Knights of Columbus in Shiner is a caring charity that's helping plant the seeds for change in a big way.
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Theresa Bond Zelazny founded the Mobile Art Program (MAP) after seeing how the creation of artwork helped her mother reduce stress and anxiety during a six-month battle with colon cancer. Today, MAP works toward empowering seniors and people with disabilities through artistic expression, helping them cope with their situations, regain a sense of control in their lives, and develop interpersonal relationships. Instructors drive a VW station wagon to nine facilities throughout underserved areas of Austin every month and conduct art classes where participants learn about the colors, compositions, and brush strokes employed by artists such as Frida Kahlo and Vincent van Gogh and model their own works off of these techniques. Instructors bring all of the supplies necessary for each project, giving the participants experience with a variety of mediums. By creating art in group settings, seniors can simultaneously gain new skills, build communities of friends, and bolster their self-esteem. At least once a year, the organization also holds a mini exhibit in each assisted-living facility, where residents vote on their favorite pieces and everyone receives prizes.
Even with Olympic-caliber running coaches on staff and sights resolutely set on the Austin Marathon in February, Marathon High uses running as merely a means to an end. The program touts the sport—in combination with other healthy habits such as a proper diet—as a positive way for high-school and middle-school students who would not otherwise be engaged in extracurricular athletic activities to succeed on the track, in the classroom, and in life.
While the goal at the end of the free six-month program is participation in the Austin Marathon or Half Marathon, participants won’t be competing with each other—only themselves. Director Jeff Knight and head coach Chris Gowell, as well as the Olympic development running team Rogue Athletic Club, oversee each student’s training, from the first day’s five-minute walk to crossing the marathon finish line six months later. Along the way, participants meet three times per week for training and participate in field trips to local farms as a way to learn about maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle through nutritious meals.
In the aftermath of the Pinnacle Fire, the members of Oak Hill Village banded together. Immediately, they began helping those who lost everything—rebuilding burned home, sifting through the rubble, sharing food. Then, one long year later, they held a Day of Remembrance to celebrate their recovery, during which they marched to the park from a rebuilt home and shared music and stories.
The Oak Hill Village Mosaic Remembrance Wall serves as another, more permanent way for individuals to remember their losses, share their story, and tighten the bond they developed while rebuilding. They have been working with volunteers and art therapists to write and draw what they wish to remember on clay tiles. These tiles will color a wall in the park to commemorate everything they lost and gained.
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As one of Austin’s largest pet shelters with a no-kill policy, the Austin Humane Society strives both to reduce pet overpopulation and to protect Austin's homeless cats and dogs. More than 1,000 active volunteers at the shelter work to eliminate unnecessary euthanasia through spay and neuter programs, pet adoption, an extensive foster program for vulnerable pets, and emergency animal-rescue operations. Between 3,000 and 4,000 pets are adopted from the shelter each year, and the shelter serves more than 10,000 animals annually. Its adoption counselors provide insight into each animal’s personality and history to ensure a good fit into their permanent homes.
See how Groupon helps you discover local causes and lend a helping hand at the Groupon Grassroots blog.
While working in a hospital setting, Meredith Cooper and Melissa Hicks saw a number of children who suffered emotional devastation due to a family member’s illness. Together they founded Wonders & Worries to provide formalized therapeutic sessions for youth with a seriously ill parent. They and their staff of child-life professionals have worked with more than 1,000 families with a member dealing with cancer, ALS, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. Their therapeutic sessions help children maintain a sense of normalcy while they cope with hospital visits and the effects of their parent's illness. The organization provides both individual and group sessions in English and Spanish and offers bereavement support for families that experience a loss.