When the 12 featured Season for Caring families woke up this New Year’s Day, they saw new things that weren’t there last New Year’s. Comfortable beds for every family member from Factory Mattress. Laptops from an anonymous donor. Gifts given by school kids, Austin families or businesses. Items purchased by their local nonprofit agencies using Season for Caring money contributed by people throughout Central Texas.
They woke up with a new sense of hope, a new sense of security.
Since the 21st Statesman Season for Caring launched on Dec. 1, Central Texans have contributed $589,585 in monetary donations and $185,395 in in-kind goods and services, for a total of $774,980. Donations can continue to be made through Jan. 31.
The nonprofit organizations will use the monetary donations to help complete the featured families’ wish lists first, but then will be able to help hundreds of other families throughout the year with basic needs such as groceries, medications, rent, utilities, bus passes and gas cards.
Since 1999, Season for Caring has given more than $13.4 million to local nonprofit organizations.
Unlike some years when most of the featured families’ wish lists are close to being completed by New Year’s Day, many of the families have not seen an outpouring of in-kind donations this year. They have items both big and small remaining.
Kevin Moreno, 23, who has kept his family — including 19-year-old brother Dylan and 6-year-old sister Avia — from homelessness since he was 16, needs a second car and car repairs for the family’s current car. The Morenos also need a microwave, textbook expenses for Dylan, tuition for Kevin to go to college, living room furniture, a dining room table that seats six, a TV stand, wall shelving and organizational systems. They would love a family gym membership. Avia would like to take ballet classes. To donate to their wish list, contact Foundation Communities, 512-447-2026, foundcom.org.
Fatima Babiker, 33, came to the United States after fleeing the Sudan as a teenager, making her way to Egypt and then coming to Austin with her four children. The family needs a reliable SUV, cosmetology classes for Babiker, a larger apartment, blankets for four twin beds and one queen, a printer, gift cards for groceries and clothing, and dance classes for 7-year-old Layal. (Caritas of Austin 512-646-1277, caritasofaustin.org)
Amina Makamba, 34, arrived from Congo and immediately gave birth to surprise triplet daughters three years ago. One of her daughters has medical needs that keeps the family here while Makamba’s husband and two sons still live in Congo. Her biggest needs are airline tickets to bring the rest of the family here, as well as help establishing permanent residency. She also needs a reliable car. The girls need bigger car seats, bedding, and gift cards for clothing. The family also needs many storage systems such as shelves, dressers and boxes for under the bed. (Foundation Communities, 512-447-2026, foundcom.org)
Catherine and Eric Swieter are preparing for Catherine’s death. The 65-year-old is now receiving hospice care for Parkinson’s disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney failure. They need twin bed sheets, a food processor, Capital Metro bus passes and Access passes, gift cards for clothing, a body pillow and fresh paint for their apartment. (Hospice Austin at 512-342-4700, hospiceaustin.org)
Nicole and Brandon Overton's three oldest sons have had many medical needs in their young lives. The youngest, 6-month-old Greeley, is being monitored for the blood disorder and brain malformation that his oldest brothers have. The Overtons need help with past medical debt, a sectional couch, pest control, an automatic garage door system, plumbing repairs, protective baseball gear for son Mayken, 15, equine therapy for Saben, 3, YMCA activities for Kafry, 5, and diapers for Greeley, as well as respite care and gift cards for food, restaurants and clothing. (Any Baby Can, 512-454-3743, anybabycan.org)
Alicia Gonzales, 40, is in her last semester of nursing school and cares for her mom, who has kidney failure, and her three young sons. She needs gift cards to H-E-B and Walmart, permanent dentures for her mom, a wheelchair holder for a car, a sit-to-stand recliner for mom, a tall six-drawer dresser, help with medical bills, Wi-Fi services, and help with divorce expenses. (Capital IDEA, 512-457-8610, capitalidea.org)
The Hekmati family of six moved here from Afghanistan after dad Ahmad Kambiz, 42, helped U.S.-based aide organizations and then was threatened. He needs an accounting job. Mom Maria, 42, needs assistance with tuition for nursing school. The family needs twin sheets, help repaying their travel loans, a used car, a blender, a vacuum, and H-E-B and Walmart gift cards. (Interfaith Action of Central Texas, 512-386-9145, interfaithtexas.org)
Velma Pace, 84, is caring for her husband, Johnny, 82, who has dementia, and son, Howard, 65, who was born with intellectual differences. The Paces need a new refrigerator, help with respite care, living room furniture, area rugs and gift cards to H-E-B. (Meals on Wheels Central Texas, 512-476-6325, mealsonwheelscentraltexas.org)
Mohammad Karim, 35, and his wife, Minatt, 27, have given their three children a life, including an education, that they did not have as Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. They still need lamps, a washer and dryer, sheets, an electric fryer, area rugs, gift cards for clothing and groceries. (Interfaith Action of Central Texas, 512-386-9145, interfaithtexas.org)
Eden Welply, 25, was on the verge of making it as a musician when she was hit by a car in February. She lost the use of her legs and partial use of her arms, and now is in a wheelchair. She needs home health care, a ramp, a cleaning service, an adapted vehicle and a service animal. She would love help putting together an art exhibit by artists in wheelchairs, music recording sessions, Dragon Dictate software, an Ableton Sensory Percussion Kit and track pad, Lasik, AxioBionics wearable pain management, a desk she can roll under, acupuncture, a WaterPik, oscillating fans, as well as gift cards for entertainment venues to give her friends who have provided much of her care. (Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, HAAM, 512-541-4226, myhaam.org)
Monica Beakley, 47, has stage four lung cancer that has spread to her brain, bones and liver. Her son, Jesse Jakob Estala, 19, is blind and has a traumatic brain injury from a boating accident 10 years ago. Beakley needs an attorney who specializes in guardianships and long-term care for people with special needs. She would like a therapist who specializes in traumatic brain injuries for her son. She needs a more supportive couch, and gas cards, bus passes and hotel vouchers for travel to MD Anderson. (Wonders & Worries, 512-329-5757, wondersandworries.org)
Kizzy Jackson, 38, and her two sons and mother came to Austin after floods in Louisiana made finding work difficult. The only things left on their wish list are a larger, stable house or apartment or assistance with rent at their current apartment, and a newer car or mechanic work on their current car. (Communities in Schools, 512-462-1771, ciscentraltexas.org)