Tag Archives: giving back

Member Spotlight: Tammy Saxon

Tammy in boys arms horiz.- DSC_0818.JPG

Roots:
I grew up in Houston and set roots in Austin after graduating from The University of Texas in 1988.

Family Life:
I’ve been married to my husband Chuck for 28 years, and our family of six includes our oldest son Chase who is a Junior at Texas Tech University, our son Grant who is a Freshman playing lacrosse at Stevenson University in Baltimore, MD, our youngest son Reid who is a 7th grader at Canyon Vista Middle School, and our big, sweet 11 year old Golden Retriever, Harvey.

Work Life:
I earned a Finance degree from UT and worked in the finance and accounting fields until I took an early retirement to raise our family.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned through my iGnite experience…
The most impactful lessons I have learned through iGnite are to encourage and support each other on and off the yoga mat, YOU can always make a positive impact in others’ lives, and to set your goals high because you can achieve new heights physically and emotionally every day.

I am most inspired by…
My mom is a huge inspirational influence to me because she is overflowing in generosity, strength, unconditional love, dignity and grace. She has shown me the importance of giving back and that strength and will power lead you to achieve. Her generosity shines brightly through the Golden Retriever rescue that she founded a few years ago where she has placed so many orphaned dogs into forever homes. I recently thanked my mom for building such a long table after sending her this quote that describes her so beautifully: When you have all that you need, build a longer table, not a higher fence.

Something people may not know about me…
I love, love, love polka dots and find them almost irresistible. They are happy, positive and uplifting, and they are represented in many items sprinkled throughout my home.

If I were an ice cream flavor, I would be…
Blue Bell Peppermint. Have I mentioned my love of polka dots?! Peppermint ice cream is a splash of spirited polka dots leaving a pop of confidence on your tongue preparing you to take on any challenges that your day holds. Everyone should start their day with a spoonful of Peppermint ice cream!


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8 Christmas Gifting Opportunities that Give Back

 

Looking for a more meaningful way to give this year?

Check out our team’s favorite socially-conscious companies to buy from and charities to give to this holiday season:

Raven + Lily

Raven + Lily“The whole mission of this beautiful jewelry, clothing and home goods line is to ’empower women through design.’  I have many of their pieces of jewelry and clothing, and I LOVE to give them as gifts because they’re not only beautiful but support such an incredible cause and an unbelievable organization — that way, everyone that gets one of their items then looks into what they’re doing and sees the big picture 🙂 Check it out at http://www.ravenandlily.com
-Catherine Sanderson

Teen and Family Services

Teen & Family Services“The charity of my choice this Christmas season is Teen and Family Services, a Texas-based nonprofit that fills such an important gap for families searching for answers.  It’s a peer-based recovery support program for adolescents and their families who are suffering from the harmful effects of teen substance abuse.  You can donate or learn more about their holistic approach at teenandfamilyservices.org.”
Betty Cunningham

Marbridge Ranch

Marbridge“My favorite charity is Marbridge Ranch, because it’s just a happy place, filled with kind people —  staff, residents and volunteers. It offers a safe and comfortable home for many cognitively-challenged adults, and the programs at Marbridge enrich lives daily, by providing activities, skills training for jobs, and community. It is the place where you go to give, and you leave filled up…they turn it around, and you become the recipient of warm welcomes, friendly hellos and hugs, and just the most contagious, amazing smiles that will absolutely light you up. I love the place, and I love to support it! To support Marbridge Ranch during the holidays you can donate or become a short or long term volunteer.  You can find these opportunities at www.marbridge.org
Cary Fyfe

Lush

Lush-Logo“I also like Lush for great handmade skin care and body products and they have wonderful project called “Charity Pot,” 100% of the proceeds from sales of this cream is donated to small, grassroots organizations working in the areas of environmental conservation, animal welfare and human rights. Learn more about this great product at www.lushusa.com.”
Alli Phillips

Buy Fair Trade

“Buying “Fair Trade” products and gifts (chocolate, coffee, wine, etc.) means that the workers and artisans around the world that grew/created/manufactured the food, goods, or gift items you purchase were paid a fair “living wage.” This is why “fair trade” goods are sometimes more expensive, but also why it’s so important to support these companies.  Just look for “Fair Trade” signage as you shop around this holiday season.”
Alli Phillips

Altar’d State

altard-state“I love this store for three reasons:  1).  They have super cute clothes  2) . They have affordable clothes  3).  They are service-oriented, and they donate 1% of all sales to local and international charities. They sponsor high-risk children in Peru, and they support their employees by sponsoring volunteer hours.  To date, they have volunteered over 1600 hours! Check out their clothing and their mission at  www.altardstate.com.
Neissa Springmann

Victory School Uganda

kamukamaLogo“My good friends and Austin natives, Jeanne and Lew Little, founded the Victory School upon traveling to Uganda and witnessing first-hand the poverty and absolute practical and educational needs of the children in a remote village in Western Uganda. They founded the Kumakuma Foundation as a means to partner with the Victory School in Uganda and help provide the children with a quality education and a bright future.  What I love about the Victory School is that for just $25 a month, I am able to sponsor a child, which provides tuition, books, supplies, a uniform, 2 meals a day, access to clean water and life skills.  As a sponsor, I receive pictures and letters from my child and am able to write him as well.  Find out more about this beautiful foundation at www.victoryschooluganda.org.”
Neissa Springmann

Trinity Center Austin

TRINITY CENTER-LOGO“The Trinity Center is an incredible faith-based organization that loves on the homeless and provides them with emotional, spiritual and physical needs.  From socks, underwear to tennis shoes, they provide it for these sweet people living in downtown Austin. To learn more and  donate visit www.trinitycenteraustin.org/.”
Neissa Springmann

 

Want some more great gift-giving ideas?  Check out our
“give back” lists from previous years here and here

Compiled by Delaine Teeple

Compiled by Delaine Teeple


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Real Women, Real Stories | Ginger Simons: Changing Lives through the Jeremiah Program

Real Women Real Stories Ginger Simons Jeremiah Program

photo by Catherine Sanderson

Roots:  I grew up in Long Beach, California, and graduated from high school and college in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I raised my 4 girls in Las Cruces, New Mexico and El Paso, Texas, and I moved to Austin 6 years ago!

Ginger and her grandchildren Savannah and Elijah

Ginger and grandchildren Savannah and Elijah

Family Life:  I am married to John Simons, who helped raise my 4 grown daughters.  Jenny, my oldest, has a career she loves as a high school librarian at a health sciences magnet school in El Paso. Although we all harass her to try to get her to move to Austin, I guess I can’t begrudge her the happiness she has found there. My daughter Liz and her husband Danny were my network for establishing myself in Austin. Thanks to daughter Melanie and Bear for the gift of sweet granddaughter Savannah. Most recent arrivals to Austin are youngest daughter Sheila, her husband Eric and my precious 10 month-old grandson Elijah.

Having fun with Kyael, a Jeremiah Program resident

Having fun with Kyael, a Jeremiah Program resident

Work Life:  I have been working as Family Services Manager for the Jeremiah Program.  In this role, I serve as Empowerment Facilitator, Life Skills Coach and work with staff and volunteers to help complete the overall mission of the program: to transform families from poverty to prosperity two generations at a time. Through support for a career-track college education, safe and affordable housing, quality early childhood education, and empowerment and life skills training, Jeremiah Program prepares determined single mothers to succeed in the workforce, readies their children to succeed in school, and reduces generational dependence on public assistance.

My favorite part of my role is having a front row seat, getting to watch the moms’ and their children’s lives in transformation.  Prior to working at the Jeremiah Program, I spent 22 years in education as an Elementary classroom teacher and Instructional Coach. In my spare time, I spent two summers working as a park ranger. In an effort to help my daughter with pain from Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, I also trained to become a licensed massage therapist.

Favorite Quote:  “Keep your face to the sunshine, and you cannot see a shadow.” -Helen Keller

I’m most inspired by…  Creativity inspires me, mostly that found in nature, but myriad artists as well.

Something people may not know about me… My 8 years as a single parent has helped prepare me for my role in the Jeremiah Program. During that time, I earned my BS in Education while running an in-home daycare. Makes me tired thinking about it now!  🙂

What I’m  looking forward to right now Our new campus for all things Austin Jeremiah!

“I wish I were a gardener. I love it, but stink at it.”

When I’m not working, you can find me… Pretending not to be working by playing with grandkids, cleaning house and gardening.

My perfect day would be… A nice morning hike with a friend, an entertaining afternoon movie, play time with the grandkids, and dinner at a relaxing outdoor diner with great ambiance — which must include indie folk or blues music.

My guilty pleasure:  Hay Day  (ssshhhh, it’s embarrassing!)

Jeremiah Program

Jeremiah Program is a nationally recognized nonprofit organization whose proven, holistic approach transforms families from poverty to prosperity two generations at a time. The program provides single mothers and their children with support for a career-track college education, quality early childhood education, a safe, affordable place to live, and empowerment and life skills training.

I began working with Jeremiah Program in 2012 as a volunteer. Dazzie McKelvey (consultant and now national board member for Jeremiah) invited me to help her facilitate a class similar to our current Life Skills class. We led the group of 5 single moms, who have all since graduated from college!

When housing for our first 4 residents was almost ready, I was hired part-time by Executive Director Shannon Moody to be the Family Services Manager.

Ginger Gives a Peek into One of the Many Lives She’s Seen Changed

fun with the Jeremiah Program kiddos

fun with the Jeremiah Program kiddos

Lena (name changed for privacy) slid into the chair, squirming and nervous.  Her body language spoke of that of a hurt child. When the meeting room door opened or someone nearby made a noise, she startled. She came to our 12-week Empowerment classes sharing as little as she could while still being considered engaged. She kept her head down and doodled whenever it was not necessary to look up. Upon completing the process of Empowerment, she shared that she had come to realize that the passive way that she had been accepting unhealthy relationships in her life, needed to change.

She now continues with Jeremiah Program, practicing the life skills she is learning. She does the necessary work to make important changes. I observe her with an anticipation similar to watching a chick emerge from its shell. There is no swan or dove emerging, more like an eagle or a hawk. She is taking flight with an amazing inner wisdom and determination. Yet, I chuckle every time she comes forth with her thoughtful, sometimes hilarious ideas as she parodies life. There is no doubt in my mind that her impact in this world has been amplified by being in the Jeremiah Program. I cherish her response when she was asked what she feels about Jeremiah Program so far, “I feel so loved.”

Serving Others Changed Me, Too

I am blown away by how much my own life has changed by being a part of Jeremiah Program. I abhor being perceived a hypocrite, so what I learn, I must also apply.  I tell you, empowerment changes lives!  It’s been a very internal thing, a dumping of emotional baggage, lightening the load and making way for better energy. Because I have the opportunity to facilitate empowerment classes, it keeps it fresh in my mind, prompting me to keep practicing and helping our participants to practice using empowerment tools.  By doing this, I get front row seats to watch their lives become increasingly empowered. What an honor!

Coming in the Fall: the New Austin Jeremiah Program Campus

Jeremiah Program Moody Campus Austin

Rendering of the soon-to-be-built Austin Jeremiah Program Moody Campus in east Austin

There are currently 3 women in our Austin program, and approximately 8 women will begin Empowerment training next month. We will select our 4th participant from that group. We expect groundbreaking to occur for our new Austin Moody Campus in the fall. Soon after, great strides will need to be made to recruit a large pool of applicants to find those who will be the best fit for our program. Once the campus is built, the facility will house 35 single women and their children, along with 4 duplexes housing another 4 families, giving us a total of 39 women in the program.  There will also be an onsite Child Development Center as well as community rooms, playground and staff offices.

Real Women Real Stories Ginger Simons Jeremiah Program Austin Site

Ginger in front of the future site of the Austin Jeremiah Program Moody Campus in east Austin, adjacent to Austin Community College Eastview Campus

Get Involved

In addition to volunteering and donation funds to our fundraising campaign, a great way to get involved in helping Jeremiah Program is through our upcoming awesome, fun event Epic Battle:

2014 Epic Battle photo collage2015 Epic Battle Facts Sheet

Join us on the iGnite Epic Battle Team today!
Email neissa@igniteyourlifenow.com to join

Our current fundraising goal is $600,000, and our biggest need is general operating dollars. General Operating dollars are important because we can use these funds where we need them, when we need them. Epic Battle is not only an important fundraiser, but a key component in getting our mission message out to the public.

Our focus of course has been on development and getting our permanent home built. The money for the campus structure has been raised, but there are still apartments, classrooms and meeting rooms to furnish.

Volunteering

We cannot complete our mission without volunteers. They are a vital part of what we do. Currently, we have volunteers who help with Cooks for Kids, providing meals and child care while our moms attend Life Skills classes. Volunteers serve on committees, facilitate Life Skills and raise funds.

When we have our main campus, our volunteer pool will multiply with each new group of women who enter our program. We will then have volunteers in the Child Development Center as well as ambassadors for meetings and greeters for the front desk.

Also if you’d like to stay updated on developments and progress through our newsletter, our director of development, Lauren Portley would be happy to sign anyone up! She may be contacted at LPortley@jeremiahprogram.org.


iGnite’s Real Women, Real Stories is a series highlighting the inspiring lives and experiences of women in our community. We hope their stories motivate and inspire you to live your life to the fullest.

Know someone who would be a great candidate for a Real Women, Real Stories feature? Email nominations to hello@igniteyourlifenow.com


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The Giver’s Glow & The Helper’s High

Last year's diaper drive drop-off at Any Bay Can.  Thanks to your donations at our 2013 Christmas party, this was one of many fully-loaded carts

Last year’s diaper drive drop-off at Any Bay Can. Thanks to your donations at our 2013 Christmas party, this was one of many fully-loaded carts

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” -Winston Churchill

Point to Ponder: Is there a particular non-profit or charitable organization that means a lot to you?

by Neissa Brown Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

We live in a day and age where non-profits and volunteer opportunities are abundant. Because of technology, it’s as simple as a click of a button to see the needs of people across the globe. Not only do we have access to helping our literal neighbors, but we can easily find ways to help and create real impact throughout the whole world. Pretty cool! Much like gratitude, when we help others by volunteering our time or making a donation, our brain releases our favorite feel-good neurotransmitter, dopamine. It also causes “the giver’s glow and helper’s high.” According to Dr. Stephen Post, professor of preventative medicine and bioethics at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, “brain scans show that even the mere thought of helping others makes people happier.”

“In the United States millions of adults volunteer their time to help others for a specific cause. This ‘giving’ population reports the following results:

  • Improved sense of well-being (89%)
  • Lower stress levels (73%)
  • Better physical health (68%)
  • Enhanced emotional health (77%)
  • Enriched sense of purpose in life (92%)
  • Increased happiness (96%)
(DeBoskey, Bruce. The Denver Post)

Now with Thanksgiving behind us and the Christmas season in full-force, if you’re like me you feel extra motivated to give and help others. While this time of year makes us want to give more, it’s also a time of year that can cause added stress and depression. So in an effort to get “the giver’s glow” and combat any holiday blues, we thought we’d launch the Christmas season in the right direction by focusing the next few weeks on giving and generosity and share some of our favorite philanthropies and non-profits (because if you’re like me, there are so many non-profits and philanthropies out there that it’s slightly overwhelming to determine who to give to).

There are so many great non-profits. Among my favorites are: Victory School Uganda, Austin Life Care, Dell Children’s Hospital, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Hospice Austin, Helping Hand Home for Children, Jeremiah Program and Any Baby Can. In addition to all of these amazing non-profits, there’s one specifically I’d like to make you aware of that I know you’ll love: WeViva. WeViva is a non-profit in Austin that provides accessible and affordable fitness and nutrition programs to people in low-income communities. A few weeks ago I met with the founder Carolyn Haney, and she shared what we all know to be true: that health and wellness starts and ends at home, and most often with mom. And, it’s great that children are being taught the benefits of exercise and healthy eating at school, but if it’s not reinforced at home, the healthy success rate significantly decreases.

The super cool thing about WeViva is that they offer Zumba, yoga, strength training, and nutrition classes every week day at 18 locations in the Austin area, providing 32 classes per week! Their classes are always full, with as many as 60 participants per class. They are changing the lives of women and their families — WeViva is saving lives! There are so many things I love about WeViva, but what drives it home for me is something my mother confessed several months ago. I knew we didn’t have money growing up, but when I asked if while raising my sister and I while working full-time if she would’ve spent $30/month for a convenient at-work exercise program, she said, “No. As much as I would’ve loved it and needed it, we didn’t have extra money and every penny I earned was going towards necessities and the things you and your sister needed for your school and extra-curricular activities.” Therefore, one of my main non-profit focuses this holiday season that will also give me the ‘Giver’s Glow’ will be WeViva, which will help provide women (much like my mother many years ago) have a free and convenient opportunity to receive the benefits of health and fitness — a gift with unlimited and infinite benefits!

Action Item:
Check out the video below to get a glimpse into the world of WeViva, and think about ways you might be able to give of your time and/or assets this holiday season to benefit a charitable organization that means something to you. 

   

 

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