000 hours of bilingual, research-based early literacy tutoring and instruction to 2,200 students each year. At least seventy-five percent of tutored students finish their year either at grade level or having made significant, measurable progress in their reading skills.
In 2007, Prince Humphries returned from his second deployment in Afghanistan disabled and withdrawn. Seeking solutions, his wife LaTronda began working with military populations as a family coach and mentor. LaTronda eventually founded Healing our Heroes Project, a non-profit organization that provides therapeutic retreats for veterans and their families. The retreats help them withstand the pressures of military life and thrive in civilian communities, and are provided at no cost to the service members and their families.
Texas Christian University has successfully integrated scholarship with citizenship and service as evidenced by the Office for Community Engagement. In 2015, approximately 6,700 students participated in service projects sponsored by the department, affiliated student organizations, and service-learning courses.
The Spring Branch Family Development Center coordinates a multi-agency collaborative, providing educational, recreational, health and social services in English and Spanish. Opening in 2001, the Center serves over 12,000 people annually and provides low-income families with one-stop access to many holistic tools to help them succeed. Over the past eleven years, the Center has hosted an annual Back-to-School Health Fair that has enabled 45,000 community members to receive over $2.75 million worth of services by providing free immunizations to 5,000 children and distributing 25,000 backpacks with school supplies.
The Bastrop County Long Term Recovery Team was born in 2011 after the most destructive wildfire in Texas history. In the four years following the fire, the Team provided case management and coordinated thousands of volunteers who cleaned up debris and rebuilt 133 homes. Disaster struck again in Bastrop County in 2015, and the Team was there to help, providing shelter and food while coordinating hundreds of volunteers. The Bastrop County Long Term Recovery Team has also assisted in the formation and operation of other Long Term Recovery Organizations in Texas as well as in other states across the country.
For more than 80 years, thousands of Blue Corps® employee volunteers have lived, worked, and volunteered in their communities, and earn matching grants for the organizations they serve through the number of hours volunteered in and outside of work. For each hour an employee gives to a Community Partner, the company donates $20 to $2,000 per year. In 2015 alone, more than 1,875 Blue Corps® employees donated 33,021 personal volunteer hours to 83 statewide community partners, which received $101,380 in matching dollars.
USAA’s signature corporate responsibility cause is promoting military family resiliency, and a key pillar of this cause is supporting the needs of the 5.5 million caregivers who care for wounded, injured or ill service members and veterans. In 2016, USAA supported the PsychArmor Institute in its efforts to develop a free online school and call center catering to the unique needs of military caregivers. Within the first year, over 13,000 learners completed 36,000 training courses. According to the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, USAA is the first business to dedicate a pillar of its corporate responsibility program to addressing the nation’s military caregiver crisis, highlighting its commitment to programs that recognize the sacrifices and address the needs of our military and veterans, as well as their caregivers and families.
Carmelo Mauro, founder of Carmelo’s Ristorante Italiano, is known throughout Texas for his generosity in donating time and funds in support of numerous causes. Perhaps his most notable accomplishment was creating and establishing a pilot program in entrepreneurship in Del Valle High School in Austin. Carmelo did this by transforming classroom space at the high school into a real restaurant, and approximately 5,200 students have gone through the Del Valle program since 2001.
In 2006, the Medical Center of the Americas Foundation was created in response to a shared vision to develop a “center for excellence in healthcare education, research and services in the Paso del Norte region.” A team of universities, healthcare professionals, researchers, business and community leaders have invested thousands of volunteer hours and leveraged their skills and knowledge to successfully launch a biomedical industry in El Paso. Medical Center of the Americas Foundation has become a change agent for the El Paso region, serving as an icon for the emerging biomedical industry and a model of innovation.
For over 30 years, Arlen and Mary ’Beth Lohse have been volunteering as drivers with Meals for the Elderly in San Angelo. In 2004, upon their retirement, the Lohses started volunteering full time through West Texas RSVP, a Senior Corps Program. They deliver meals on at least seven routes within a 5-day work week, though they often go beyond that by serving as substitute or emergency drivers. But they Lohses don’t just deliver meals – Mary ’Beth is known as the “napkin lady” for always providing a seasonally inspired napkin with the meals, and they also provide clients with special packages of cookies on milk delivery days, bologna on bread days, and lollipops – including sugar-free lollipops for diabetic clients. Many in the San Angelo community say there is no one who does more for the Meals for the Elderly program or the clients served than Arlen and Mary ’Beth Lohse.
For almost twenty years, Will Williams has served the community of Round Rock through numerous organizations, including Sertoma, Lion’s Club, Round Rock Foundation, Water for Africa, Heroes Night Out, El Amistad, and Blue Star Mothers. Thanks to Will’s leadership, over $1 million was raised for the Round Rock Foundation to benefit local charities.
Teach for America of the Rio Grande Valley (TFA-RGV) was established in 1991 to provide access to the highest quality classroom instruction and learning opportunities for students in minority and low-income communities in the Valley. TFA-RGV teachers are also AmeriCorps members who serve over 14,000 children and youth annually by leading in the classroom, sponsoring honor organizations, sports activities, and service projects in the community, all while instilling in their students the importance of giving back.
Military Veteran Peer Network Houston at Mental Health America of Greater Houston is led by over two dozen veteran volunteers using a peer-led holistic community based approach to address the specific needs of Harris County veterans. They help veterans and their families reintegrate into the community, enroll in school, obtain employment, and navigate community assistance programs. They also provide innovative, comprehensive training and peer support to Harris County Veteran Treatment Courts.
Thirty-three years ago, The Big Event started as a project for students at Texas A&M University in College Station to say thank you to the surrounding community through a one-day service blitz. In 2015, over 22,000 students volunteered to assist local residents with painting, yard work, cleaning, and various tasks, completing over 2,500 jobs. In a testament to the power of service, The Big Event has spread to 110 other schools across the country, and internationally. The Big Event is embedded into the undergraduate culture of Texas A&M students, many of whom continue their civic engagement into their professional and personal lives wherever they reside.
ExxonMobil lawyers have been providing free legal service in Houston and other communities for more than 50 years. During 2014, 170 ExxonMobil law volunteers devoted more than 3,200 recorded hours of pro bono service through clinics for veterans, taxes and wills, and citizenship. They partnered with groups such as Catholic Charities, Kids in Need of Defense, Tahirih Justice Center, Houston Area Women’s Center, and United Way’s Nonprofit Connection. ExxonMobil’s commitment to community service is making a huge impact in the lives of people in need.
Founded in 1994 with a membership of 13 local centers, today the membership roster includes 69 developing and established centers in large urban cities as well as in small rural communities. Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) were established to minimize the impact of trauma to child victims by bringing together in one location district and county attorneys, law enforcement officials, and medical and mental health professionals to form multidisciplinary teams. Last year, Texas CACs served almost 40,000 children.
Ed Boyer has been a volunteer with the RSVP of Dallas and Collin Counties since 1998. Ed founded the White Rock Center of Hope Resale Shop and manages approximately 250 community volunteers. The shop has raised over $3 million. With the support of over fifty churches and civic organizations, more than 400,000 people in over 140,000 families have received over 3 million pounds of food, 814,000 clothing items, and $1.2 million in financial aid from White Rock Center for Hope, all thanks to the vision of RSVP volunteer Ed Boyer.
Granite Properties, Inc. is a commercial real estate development and investment firm with offices in Dallas and Houston, and has made growing servant leaders an integral part of its corporate fabric. Since it was founded in 1991, employees have been encouraged to “show up, stand up, speak up and contribute.” Each year Granite gives its employees 40 paid hours toward community service, and many employees strive to go above and beyond this commitment. In 2016, Granite employees completed over 5,000 volunteer hours, servings organizations in Texas such as the Richmond State Supported Living Center, Children’s Medical Center in North Texas, Collin County Meals on Wheels, and Easter Seals. Through their volunteering, employees at Granite Properties are creating a lasting impact in the communities they serve.
The Reading with Barbers Initiative was established by Fort Worth ISD’s Equity and Excellence Division and local barbers in support of the district’s collaboration with the City of Fort Worth’s 100X25 Reading Initiative. The program helps students ages 4-14 maintain and improve their reading skills in a safe, trusted, community space — the local barbershop. FWISD provides the bookshelves and books. Barbers serve as adult role models and mentors for young children and their parents. Children select a book to read while waiting or getting their hair cut. Barbers help with pronunciation and ask questions about content to guide their young clientele.
The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) embraces community engagement that calls for equitable, purposeful and reciprocal partnerships with community, where resources and knowledge are shared to advance the public good. Last academic year, UTEP integrated community engagement into 386 courses campus-wide, engaging more than 150 faculty members and nearly 8,000 students in academic-based service. This resulted in over 1.5 million hours of community engagement with 200 community partnerships.
H.O.N.O.R. Mentoring is a program for veterans directly impacted by the justice system. The H.O.N.O.R Mentoring program operates within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and teaches participants to use their educational and life skills to tutor other veteran and non-veteran inmates. H.O.N.O.R Mentors are veterans who have successfully worked through their own traumatic issues arising from their time of service. 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.
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.
The Office of Student Life at Austin Community College 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.
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.
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 Panty 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.
Douglas Brown has been an active volunteer with the RSVP Senior Corps Program in Denton County since 2003. A WWII 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 takes at least three computers with him each Friday to give to the veterans he works with. At age 93, Douglas has donated over 1,000 computers.
Dr. 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.
John Poston’s passion to serve the special needs community began with the birth of his twins in 1995, one of which was born with Down syndrome. Out of John’s amazing commitment and relentless pursuit of opportunities and happiness for his children came The Rise School of Dallas, The TouchDown Club of Dallas, The Stallings Award, and Daymark Living. Through his many years of service, John has helped provide for the needs of hundreds of children and adults with intellectual disabilities in Texas and beyond.
17-year-old ZeeShawn Wani is an outstanding student at Michael E. DeBakey High School for Health Professionals in Houston, but what makes him even more exceptional is his heart for service. In 2015 he co-founded Student for Cause to help economically disadvantaged students by providing necessary uniforms, school supplies, and supporting their participation in extracurricular activities. After Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Student for Cause raised additional funds to provide for students in need.
Through its employee volunteer program, Fidelity Cares, Fidelity Investments has been a powerful partner to school districts and nonprofit organizations in the DFW area. Whether it is teaching financial literacy in schools, partnering with local nonprofits to solve technology challenges, or mentoring youth through career and STEM initiatives at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Tarrant County, Fidelity Investments is making a real difference in the communities it serves.
TeamCITGO has a 30 year history of volunteerism and support in the communities it calls home, including Corpus Christi and Houston. After Hurricane Harvey made landfall, Team CITGO mobilized teams to clean up communities and gather and distribute donations. Organizations that benefit from TeamCITGO’s investment of time and resources include Habitat for Humanity, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and the American Heart Association. TeamCITGO is a stellar example of how a corporation can truly make a difference beyond the bottom line.
Retired Veteran Tony Smith has turned his service to country into a more-than-full-time, unpaid second career as a county-appointed Veterans Service Officer in Coryell County, which has one of Texas’ largest populations of disabled veterans. Two years ago, Tony found free office space and began reviewing a backlog of veteran’s cases where assistance had been requested but not acted upon, helping local veterans navigate the sometimes-challenging waters of the VA system. Tony serves as the commander of the local Disabled American Veterans Chapter 74, and is a trained small group facilitator through “Bring Everyone in the Zone”, where in less than two years he helped grow local peer-to-peer veteran groups from one poorly-attended group to four thriving groups. Tony has provided for the veterans in his area in other ways as well, including counseling and support for several successful suicide prevention engagements, securing a motorized scooter for a disabled elderly veteran so he can be mobile on his rural property, raising funds for the burial of a veteran who died with no family to pay for the expenses, and assisting veterans’ family members with finding cost-effective funeral services and volunteer pastors.
When Marissa Vogel’s children were 4 and 6 years old, she searched for opportunities to get them involved in giving back. Unable to find opportunities that engaged children in meaningful service, in 2009 Marissa founded Little Helping Hands to engage youth of all ages in service. Now known as Generation SERVE, in the last nine years Marissa’s vision has helped over 34,000 youth and their families get involved in volunteering, contributing 78,500 volunteer hours to over 100 nonprofit organizations in Central Texas.
In 1995, several San Angelo teens from Johnson Street Church of Christ traveled to Atlanta to serve the homeless and forgotten. When they returned home, they realized that there was great need in their own community. Thus began Rust Street Ministries, a community outreach ministry providing basic needs and life skills for those in San Angelo and surrounding areas. Through the generous support of many community partners and 23 area churches, all of Rust Street Ministries’ services are provided at no cost.
Katy Bourgeois was on the original team that designed and launched The Travis County Collaborative for Children, and she continues to provide strategic guidance, coordination and support for over 35 organizations that make up the Collaborative. This trauma-informed community of support is focused on three primary goals: a healing, local family for every child in need, two or fewer placements for every child, and a positive, permanent placement within two years or less.
David Porter’s service with Breakthrough Central Texas – a nonprofit that aims to assist students from low-income communities who will be the first in their families to graduate from college – has resulted in the development of a partnership that will continue to serve Breakthrough students long after David’s AmeriCorps term of service ends. David partnered with Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin, which hosted a mini camp for Breakthrough’s first-generation rising high school juniors.
Linda and Ron Aten began volunteering in the Senior Corps RSVP program in Abilene in 2001 and have since accumulated over 11,000 hours of volunteer service. Together they have served through 36 different agencies; however, it is the AARP Tax Aide Program where their major volunteer service is focused. Ron has been a tax counselor since 2006 and Linda has served as the District Coordinator since 2011. In 2017, the Abilene District prepared over 1,500 tax returns at no cost and gave back to community residents over $460,000 in earned income credit and $223,584 in tax refunds.
Sara Lamog was instrumental in making Tom Green County the second county in Texas to be certified as an ACT Work Ready Community. Sara has served with the Work Ready Project for the City of San Angelo Development Corporation, a program designed to decrease unemployment and create a more prepared workforce. Under her leadership, the Work Ready team secured commitments from over 122 local employers to support and utilize the ACT Work ready skill assessments.
United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County’s MISSION UNITED Information and Referral program is a veteran peer-to-peer support model that was formed to help the military and veteran community achieve and maintain self-sufficiency. In collaboration with the Department of Family and Protective Services and 76 Bexar County agencies, MISSION UNITED navigators can identify a multitude of direct and wrap-around services, enabling city and state, for-profit and nonprofit, military and civilian agencies to put resources where they are most needed.
David Godwin has performed decades of volunteer service in the Houston area. His longest-running charitable endeavor is with Literacy Initiative for Today (LIFT) at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, where more than 10,000 adult students from over 20 countries have learned to speak English. David has also served as coordinator for the Center for Cultural Interchange since 2002, he has served as a board member of “Families with Children from China” since 1999, coordinated a silent auction to raise funds for the organization, and he has taught ESL at Houston’s Chinese Consulate. Additionally, David and his wife Lucy have hosted more than 75 students from 28 different countries who are in the U.S. attending intensive language schools in Houston.
Micah Pinson is only twelve-years-old, but he has already performed several years of volunteer service. In 2011, at the age of seven, Micah decided that he wanted to give back to Dallas Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, the hospital that has helped him with a hand deformity. Micah conceived a community service project – a toy drive – that today stands as the largest single toy donation for the hospital. In total, more than 25,000 toys have been collected over the last six years, and 2016 was the best year ever with over 10,000 toys donated. Each year, Micah seeks ways to involve more community and business leaders in this project, and sees this not only as a way of giving back to the hospital that helped him so much, but also as a blessing in his life.
In 1992, Fort Bend County business and community leaders came together to form the Fort Bend Education Foundation (FBEF). FBEF’s mission is to “inspire and equip all students to pursue futures beyond what they can imagine.” Throughout its twenty-five year history, FBEF has provided support to the 75 campuses that house the more than 74,500 students and approximately 5,000 teachers in Fort Bend ISD. FBEF works collaboratively with the school district, and has given $32 million in grant funding to provide an exceptional learning experience, helping enhance educational outcomes by implementing programs that support teachers and equip students for a brighter future, while also utilizing the work of more than 800 volunteers.
Virgil Teter is the inspiration behind “Food for Families,” the largest one-day food drive in the State of Texas. This past year “Food for Families” provided food for 37 pantries in 9 counties throughout Central Texas and gathered more than 1.5 million pounds of food. In the past 24 years over 20,826,549 pounds of food has been collected. This event brings thousands of volunteers from dozens of communities together: schools, churches, civic groups, major businesses, military units on Fort Hood, even Texas Prison units in Gatesville compete with each other to see who can gather the largest amounts of food.