As we close in on the remaining quarter of 2018, giving back becomes the forethought for most of us. The great majority of us make annual contributions to a charitable cause of our choice. A select minority of individuals have been gifted with the heart, patience and desire to dedicate their daily lives to the art of philanthropy. With the holidays on the horizon, OTL would like to take some time and space to spotlight the heart of some of these philanthropists and the organizations that back them- right here in Texas.

The First Tee of Greater Austin’s purpose is to give young people of all backgrounds an opportunity to develop, through golf and character education, life-enhancing values such as honesty, integrity and sportsmanship. The mission of The First Tee of Greater Austin is to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf.

At the First Tee, kids and teens are learning to play golf along with life lessons and leadership skills. And it’s making a difference. The programs are having a positive impact on participants, their families and their communities.

Dan Matheson, who has served as a board member of The First Tee for 15 years explained, “I have played golf since I was 10 years old. I played my first round with my grandfather and I have a vivid memory of my grandfather teaching me the importance of respecting my fellow players and playing by the rules of the game.  In his mind, honesty, integrity, and sportsmanship are integral aspects of the game. My interest in the First Tee stems from that experience with my grandfather and my belief that the game of golf is ideal for teaching values to kids.”

He continued, “During that time I have come to appreciate how our programs benefit the kids who participate in them. Through our programs we teach values like the ones my grandfather taught me, as well as life skills and healthy habits. The values and life skills at the core of our programs are the foundation for creating those opportunities.  Our kids tend to do well in school and to graduate from high school. Many of them go on to college, and many of those kids are the first in their families to go to college.  Our kids learn to respect their peers, their parents, and their teachers.  They learn honesty and integrity, just as I did from my grandfather. Involvement in the First Tee has been personally fulfilling to me because I see the impact the organization and our staff, volunteers, and my fellow board members have on the kids who participate in our programs. And I would certainly encourage others to join me in supporting the First Tee.”

As the primary art collection for the city of Austin, the Blanton Museum of Art is a major resource for the community. With nearly 18,000 works in the collection, the Blanton showcases art from across the ages, from ancient Greek pottery to abstract expressionism. With a year-round schedule of traveling exhibitions, art lovers are sure to discover new and old favorites at the Blanton.

Blanton’s Director of Development Anna Berns said, “We have very engaged, art-loving benefactors who care deeply about our educational mission. They often share with me how much they care about making the life-enhancing power of art accessible to our community. They especially appreciate seeing our school and family activities and take great pride that over 13,500 K-12 school-aged children get to experience the Blanton’s educational programs each year. Our community of philanthropic supporters share our commitment to ensuring the Blanton is welcoming to underserved audiences citywide.”

The goal and mission at Ruby’s Rainbow of Austin is to grant scholarships to adults with Down syndrome who are seeking post-secondary education, enrichment or vocational classes, helping them achieve their dreams of higher education while spreading awareness of their capabilities and general awesomeness.

“The minute my second daughter was born, and I held her that first time I knew I wanted to do something to help those rocking’ it-just like her- be the best they could be,” Co-founder, Executive Director and proud mother of Ruby, Liz Plachta said. When asked about advice she may have for others regarding the joy and reward of giving, she said, “Giving back has brought-not only immense joy but hope for the future of my own daughter. There is no other feeling like knowing you are helping make a difference in the lives of others.”

Joyful Inspiration is a charitable organization that provides help for survivors of domestic abuse. The non-profit holds a retreat for survivors of domestic violence every four months. These retreats provide a weekend of esteem building activities, educational presentations, self-defense courses and a lot of fun to assist these ladies in moving ahead with their lives.

Jenea Frierson, founder of Joyful Inspiration offered, “For me the reward of giving is simply seeing someone get the spark back in their eye and seeing a life change for the better. It makes me feel there was a purpose for all that I went through in my own journey. I recommend giving back to your community because it’s how we are made. We are meant to help and love one another. It fills a space in our souls that can only be filled by giving back.”

Thomas Miles, actor, radio personality and founder of Miles of Giving, said giving is a huge part of his life. Miles of Giving provides a service that grants needed financial assistance to wounded warriors and their families. Through direct payments to a veteran, the organization cuts out middlemen and bureaucratic entanglement that often delays services needed by badly wounded vets and their caregivers. “We do not position ourselves to tell them how to spend their money,” the nephew to Steve Harvey and co-host of the Steve Harvey Morning Show said. “We provide a critical service that directly grants financial assistance to enlisted Veterans and their families.”

When asked about his role in giving and what it means to him, Miles replied, “To me giving is everything. I learned how to give from my parents. They weren’t wealthy by any means, but they always gave back to families that were less fortunate. What got me involved in giving to the military veterans was when I performed for a USO troop. I did two USO tours and while I was there we visited several bases and the hospitals. We were in a hospital room with a man who just had his legs blown off and was just coming out of sedation. His words to us were, “I’d love to stay and take photos with you, but I’ve got to get back to my men. He had no idea his legs were gone. So, I proposed the question of what happens to these people when they get back home. The answer is that he will have to go through a lot of paperwork to get assistance. Right then I decided that I wanted to be the person that gives to them right then, right now. The government may take care of you a few months from now, but you need something right now. That’s what Miles of Giving is. We give back to wounded veterans right then, right now.

Every year Miles of Giving hosts a Celebrity Golf Tournament. “The goal is to inspire celebrities and corporations to become sponsors and provide donations to Miles of Giving,” Thomas said. Other invitees include local civic leaders and wounded veterans. At the end of the tournament, selected veterans are recognized and presented with monetary awards.

These are only a few of the many opportunities to honor others and give back to our community. We hope you’ll find one that can serve your giving needs.

“At the end of our lives we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made or how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.” –Mother Theresa

By Michelle Keller

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