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The House that Tech Built Company Highlight: Praxent’s Response to the Austin Housing Crisis

Local Tech Company Praxent Launches “Care Deeply” Initiative with 2019 Sponsorship of The House that Tech Built

Like any other city with manifold economic and lifestyle attractions, Austin is facing the challenges that come with a swelling population and booming industry. Unlike other cities, though, Austin is famous for doing things a bit differently -- “weird,” you might say. 

With housing and rental prices rising and the gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” continually widening, it remains to be seen whether Austin will live up to its own standard of hospitality. Do we make changes and make room for those who wish to call Austin home? Or do we allow the situation to deteriorate into Silicon Valley proportions?

Together with Austin Habitat for Humanity, local tech companies and other nonprofits and businesses across the city, we face an incredible opportunity to join together and do what we do best: innovate and solve.


Not Another Silicon Valley

For Austin-based digital innovation agency, Praxent, the housing crisis emerged as a chance to fully embrace a radically different response to community needs.

Last November they reached a significant financial milestone. Shortly after the achievement made its mark on financial charts, the agency’s executive team circled up and discussed ways to reflect on and celebrate the victory as a company.

A fly on the wall would have heard the conversation go something like this:

“My last company threw a yacht party to celebrate its first million. What if we do something like that?”

Silence ensued as the group considered their options. Extravagant generosity seemed appropriate; yet, something about the yacht idea didn’t jive with the heartbeat of those present and those at work in the next rooms over.

Another voice chimed in: “Maybe we should think outside the box?”

“I agree. What can we do that’s really meaningful? An investment of sorts, rather than blowing thousands on entertainment that we’ll momentarily enjoy then forget after a week back at work?”

The team finally reached a consensus: This would be the first event in a yearly series of celebrations termed the “Care Deeply” initiative -- abundantly generous investments of time and money into long-term solutions that address community needs. 


Strategic Support for Austin Families

With the Austin housing deficit looming near crisis mode, the company agreed to direct its first round of support toward families in need of homes. Austin’s Habitat for Humanity stood out as a worthy partner.

Praxent’s desire to turn their gift into an investment with future impact matched up perfectly with the local chapter’s commitment to creating sustainable solutions and their approach to coaching families toward independence.

After a kickoff meeting and further discussions to iron out the details, Praxent emerged as one of Austin Habitat for Humanity’s corporate sponsors for The House that Tech Built, a yearly home-building project funded and staffed by local tech companies.

The gift included substantial monetary support, two weekdays of paid time for the whole company to join the building efforts on-site, as well as two additional days for company members to volunteer on their own time. In all, Praxent’s contribution to the project spanned four months from March to June, 2019.



About Praxent

“Care Deeply,” is one of five core values Praxent strives to put into action on a daily basis. Learn more about what makes Praxent a great place to work and explore current job openings -- from project manager to UI designer.


2017-2018 AmeriCorps: Where Are They Now?

Home Repair Success Stories with TSAHC

Thrivent Partners with Austin Habitat to Repair Homes

TSAHC Partners with Austin Habitat to Revitalize Homes

TSAHC Partners with Austin Habitat to Revitalize Homes

Thrivent Builds Repairs

A Volunteer Experience: GoMedigap

By: Richard Cantu, Founder of GoMedigap 

GoMedigap is committed to giving back to our community by contributing not only financially to local charities but through direct participation as well.  Allowing our employees the opportunity to participate in charitable acts is great for team-building and provides our caring people an outlet for their inherent desire to give.

While this year marks GoMedigap’s first time to participate in an Austin Habitat for Humanity project, it has been a goal of ours for some time and this certainly won’t be our last year.  We intend to donate both financially and by bringing a team of volunteers each year to help build new homes for families in our community.

We chose Austin Habitat for Humanity because we believe so strongly in their mission of putting God’s love into action by bringing people together to build homes, communities and hope.  It aligns closely with our own company mission and personal interests.

The day we spent with Austin Habitat was enjoyable for many reasons.  Knowing that our labors contributed to a new home for a wonderful family was gratifying, but it also gave our employees an opportunity to work side by side away from the confines of our office.  We learned to appreciate each other’s work ethic, generosity of spirit and fearlessness in trying things many of us may have never done before.

Although we received good instructions before the event, we weren’t quite sure what to expect when we showed up on-site the morning of the build.  We thought we’d be tasked with simple things like painting, cleaning and other simpler chores.  While the various jobs for that day did include such things as painting, installing locks and other fairly simple responsibilities we were pleasantly surprised to be able to really get our hands dirty while installing walls, cutting out and installing windows and trusses for the roof, a staircase and a front porch roof among other things.  We took before and after pictures of the house and were really proud of how much we accomplished in one day.  We had a lot of good laughs at each other’s expense and were each personally proud of our accomplishments for the day. We ended the day with a couple of adult beverages and some good Mexican food at a nearby restaurant.  I think we each learned quite a bit about ourselves, each other and about the important work of Habitat for Humanity.

If you’re looking for an opportunity to donate to a local charitable organization with Christian principles, roll up your sleeves and contribute to an Austin Habitat build; we highly recommend Austin Habitat for Humanity and very much appreciate the patience of their staff in teaching us important skills.   An Austin Habitat experience will be great for your confidence and is a wonderful team-building activity.  Thank you Austin Habitat for Humanity for the opportunity you provide for us, the community and the individuals who are fortunate enough to be blessed by your program.



A Volunteer Story: Patti Kluth of NXP


Without the dedication of our volunteers, we would not be able to build strong, stable, and self-reliant communities. They are the backbone of our mission and our greatest advocates. We recently asked one of our long-standing volunteers, Patti Kluth of NXP, a few questions about her volunteering experience. 

Why do you choose to support Austin Habitat for Humanity?
Patti: The most common misconception about Habitat is that the houses are given away, but Habitat does not give homes away. I can stand up and get behind the philosophy of providing a hand up, not a handout. I volunteer for a lot of things, and I truly find service is a humbling experience.  Who doesn’t want to get out of the office and get their hands dirty and use a pneumatic nail gun too?!

How long have you been partnering with us?
Patti: My first build was 2013, and I have done 5 more builds since then. I have been a team lead 3-4 times.


What is your most memorable Austin Habitat moment?
Patti: It was June, over 100 degrees, and our black t-shirts didn’t help. Our task was roofing, exterior siding, and exterior painting. It began to rain mid-day. Both of the homeowners were there, also working in the heat and rain. They didn’t speak English, but they were so thankful that we took off work to be there in the heat and the mud. I felt such pride when the walls went up on that house at the end of the day, like I had really accomplished something. One week later our team went back for a second team building event and we did another round of tasks. The homeowners were there again, really working hard on their home. HE was building HIS home. The sense of accomplishment I felt for putting up walls and roofing was nothing compared to what the homeowner must have felt while building his own house, and that hit home with me. 

How do you feel volunteering with us impacts your company’s culture? 
Patti: I organize many volunteer events in my department, and Habitat for Humanity is always the most requested event. Everyone gives great feedback about it and enjoys so many aspects, from team building to skills we didn’t know our co-workers had. Working with team members we don’t normally get to work with, meeting new people, getting outside, working with tools you may have never worked with before, trying new skills, using ones you haven’t used in a while- all while working on a home for a family who needs a place to live.  Volunteering gives you a peace of mind to know that you have bettered the community by doing just one small thing at a time and you see that in our NXP’s volunteers. 

What does “home” mean to you and why is it important to help provide that opportunity for others?
Patti: Home is where I feel safe and secure and it’s somewhere I rely on. Home is somewhere I can be myself; it’s somewhere I can relax. Home is surrounded by the people I care about, and those who care about me. It is a place filled with family memories and somewhere you will always be welcome. 

If you wanted to recommend that someone support Austin Habitat in two sentences, what would you say?
 Patti: Don’t fret if you don’t think you have the skills, there is always a job for your skill level or someone there to teach you. Volunteering helps the community and is rewarding on so many levels, so take the time and get outside and join a build today!  


Repairing Home, Community, and Hope: Part 2

By: Carly Yansak 

The repairs on Ms. Bobby January Jones's home have started! Austin Habitat for Humanity is partnering with many organizations on this project, and the City of Austin is the first to begin working. For the next few weeks, they'll be removing toxic lead paint, widening doors for ADA access, putting ADA ramps in the bathrooms and the back of the home, and replacing rotted wood throughout the structure. 

 let's try this out.

While this is happening, they've moved her out and are paying for her stay in a hotel. "I haven't lived anywhere else for 60 years," Ms. Bobby says. "I'm nervous, but it will be a good time." 

Her home is the perfect image of what Austinites covet when they think, "east side." It has the big porch, the color pops, and the old-school, classic architecture. However, in recent years, the same thing that is happening all over Austin happened here - it has been sandwiched inbetween two urban-designer homes. "I love my house but it just doesn't look as nice anymore now that they've gone up." Toxicity aside, removing the lead paint for a fresh coat is going to help Ms. Bobby feel a new pride in her home. 


After the city is finished Austin Habitat will start interior repairs. One of these includes evening out the floor boards. They've warped over time and pushed the carpet up sporadically, which has caused Ms. Bobby to fall several times. We'll be back with another update on Ms. Bobby soon! 

If you would like to make a gift to the Home Repair Program, please select it as your designation on our donation page. 



Repairing Home, Community, and Hope

By: Carly Yansak

Most people know Austin Habitat builds affordable homes for deserving families, but our lesser-known Home Repair Program is making a big difference in the community as well. The client standards are the same - they must make 60% or less than the Median Family Income ($46,000 for a family of four) - and their quality of life is just as negatively impacted by inadequate housing as our Affordable Homeownership Program families. 

One of these people is Bobby Jones January - a long, long time resident of east Austin.

Bobby Jones resides in one of those quintessential, quaint eastside homes many people covet. Nestled between two newly built, modernly designed structures, it sits on a little hill that provides a view of the skyline. At the age of 67, she's lived here for 60 years. She is the 3rd generation calling it home and raised the 4th under the same roof she grew up under. The 5th generation can often be found playing in the den or falling asleep in front of the television. "My kids are grown and all have their own homes, but they're still always here. This is a family house," she says.

Family is extremely important to Bobby and reaches well beyond the people who are her direct relatives. She's a volunteer at heart and has been for decades. For years she ran her own "dress for success" type program, going to schools and churches to teach young women how to dress professionally. After her parents passed away from cancer, she began working with the American Cancer Society. Now, alongside her church, she goes to homeless shelters and nursing homes to make sure people have the clothing they need. Just last year, the City of Austin honored her for exemplary service to the community. 

"I know one day I'll get really old and someone will help me. It always comes back," Bobby says. "I don't want anyone to pay me for anything I do because the Lord is going to bless me in the end."

After so many years, Bobby's home is starting to feel the grip of time. The outlets all shoot out sparks, the lead paint needs to be abated, and the roof and flooring need significant repairs. Bobby also now needs ADA modifications to help ensure her safety - congestive heart failure has brought on vertigo, and she often finds herself reeling and needing to grab something for stability. She knows the house needs critical repairs and has tried to keep up by fixing something once a year, but the cost is too high for her to make the repairs in order to keep her and her grandchildren safe.

"If I had a million dollars, I wouldn't move. This is my homestead, and all my family and friends are close!" Being close isn't just a sentimental value either - ever since a drunk driver left her for dead in a hit and run outside her home in 1998, Bobby hasn't been able to drive. Proximity is important for her to be able to get around.

When people like Bobby Jones have to decide between buying groceries and making critical repairs to keep their family safe, Austin falters. The wellbeing of our residents is imperative to keeping our city stable and thriving. This is why Austin Habitat's lesser-known Home Repair Program is just as important as our Affordable Homeownership Program.  We don’t always have to put a new roof over our client’s heads, sometimes giving their old ones new strength makes all the difference.

If you'd like to help improve the lives of deserving homeowners like Bobby Jones, click here and choose Habitat’s Home Repair Program as your donation preference.



My Journey as a Habitat Homeowner

By: Yolanda Alvarez

Habitat Homeowner since 2001

I learned of Habitat for Humanity from one of my colleagues who was working towards getting her home. We had a lot in common, and were both single parents with toddlers. After my colleague shared her journey about Habitat, I volunteered without hesitation to help her get her 300 sweat equity hours for her home. I met some incredibly good people, people with hearts of gold and I found myself looking forward to the days I volunteered. I continued volunteering whenever I had extra time.

One day my colleague asked me, “Why don’t you try applying since we’re both in the same position?” I thought it would be impossible to be approved. At that time, I was living with two of my nephews and their wives. In essence, three families with children were sharing a 3-bedroom duplex. The landlord wouldn’t fix a broken A/C which had caused a big leak in my room and the roof was caving in. I wanted to provide a better home for my son. I thought it over and with a bit of hope and lots of prayer, I submitted my application along with a cover letter.

My application was processed and then I received the call that changed my son’s future and my life forever. On the other end of the line was a wonderful lady by the name of Rosca, a Habitat staff member, who worked with families through their application process. I heard her say, “Yolanda, you have been approved…” I’ll never forget that day. I
was at work and I dropped the phone as I felt weak, my body overwhelmed by adrenaline and other emotions. I felt tears welling in my eyes. I picked up the phone and I heard her say, “Yolanda, are you there?” I was speechless. I couldn’t talk, so she just congratulated me. The rest of my journey was surreal to say the least.

I was scheduled for orientation in late January. It was 32 degrees outside on a Saturday. After orientation, we were told we could start working towards our hours as there was a site they were building on. I opted to start my hard earned journey of accruing my hours that day. It was cold and it was drizzling out, but I was determined. Throughout my journey, I came home with, small cuts, bruises, callouses, and pure physical exhaustion, season after season. 

I remember the first stages of building of my home. I would visit the site every day after work with my son and I would take pictures. My son was 3 ½ years old and as he ran around the site, I would get emotional. All I could think was that my son will have stability, his own room, his own backyard to play in. Most of all, he will have not just a house, but a home. It would be no ordinary home either, but a home that I helped build out of love.

One day I brought him a small piece of wood made into a door stopper that the Construction Manager had made as a memento. It was painted in the color I picked for my house. That day when I arrived at home, I sat my son next to me and I talked about my day at the site and told him I had a surprise for him. I showed him the doorstopper and said, “This is for you. This is all for you, for us to have a HOME!” He slept with that doorstopper under his pillow for many, many nights.

My experience was incredible. The motivation I had to get through the program and the support from the staff, volunteers and the other future Habitat families was amazing. We were more than just volunteers and staff coming together to build homes - we were family.

Fifteen years later, my son is now 18 years old and graduating in June, then attending college in the fall of 2015 pursuing his Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Programming. I am working for the Office of Inspector General. I am in a good place in life, but more than anything, my dream of providing a stable environment and home for my son came true because of Austin Habitat for Humanity. Every chance I get, I speak of Austin Habitat for Humanity and how I am forever grateful for such a profoundly magnificent program.


HomeCity and Austin Habitat

By: Karli Jaenike of HomeCity

HomeCity Real Estate prides itself on giving back to the community, and for the past two years has been holding a volunteer event each month in which its staff and agents can participate. Austin Habitat for Humanity’s home builds are among our most anticipated events because the experience includes extremely hands-on and fulfilling activities.

Austin Habitat Build participants work together to help construct a home that will be given to a family in need.  The day of the build, agents and staff drilled, hammered, measured, carried, and built alongside one another, all the while bonding with each other and practicing team work strategies.

2015 was HomeCity’s second year to participate in a build. We chose to volunteer a second time because, being a real estate company, we realize what a struggle finding affordable housing can be in Austin. Owning a home instills a sense of pride in families and allows them a stable place to begin building a successful life. Studies show that homeownership helps break the cycle of poverty by boosting educational performance of children, lowering crime rates, and lessening welfare dependency among other things.

Virginia Baker, a Marketing/Tech Specialist at HomeCity fondly remembers working with the actual future homeowners while they performed their hours of ‘sweat equity’, which is part of the process of receiving an Austin Habitat Home.  “At the end of the day looking at all the work you’ve accomplished is extremely fulfilling,” said Baker. “Getting to work alongside the future homeowners and getting to know the person that will actually be living in the house is really something special.” Many members of our team felt especially touched by the fact that the future homeowners seemed grateful and were looking forward to enjoying a life in the new house they were building.

Volunteering with Habitat for Humanity has impacted our company’s culture in many ways. First and foremost, it serves as a team building event in which realtors and staff work together to achieve a common goal. Spirits are high while working on the project because everyone feels a similar sense of accomplishment, and a shared feeling of pride. Community events like these foster a company culture centered on not only growth of the company, but also personal growth and giving back to the community. Habitat Builds are priceless experiences that we would recommend any company schedule; we’ll definitely be back next year!

Thrivent Builds: A Volunteer Story

By: Jeff Cartledge, Financial Associate for Thrivent Financial

Thrivent Financial has been a supporter of Austin Habitat for over five years now, with five homes completed and one currently under construction to bring that number to six. Our current build is one of the last homes to close out and complete another Habitat neighborhood here in the Austin area.

Our members choose to work with Austin Habitat for many reasons. While serving the families who will live in these homes is extremely important, it is the comradery with the other workers and volunteers that is most impactful. Having the opportunity to work alongside your sponsored family and others that are doing their “sweat equity” cannot be replicated or replaced with any other volunteer experience.

A moment that comes to mind of being memorable was on a Habitat repair day last November. I received a call from one of the ladies at the Austin office wanting to “feel us out” for the possibility of cancelling the repair day due to
projected rain and even snow. I too was skeptical of the weather forecast so I told her I would get back to her and let her know what the volunteers thought.

Each person I talked to thought I was crazy. They kept saying "it will be okay," and "no way are we cancelling!" The passion to serve in each group of volunteers I have helped organize is truly amazing. We went on to have an extremely productive, cold, not so wet, and stand-by-the-fire-when-you-get-a-chance kind of work day. The host family even cooked us some food on the grill while we tried to convince ourselves it was getting warmer.

When I started with Thrivent Financial I hadn’t ever worked with Habitat before. Being a very philanthropic organization, we are always encouraged to get plugged into a nonprofit and help out where you can. Our company’s culture has always directed us to help where we fit, or contribute to what we are passionate about. So I think it is not that we bring the volunteering culture back to our organization, but the organization pushes us to go out and get cultured.

Since volunteering with Habitat, I have had the opportunity to work on a variety of platforms: from local builds to international and, most recently, the Habitat repairs. It has led to many build stories and provides something we share with Thrivent members and the others we encounter in our daily life.

Nationally, Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year! Since the partnership’s inception, Thrivent and its members have committed $213 million and over 4.4 million volunteer hours to strengthening communities in the United States and around the world. This year, Thrivent will commit over $12 million to HFHI to support the partnership.  This funding will support the construction of 121 homes with Thrivent Builds Homes, the repair up to 450 homes with Thrivent Builds Repairs, and 120 worldwide trips with Thrivent Builds Worldwide.



Ralph and Carol Germer: 14 Years of Service

By: Carly Yansak

Ralph and Carol Germer became involved with Habitat in Paterson, N.J., where they were financial supporters of the mission. Ralph calls himself a Texan now, but Carol claims, “I’m still a Yankee!” After they moved to Austin, they began working hands on alongside our community of volunteers and family partners.

“The most rewarding aspect is seeing the volunteers having fun and getting good work done,” says Ralph. For Carol, it’s about the end game. “It’s getting to the end of the build and knowing another family’s dream has become a reality. It’s a job well done.”

Ralph and Carol work with a group of volunteers who have been with us since the 1980’s. The group has become a cohesive unit, working together in a synchronization that only comes through years of team work and bonding. Ralph and Carol have personally been with the crew for 14 years, and don’t plan on going anywhere any time soon.

“I think people should work with Habitat because a family is getting a hand up. It’s also amazing to see the progress completed by a group of volunteers at the end of each build day,” Carol says. She sums up her feelings through the following haiku:

Kindred spirits come

Deft hands ambitious hearts

Fulfill visions, dreams   


Reaching Out to Reconnect

By: Wayne Gerami 

On Saturday I got the opportunity to work with a group of students from the McCombs School of Business who are helping us with our Neighborhood Revitalization program we are piloting in the Mary Vice neighborhood in East Austin. The students, along with Tess (our AmeriCorps Vista) and I, fanned out into the neighborhood to talk to homeowners and get their thoughts on the state of Mary Vice. We were able to talk to quite a few of the folks who live there and get some valuable information for planning our next steps on how to support our partner families there. It was also really neat to see what people have done with their homes- tiled patios, beautiful carports with brick detailing, and lots of pretty landscaping. The “safe, simple, affordable” Habitat homes served as a canvas for the folks living there to work on so they can turn a house into a home.

For some of the students, this was their first time seeing much outside of the downtown/campus area, and especially seeing a poorer area of town. They appreciated the chance to interact with the homeowners and get first-hand accounts of the generational-level change that the Habitat house has provided for that family. We ended up spending nearly two hours in the area talking to different people and I think we’re all better for it.

Afterward, we went to Alonzo’s Tacos and got to get a real taste of what folks who live around there eat. We’ll use the information we gathered to make our event on April 11th a great event for the families. Many of them mentioned how they liked the neighborhood but felt disconnected from their neighbors. Hopefully we can help them re-establish those relationships and empower them to make the neighborhood their own!

Onion Creek Recovery Efforts Continue

By: Carly Yansak 

Earlier this month, the Texas Baptist Disaster Recovery wrapped up a partner project with Austin Habitat in Onion Creek in the continuing efforts to help the area stabilize. 

Though the Texas Baptist's main operations are based in Dallas, the group always goes where there is need. "If you've got folks who are overwhelmed, they need help. Sometimes you don't even know where to start looking because there is so much need," says Charles Baker of Texas Baptist's. 

With funding for materials provided by State Farm, the  focus of the project was fencing. Whether it be repairs to damaged ones or installing completely new ones, 200 volunteers worked alongside Austin Habitat staff and AmeriCorps, completing  work on 18 different fences around the neighborhood.

"We're focused on helping for the long term," says Charles. "Sometimes that can mean really little things, and this time it just happens to be fences. We're just glad to be able to help."

This is just one of many initiatives Austin Habitat has been a part of in the Onion Creek neighborhoods. Since the floods, we've been working with Travis Austin Recovery Group (TARG) to help respond to the needs of the affected families via home repairs, debris clean up, or anything else we have been able to provide. Most recently, Austin Habitat and HomeBase have opened up the new 140 home development in Westgate to families wanting to use their City of Austin Buy Out benefits to purchase a home. The Westgate neighborhood is reserved for people who make under 80% of the Median Family Income (about $45,000). Since many Onion Creek families are struggling to find a home they can afford within Austin city limits with the amount of money granted, this opportunity will hopefully pave the way to new homeownership for many.

Much in line with the sentiments of Charles Baker, Austin Habitat will continue to work with and aid the residents of Onion Creek as long as there is need. 

Kauai and Community

By: Claire Anderson, Volunteer Coordinator

In February 2015 I traveled to Kauai, HI on a Global Village trip and had the pleasure of meeting new Kauai Habitat home owners, Don Baker and Vern Kauanui. Vern is native to Hawaii and Don moved to Kauai from Dallas, TX in 1991. The two met in 1993 and have been inseparable ever since. In 2013, same-sex marriage was legalized in Hawaii, so they decided to get hitched and were married in February 2014.

After years of renting and being on the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands waiting list, Vern finally got the call he had been longing for. The news was exciting to say the least;Vern and Don would have a piece of property with an ocean view to build a home on. They would no longer have to struggle with locating a safe and affordable place to live. In 2012, Don and Vern decided to apply for homeownership through Kauai Habitat for Humanity. After completing 700 hours of sweat equity, Don and Vern were welcomed home on February 27th 2015. They celebrated their hard work with family, friends, and neighbors.

I thought Don and Vern were the ideal family to work with, especially because of their willingness to partner. They are kind and hardworking, and both have passion for life and Hawaiian culture. Don and Vern go above and beyond for Global Village volunteers by making lei’s for every group that comes to volunteer. For my group of 10, they had to collect 500 flowers to complete the lei’s. Vern also teaches the GV volunteers how to do a hula dance called the huklilaua. They immediately accepted us, as I’m sure they have done with other groups, into their “ohana,” which means family in Hawaiian.

After going to Kauai and having met Don and Vern, I have a stronger sense of what community can look like. Hawaiian culture is about respect and acceptance for humanity, both man and environment.  I feel lucky to have visited the beautiful island of Kauai, and even more fortunate to have met Don and Vern; they reignited my passion for life, reminding me that you can do anything you set your mind to. 


ReStore-ing Education

By: Carly Yansak

Tamie Glass is an assistant professor in the School of Architecture for The University of Texas at Austin. Recently, she brought a group of students into the Austin Habitat for Humanity ReStore to learn about what is has to offer. 

We caught up with her to ask, "why?"

1. Why did you decide to bring your students to the ReStore?

Field trips are an important part of learning about construction for Interior Design students at the UT School of Architecture. Getting off campus helps them learn first-hand about materials, assemblies, and issues like sustainability that are impacting the building industry. ReStore embodies a lot of the principles we discuss in class, so I wanted my students to have a behind the scenes look at alternative material flows.

2.  What was the purpose of the trip?

Interior designers specify more than $46 billion in products annually, and a large portion goes toward renovations. While this is great for the economy, it also means that designers contribute greatly to the waste stream. The ReStore is eye-opening and demonstrates how discarded materials and products can become a resource.

3. What are you hoping your students will take away from visiting the ReStore?

I want them to consider how diverting reusable construction materials and products from the landfill can become a source of inspiration. It changes the design process completely, requiring us to consider how to incorporate reclaimed/salvaged material from the start while also detailing for future disassembly.

4. If you had to convince someone to shop at the ReStore, what would you say?

There is something for everyone at ReStore - why not make it your first stop?


A Look Into: Texas Habitat for Humanity Campus Chapter Conference

By: Tyler Markham

The one most important thing I took away from the conference was the idea of treating Habitat and affordable homeownership as a social movement - as a push for stronger and socially just communities.

After 3.5 years in Habitat, I felt like I finally got it. Before, I’d known why I volunteered and why other student members volunteered. But I wasn’t framing—to myself or to others—what we were doing as a cohesive movement to eliminate poverty housing. Getting to know the other campus chapter leaders and hear what they were doing in their communities gave me the opportunity to reflect on what it means for hundreds of Habitat chapters across the country to be working under the same banner—better, decent, affordable housing for all. And having the chance to engage members of the Texas Legislature about affordable housing issues awoke me to the possibilities inherent to an organized and motivated campus chapter. I came back from the conference ready to engage our chapter’s members and give them a holistic picture of what Habitat does in the community and what it means to be a part of our movement.

My hope for this chapter is that we will be a catalyst for turning service-oriented students into politically and socially activated members of the affordable homeownership community who are motivated to make changes in our political and social structure that are just as concrete as the foundations of the homes they build on Saturdays.

Tyler is the President of the UT Habitat for Humanity Campus Chapter 



Donor Spotlight: JKD Builder

By: Carly Yansak

Keith and Sue Durio are the owners of JKD Builder, a small family-owned homebuilder who build custom pools, homes, and outdoor living spaces in the Lakeway and West Austin areas. This holiday season, the Durio’s chose to benefit Austin Habitat for Humanity in a unique way. They invited their clients to write blog posts, and for every like or share on the post, they donated $2.50 to Austin Habitat.

We caught up with Sue Durio to ask her, “why Austin Habitat?”

1.Why did you choose to donate to Austin Habitat?

Each year we seek out a nonprofit to support and promote through our business. We chose Austin Habitat because we share a common goal of helping individuals and families realize their dream of home ownership, and have admired the work of Austin Habitat in the community for many years.

2.  What is it about our program that speaks to you the most?

When we were getting our business off the ground in 2001, and when we built our first personal homes many years ago, it took a lot of sweat equity on our part. We worked side-by-side with each other, and friends, family, and suppliers, to do everything from laying tile to hanging sheetrock in those early years. There’s nothing like the pride in owning a home that you personally helped create through your own hands. We love the fact that Austin Habitat’s clients take a personal, active role in helping to make their dreams come true.

3. If you had to encourage someone to support Austin Habitat, what would you say?

Supporting Austin Habitat truly is providing a hand up to others – not a hand out. This is work that is changing Austin for the better, and changing lives.


Welcome Home

By: Claire Anderson

As I reflect on our Homes for the Holidays Blitz Build, I am reminded why I am so passionate about Habitat. I am grateful there is so much generosity in the world, and I am reminded we are more than home builders.

The last 3 weeks have been a whirlwind, and at times I have found it hard to keep myself focused on the present moment. I’m always thinking about the safety of our volunteers, the weather, what we will feed them for lunch, etc.

Throughout the Blitz, many volunteers have asked questions about our current neighborhood. Are these all Habitat homes? How many are there/how many will there be? How many are occupied? And when did we start building out here? I have happily answered these questions with ease almost everyday for the last 3 weeks, proud of what we have accomplished and happy to be a part of it. However, it was on the final volunteer build day that my Blitz fog lifted, and once again saw the brilliance of Habitat’s mission.

As the lunch rush ended, I slowly became more cognizant the Blitz was coming to an end and that these families finally had a place to call home. While in the midst of this realization, 2 families from our fall sub chunk entered the neighborhood, and were excited to show me the keys to the home they had dreamed of and worked so hard for. I walked around the home of Laila and Rachid, complimenting their color choice of their front door. I shook hands with their neighbor Mustapha, and discussed when he and his family were moving in, and then left the neighborhood knowing we had just finished 2 more homes. This is why I Blitz, so that families have a place to call home.

My AmeriCorps


By: Raine Miller 

Originally from Georgia, I served my first term of AmeriCorp in a more researched-oriented VISTA position focusing on the makeup of the local homeless population in Billings, Montana before coming to Texas.

I joined AmeriCorps to shift the focus of my service to our nation's domestic problems versus the problems plaguing developing nations oversees that will mostly ever see cosmetic solutions. I chose to serve in Austin this year to escape the snow of Montana in a new city with such a preponderance of services and diversity of cultures to enjoy outside of work.

Thus far, the experiences that have impacted me the most at this affiliate are my many interactions with our volunteers on the job site. They have always tackled their tasks with the utmost enthusiasm and zeal to learn something new.

The most rewarding aspect of being an AmeriCorps is working with a fresh set of faces each day eager to make a difference in their community one nail at a time.



The Side Effects of Grant Writing

By: Kimberly Griffin 

As the Grants Manager, I am responsible for researching potential funders, writing proposals, preparing budgets, tracking revenue, submitting reports, and overseeing compliance. There are a lot of reasons that I love my job – from the people I work with to the people we serve – but there are a few things that I never anticipated would become really unexpectedly awesome aspects of my job…side effects, if you will.

Gaining (and losing) unexpected skills – Because I use Excel so much for creating and updating budgets, I’ve learned more tricks, formulas, and shortcuts than I ever thought were possible or necessary. However, since I rely too much on spell check as I write, I think my third-grade teacher would be embarrassed by my poor performance in a spelling bee at this point in my life.

Knowing everything, sorta – Compiling a grant proposal requires knowing almost everything about our organization – our history, budget, community need, organizational capacity, program requirements, new program implementation plans, evaluation plans, and anything else a grantor could ask about (and some of them ask a lot). Seeking all of this information has given me the awesome opportunity to work with almost everyone at Austin Habitat, which has made me fully aware of how essential everyone’s contribution is. I definitely don’t know everything, but I almost always know how to find out!

Planning ahead – Because grant writing usually involves painting a picture of the future, clairvoyance would be really useful, but the closest thing I have is my preference for planning ahead. In our production meetings, I am usually the only person that wants to talk about what we are going to do 3 years from now instead of focusing on what’s happening next week.

Practicing patience – Grant writing is a game of hurry-up-and-wait. The only thing more satisfying than completing a big proposal with time to spare before the deadline is (obviously) getting notification that the proposal will be funded. However, the average wait time for notification is about 3 months, and some grantors take up to 9 months to give you an answer. This gives me plenty of opportunity to practice being patient, but I can’t say that I’ve mastered it…yet.

Kimberly Griffin, Grants Manager, has worked at Austin Habitat for Humanity since 2010. She received her BA in Environmental Studies and Spanish from Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX. 

Transforming Neighborhoods Through Housing


By Nikki Graham Salzillo


Building homes goes beyond the construction of a structure. It’s about community strength and empowerment through sustainable change.


The sweat equity the homeowners put into their new house is one of the most important foundations at Habitat. Over the years, I’ve loved working side-by-side these homeowners to put up the tresses, move dirt for a new backyard, or paint their children’s room. I especially love the dedication ceremonies where I’ve had the honor of turning over the keys to a new homeowner!


I’ve always held Habitat’s mission in the highest regard and have, at my core, felt drawn to the issues and solutions around affordable housing. Everyone deserves a decent place to live. Ensuring that adequate housing is available to all Austinites not only addresses a basic need, but also has the power to deeply transform neighborhoods.


While the economy has improved, affordable housing is still hard to find for some, particularly low- and moderate-income families here in Austin. In a city with high cost of living and a poverty rate that continues to rise, housing payments are causing many to have difficulty affording other necessities, such as food, clothing, medical care and transportation. In Austin, 53 percent of low-income homeowners pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing.


Owning a home is a critical part of financial security and a cornerstone of thriving neighborhoods, and we need to make affordable housing resonate within our communities as a core value. There needs to be an understanding that the benefits of homeownership extend beyond just the family living in a home with affordable payments – having a home is such an important step toward financial security and a critical part of building stronger economies. Austin Habitat has allowed us to focus our commitment to community development in real and tangible ways, and for that, I am so grateful.


Through the combination of our philanthropy, capital and expertise, we work to revitalize local neighborhoods as a means to build healthy and vibrant communities. Habitat for Humanity has been a valued partner for more than 25 years. In fact, Bank of America and Habitat just joined efforts for the first-ever multi-city global build this fall, which created affordable housing for low-income families across the U.S, United Kingdom, and Asia-Pacific. For an entire week, there were volunteers building homes in seven different time zones.


Locally, we’ve been working with Austin Habitat for over 10 years. I am excited for our upcoming 2015 build and proud of the work that we do, but I also recognize the need for ongoing effort. As Austin continues to grow, we need to consistently make a conscious choice to help our city’s individuals and neighborhoods in need. 


Nikki Graham Salzillo is Austin president of Bank of America.


The Light-bulb Moment


By: Nathan Aubert

In my time at Austin Habitat I have had numerous encounters that have affected me deeply. The one that stands the out most happened a while back, while I was in a house I had just put a roof on. I walked into the house at the end of the day and saw the family partner, Sergio, looking at the walls that would soon be his. I casually asked if everything looked okay to him, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said “this is my dream home.” 

The intense emotion he felt while standing in the skeleton of his living room opened my eyes to the work that we are doing here. Sure it’s fun to build, it’s exciting to watch a house rise off of a slab of concrete, it’s nice to get to know volunteers and family partners, but to Sergio, this is the culmination of years - probably decades - of dreaming, struggling, hoping, wishing turned tangible. A light-bulb went off in my mind that day. The work we are doing -  all of us from the Habitat construction team, to everyone working behind the scenes at Home Front, to the folks at the ReStore raising money, to the volunteers and supporters giving their time and money -  goes toward fulfilling dreams of real people and real families.

Seeing the people that I’m helping and learning about them is the most rewarding aspect of being an AmeriCorps member, hands down. In the United States, we don’t often get to see the people we help. Giving tends to be a bit colder, more distant, somehow. With Habitat for Humanity, you sweat next to the people you are helping, you share life with them, dream with them, help them. 



New Kid on the Block


Hello internet universe!  My name is Tess Cain and I am the new AmeriCorps VISTA member at Austin Habitat for Humanity. I am 23 years old from Plano, Texas. I graduated in May 2013 from the University of Tulsa with my BA in Sociology. I am also a registered 200 hour yoga teacher from the Yoga Tree Plano.

This year I will be serving Austin Habitat as the Neighborhood Outreach Coordinator Vista from August 2014 – August 2015 and today (Friday August 22, 2014) was my very first day in the office. Everyone was so excited to meet me and everyone was so welcoming. (I can only hope their excitement doesn’t wear off when I call everyone by the wrong name multiple times). My office is in “the pit” which seems to be a room that serves many purposes. Volunteers, interns and part time people tend to take a desk in here. It’s been pretty vacant today, however I have a feeling that this room will be pretty wild and entertaining.

Like “the pit”, I will be wearing a multitude of hats this upcoming year (lucky for me, I look really good in hats). One of the more vibrant hats I will be wearing will be expanding the Neighborhood Revitalization program. This means I will be creating new programs for community development, outreach and volunteer engagement. Specifically they want me to focus on empowering existing Habitat homeowners to create their own neighborhood initiatives. So, hopefully I will be working with passionate people, excited to make their neighborhood more of a community. My favorite part of wearing this job-hat is it gives me an exclusive VIP connection to the true roots to Austin. I am brand new to Austin, and as I am learning about all of the hip places to drink organic, fair trade, local, micro-brewed beer, I will also get to learn about the parts of Austin no one else really gets an opportunity to see.

The other major hat I get to wear is covered in stickers and paint; I will be developing the youth program at Austin Habitat. Since volunteers have to be at least 16 years old to work on site at the houses, Austin Habitat wants to create more opportunities to engage Austin’s younger humanitarians. I am working to creating a flexible, replicable model that can be utilized in neighborhoods across the city and exportable to other areas.

Anyway, back to my very first day. One of my supervisors, Caroline, gave me the grand tour of the Habitat HomeFront where I work. I got to meet all of the beautiful faces that sit behind desks that work behind the scenes to make Habitat function so well. Then she took me over to the ReStore where I got to meet a few of the lovely managers and explore the giant store of stuff. Afterwards, we headed out to lunch to meet up with my boss-boss, Sarah, a few of the women from the warehouse and some lovely ladies from the office. I think it was supposed to be a business lunch, but we spent most of the time laughing and telling stories. I immediately felt like I was in the Habitat gang. I felt so at ease and thrilled to be working with such a dynamic and incredible group of people.

After lunch, I got the “HabiTour” of Austin with Caroline, Sarah, and Claire. We started at the oldest habitat neighborhoods and ended at our newest community that is in progress this year. It was a long winding road of the entire city but it was such an incredible way to be introduced to my amazing new home. We all got a little car sick, but we also got to see the legacy of Austin Habitat and all of the work they’ve done throughout the years. The houses all look so precious and like their homeowners take so much pride in their home. You can also tell by the construction how deeply the regular volunteers care about the homes the build. Every single house had its own special touch that made it stand out from the sea of homes. By seeing the Austin community, I felt so inspired and connected to my position.

And now, sitting at my desk, on my computer, writing my blog entry, I can easily say that this has been one of my best first days at a job… ever. A lot of names and acronyms have been tossed my way but I am very happy to be a part of such a passionate and wonderful team. I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to be here and enjoy this journey. 


I am a firm believer in helping others help themselves. In my eyes, it creates the most sustainable change. Consider the proverb "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime," giving mankind the means to survive, thriving versus a one-time handout. This is what Austin Habitat for Humanity does, through faith in action, bringing individuals together to build homes, communities, and hope. The change that Austin Habitat is making is both continuous and tangible. The organization is the largest provider of housing for low income families in Austin. The process partner families go through is not easy; they have to work incredibly hard for the stability of a home, but it is worth it. Austin Habitat does not give hand-outs, they give hand-ups collaboratively providing families with the tools to be able to afford and maintain a home; this is why I choose Austin Habitat.

I moved to Austin in 2009 and wanted to get involved in the community. So, I started volunteering with Austin Habitat as a site host and construction volunteer. I learned how to do various tasks such as: installing soffit, porch posts, and building a fence. I enjoyed volunteering on-site because I was not just giving my time, I was also learning new skills. In 2011, I wanted to continue my relationship with Austin Habitat by learning the ins and outs of the organization. So, I completed my undergraduate internship with Family Services department, focusing on the Housing Counseling program. Then in 2013, I applied to become an AmeriCorps member at Austin Habitat with the Volunteer Services department. My AmeriCorps term ends July 2014, but that will not be the end of the road for me with Austin Habitat. I intend on continuing to be a strong advocate for the affiliate, giving my time as well as money.

When people ask me why I have continued to volunteer with the same organization for so long, the answer is simple: I believe in Austin Habitat’s mission, and I want to be a part of the change they are making for low income families in Austin.

Austin Habitat helps others help themselves, to make a house a home, and they inspire individuals to be a pillar of stability for their families. That is why I choose Austin Habitat.


Guest Blog by Al Threlkeld, Home Depot

Al & Ababeye (new homeowner)

Habitat builds have been a long standing service program for The Home Depot for over 20 years. My family started working on Habitat for Humanity homes back in the 90’s in Atlanta. I can remember my wife coming home from builds exhausted, dirty and happy all at the same time. She was elated at helping make someone’s dream come true. It sounded like so much fun, I actually took vacation from my previous job so I could be a part of the Orange-blooded volunteers and use my hands and feet for something besides computer work. After 8 hours of working on a new home for someone in need, I GOT IT. It’s been a passion of mine ever since.

Since moving to Austin 8 years ago, it has been a pleasure helping coordinate the builds each year and seeing so many willing volunteers bring their best to the table to keep the same great tradition going here in our local Austin community. The joy and the satisfaction that comes from serving someone else like this is not easily attained in other ways. The relationships you build are unforgettable. Knowing that you are helping a family so they have a place that they can call HOME, a safe place to raise their children, and a great outlook to the future - now that is priceless!

Tim Call, one of our long-standing day captains, has consistently raised the bar on what can be achieved on the first build day. He has a heart of gold and words to back it up with…..

Al & Bill (longtime Habitat volunteer)

"After my first year on a Habitat build, I decided to be a day captain. Each year since, I have volunteered for Day 1. Day 1 volunteers get to see the faces of the new homeowners who realize their dreams are now becoming a reality. Regardless of the weather and what part of the build is being worked on, you can see all the smiles of the workers and the constant laughter that fills the day. All the volunteers have a sense of pride while they are working. For me, it is gratifying to see the volunteers who were hesitant in the beginning become the first to sign up each year as they realize that their talents are more than enough to be an HFH volunteer. It also is refreshing to hear the volunteers tell how they used some method or tool they learned at the build in their own personal life. The rewards go both ways. At the volunteer level, there is no price tag that can be placed on the benefits and rewards that doing good for others brings. The builds allow you to develop new friendships that would not have formed in the office. From a cultural perspective, this is the first time some of the volunteers have seen this type of benevolence. Giving back and doing the right things are the core of our company's foundation." (Tim Call)

We take great pride in all of the core values of The Home Depot and seeing them in action. Giving back to our community is the right thing to do.

Home Depot is a valued sponsor of Austin Habitat homes for hardworking families. We will dedicate their latest safe, decent and affordable home for Ababeye Mengistu on Thursday, May 22, 2014.