We’re thrilled to be thriving in a new year with exciting developments at Austin Humanists at Work!
We have made a lot of changes to our nonprofit over the last two years — most notably in response to the global pandemic and all-out bans on public camping in Texas. These changes have pushed individuals into more wooded areas, and though less visible, folks living unsheltered are still in need of our services and offerings. And we’re eager to continue providing basic living supplies and food to our Austin neighbors in need.
Where we’ve been
It’s been a tremendous 4+ years as an IRS-recognized 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, incorporated in November 2017. Austin Humanists at Work has even earlier origins dating back to 2013, when founding board members including Virginia Miller, Betsie Eikenberry, Mike Guentzel, and others began volunteering to distribute basic living supplies in downtown Austin, under the I-35 bridge at 6th/8th Street. We began with a mission to serve people in Austin with no strings attached, exemplifying the values of humanism through monthly giveaways. These core values remain the same even as the faces, locations and focuses of our organization change.
Saying goodbye to familiar folks
At the end of 2021, Board President Virginia Miller stepped down from her very involved role to focus on navigation services for our clients — helping individuals get state-issued identification, apply for housing and medical care, and learn how to get the most out of the system, to which their outcomes are often tied. We’re incredibly lucky to have had such a dedicated and sincerely compassionate leader at the helm of ATXHAW for all these years. Nearly every volunteer has been positively influenced and educated by Virginia in direct and indirect ways. We’re forever thankful for her legacy and grateful to continue to have her as part of the board of directors as director of navigation services. Thank you, Virginia!
In late 2021, Betsie Eikenberry also stepped down from our board of directors. Betsie served as secretary of Austin Humanists at Work for over four years, a volunteer for longer, and filled many roles in that time including offering her home up for mailed donations, submitting grant applications, perfecting our inventory and logistics system, and much more. We’re incredibly thankful for all the work and organization Betsie put into ATXHAW to make it a more efficient, mature, and high-functioning nonprofit. Thank you, Betsie!
New faces at ATXHAW and our board
With these changes, our board and core team of volunteers has also evolved.
Longtime volunteer Kelly Buczek serves ATXHAW as treasurer — making sure we stay on track with spending, tallying any incoming donations, addressing expenses, and doing all of our general bookkeeping. Another longtime volunteer, Mike Guentzel, continues to serve as our technology director, keeping our website up and running with proper installations and payments. Both Kelly and Mike are integral parts of our board and have helped maintain continuity of purpose as driving voices of leadership. We’re thankful to have Kelly and Mike!
Two volunteer board members have moved into new roles to lead Austin Humanists at Work into 2022 and beyond.
In 2022, Kayla Guentzel was voted in by the board as secretary, after serving for six years supporting content, outreach, and inventory maintenance. She is responsible for depositing donations, keeps up with our grant writing, as well as minutes, organization, and planning for the board. Welcome, Kayla!
Emilie Lutostanski, who has volunteered since 2016 and joined the Austin Humanists at Work board in 2018, became the nonprofit’s president in 2022. Emilie previously led marketing efforts for ATXHAW. With support from the board and volunteers, Emilie will now oversee communications, outreach, and day-to-day coordination of offerings, volunteers and planning, as well as long-term strategy. Welcome, Emilie!
Also added to our board is Matt Lutostanski, who has volunteered since 2016, as operations director. Matt handles donations including purchasing and organizing inventory and transportation of our basic-living items from our storage unit to be distributed at the giveaways. He also supports the ongoing logistical needs of the nonprofit to get our clients the things they need on a weekly or monthly basis. Welcome, Matt!
Our volunteer staff has grown in a significant way as well.
Kristen Harris, founder of the Better Together group here in Austin, has partnered with ATXHAW to be our food security outreach coordinator. She and her team work tirelessly to help feed not only the folks who we serve at our monthly giveaways, but also weekly hot-breakfast service for the same population, dinners and take-home meals on Wednesdays. Her involvement with ATXHAW began in 2021, and her offerings have helped greatly amplify the impact of our organization. Better Together serves at least 950 meals per month — a tremendous impact for hungry, unsheltered Austin neighbors! This is our official big welcome to Kristen, and the volunteers she has recruited to help serve food to those in need through the Better Together Food Pantry. We look forward to our continued partnership!
New offerings and focus
Our giveaways and focus have transformed greatly in the last two years. During the pandemic, we we began distributing bags of supplies to the to folks we could find downtown. But being mindful of waste and needs, 2021 we needed a new plan. We have partnered with The Charlie Center and its executive director and founder, Leah Hargrave, for more personalized care and support of the population we serve. Mosaic Church Street Ministry in North Austin now hosts our monthly giveaways. Why? Many of our clients just are not downtown anymore after the camping bans, but they know they can find help at Mosaic, which offers basic living items and clothing at no cost, and currently hosts The Charlie’s Center’s navigation opportunities. It’s a place that’s known and an area of North Austin where these types of offerings are limited compared with downtown.
With this transition, we have also scaled down the variety items we offer to limit duplication; we fill in with our own staples, like fresh new underwear, bug spray, sunscreen, and previously stocked toiletries. This ultimately means less waste and more needs being met more effectively. This also means we have specialized personnel in Virginia who can support The Charlie Center and assist with navigating folks out of homelessness and into housing, when it becomes available, as well as work if they’re able, and in the meantime, get them access to vital medical services, food, and necessities. We’ll be expanding our partnership with The Charlie Center even more as the year goes on in line with our mission— stay tuned for updates.
Food as an essential need
But biggest of all has been our pivot into focusing on addressing food insecurity. This need is constant and often unmet – with droves of folks going hungry, especially with skyrocketing costs of living in Austin, inflation raising the cost of food, and more folks relying on scaled food pantries.
This year we are planning several drives to support food security outreach in our community and applying for the first time for food security grants. Our partnership with Kristen Harris and the Better Together means that while food can be purchased and prepared at a relatively low cost, we still need the support of our volunteers and donors to continue to help unsheltered neighbors and those with limited means with no strings attached. We’re accepting monetary donations on an ongoing basis (via PayPal, Facebook, or mailed check) — and you can note on your donation if you’d like to address food security or basic living supplies. We also have a new mailing address to send checks: Austin Humanists at Work, 2541 S. IH 35, Ste. 200-229, Round Rock, TX, 78664.
We are directing in-kind item donations to The Charlie Center, which can be dropped off at Mosaic Church, 12675 Research Blvd, Austin, TX 78759.
Come join us!
We’d love to see you all this year for a giveaway! We are still operating on the 4th Sunday of the month for our regular distribution of items, with hopes to evolve our offerings in 2022 based on the needs of our clients, funding opportunities, and our new partnerships. Stay up-to-date with volunteer opportunities see our Facebook Group or sign up for email updates.
In 2022, we plan to focus on our mission to serve those in need in Austin with no strings attached — including meals and offering services and needed items in a dignified, no-pressure environment (for both our clients and our volunteers). We believe human hands solve human problems; it’s the core of all we do, and we appreciate your help and support in giving hope and offering humanity to our neighbors in Austin. We hope our work continues to be meaningful and impactful to the Austin community. We welcome you feedback and thank you for your support!