More than $1.3 million raised by Christmas for Statesman Season for Caring

Donations large and small have poured into the Austin Community Foundation for the Statesman Season for Caring program.

The $5 checks, $25 money orders and $250 credit card payments. Checks from financial firms on behalf of family funds, checks from businesses, schoolchildren pooling their money, churches gathering members' donations.

The community's combined efforts have done big things. Since Nov. 28, more than $871,000 has been donated to Season for Caring — more than enough to secure the Sheth family's $500,000 match.

With that match, Season for Caring has raised $$1,371,484 in monetary donations. It is almost double what had been raised at this time last year, which was a record-breaking year for the program that began in 1999.

Mike Burnett, left, reacts as Dirk Heinen reveals he will donate a vehicle and a laptop to the Burnett family. The Burnetts have been limited in where they can work based on how close to the bus routes the job is.
Mike Burnett, left, reacts as Dirk Heinen reveals he will donate a vehicle and a laptop to the Burnett family. The Burnetts have been limited in where they can work based on how close to the bus routes the job is.

Increasing the match: Sheth family matching $500,000 in Season for Caring donations

Season for Caring donations will help the families featured in the program first; then they will be used by the 11 local nonprofits in this year's program to help hundreds of their clients throughout the year with basic needs such as housing, utilities, transportation, groceries and medical care.

Financial donations go through the Austin Community Foundation either by mailing in a check or through online credit card donations at statesman.com/seasonforcaring. Stock transfers and cryptocurrency payments also can be made through the foundation.

Your help needed: How to help families through the Statesman Season for Caring Program

While the increase in donations this year is remarkable, the need in Central Texas also has grown. In this second year of the pandemic, Austin's local nonprofit organizations have been hit hard. More folks have been struggling since unemployment provisions and the pandemic eviction moratorium went away. Organizations have had difficulty raising money, with limited or no in-person gatherings on the calendar.

"It has been a heartbreaking time, and to see how desperate people are, just the economic divide in our community," said Simone Talma Flowers, executive director of Interfaith Action of Central Texas, one of the Season for Caring nonprofits.

Without Season for Caring grants, "we wouldn't be able to address some of these individual issues that families face," she said. "We could give a little bit but nothing substantial. That's where the difference-maker comes in, with Season for Caring."

King Jackson, 3, of the Sneed family looks for shoes at Academy Sports & Outdoors after his family was one of five that received a gift card from the store.
King Jackson, 3, of the Sneed family looks for shoes at Academy Sports & Outdoors after his family was one of five that received a gift card from the store.

In addition to the Sheth family doubling its match from $250,000 to $500,000 this year, two other big donations helped.

Pat Munday, the wife of the late auto dealership founder Bill Munday, made a $250,000 donation, the third year she's given a substantial amount.

"Giving to this fund brings me great happiness as I know that the donation will be used successfully to make vital impacts in the lives of others," she wrote in an email. "Especially to give during the Christmas season makes Christmas 'truly Christmas' when we celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who need it the most. Hoping the days ahead bring many more blessings to the Statesman Season for Caring."

An anonymous donor gave $225,000 to Season for Caring and a similar amount to People's Community Clinic. It's the second year this donor has given a six-figure amount to Season for Caring and another local charity. Last year, it was the Central Texas Food Bank.

"It's all local," the donor said. "It makes an incredible difference."

Power of giving: Austin middle school raises more than $13,700 to help mom with cancer

The gift of Season for Caring will continue through Jan. 31. Many of the featured families still have some large, pressing needs.

Tahaguas Abraha and her family, who came from Eritrea through a refugee camp in Ethiopia, need a seven-person vehicle, a car seat, an immigration attorney to help bring Abraha’s brother to Austin and orthodontia care. (Interfaith Action of Central Texas, 512-386-9145, interfaithtexas.org.)

Mike Burnett and his family have been living in a motel for most of the past two years and need housing and a small washer and dryer, as well as a more stable job for Burnett. (Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin Area, 512-817-8910, bgcaustin.org.)

Natalia Castillo, who has a medically fragile 2-year-old daughter, wants her carpet replaced with flooring, wheelchair ramps installed, accessibility improvements made in a bathroom, and car maintenance and new tires. (Any Baby Can, 512-454-3743, anybabycan.org.)

Housing needs: A better place to live, staying housed on wish list for many Season for Caring families

Shilda Fresch, who has fostered to adopt five siblings in addition to three biological children, would like a bigger house, a bigger van and orthodontia care. (Dress for Success Austin, 737-471-6377, dressforsuccessaustin.org.)

Tre Gaston-Ellis and his two sisters are raising two of their younger siblings after their mom died of COVID-19 in August. They need car repairs, a gently used car, an estate attorney, help applying for benefits and an apartment deposit. (Hospice Austin, 512-342-4726, hospiceaustin.org.)

Used cars needed: Austin without a car a struggle for families in search of better jobs, places to live

Arelis López Guzman and her family from Guatemala need a gently used car, help paying off medical bills and an immigration attorney. (Foundation Communities, 512-447-2026, foundcom.org.)

BJ Lentz, a musician who is legally blind, wants help with transportation through gift cards to ride-hailing services as well as electronic glasses, smart speakers and an Audible subscription. (Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, 512-541-4226, myhaam.org.)

Ashley Rivera, a mom who has stage 4 breast cancer, would like a playscape for her children as well as help with medical bills, and would like for her garage to be converted into a place for her children to play. (Wonders & Worries, 512-329-5757, wondersandworries.org.)

Community at work: 'Overwhelmed with the blessing.' Austin church helps Family Eldercare senior get warm home for winter

Cheryl Selby, a window who was living in an RV without heat or running water, has a better RV now, but she needs gift cards to Home Depot, Lowe's and H-E-B. (Family Eldercare, 512-450-0844, familyeldercare.org.)

Judy Silva and her husband, Juan, are caring for her brother, Ramon, who has Down syndrome and had a stroke 17 years ago. They would like a mobile home, area rugs, and a car hitch and rack for a wheelchair, or a van with a wheelchair lift. (Austin Palliative Care, 512-342-4768, austinpalliativecare.org.)

Diana Sneed lost her home to a fire in July. She and her grandchildren need an attorney to help sort out her fire claim, a washer and dryer, window blinds and curtains, and rent and utility assistance. (Meals on Wheels Central Texas, 512-476-6325, mealsonwheelscentraltexas.org.)

Donate to Statesman Season for Caring

Find out more about Season for Caring, read the stories of the featured families and make a donation at statesman.com/seasonforcaring. You also can find a coupon to mail in a donation on Page 8E.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Statesman Season for Caring raises more than $1.3 million by Christmas