When you’re a kid, you think the holiday season is about receiving gifts. When you grow up a little bit, you realize the holiday season is about giving gifts.
Since I was about 12 years old, I’ve always enjoyed giving extravagant or especially thoughtful Christmas gifts. Nothing makes me happier.
In the past few years, I’ve been fortunate to have the means and the opportunity to support several nonprofits with their work over the holidays. While I find it deeply meaningful to me personally, I also believe this is a calling. After all, those who can, must. Here are a few of those efforts and the excellent work that they do:
Since 2011, I have served on the Board of Advisors for Luke’s Wings, a national veterans nonprofit with a very narrow mission: reunite Wounded Warriors and their families at military hospitals around the world. They began with an annual budget of less than $100,000, but once they began telling their story through major media networks, they attracted huge support nationwide. They now have an annual budget of more than $1 million and they are approaching the milestone of having booked and paid for their 3,000th flight for a veteran or a veteran’s family member. During the holiday season, they launch a “No Solider Spends Christmas Alone campaign, where any veteran who needs a flight for the holidays has it booked for them at no cost and within minutes. You may learn more by visiting www.LukesWings.com.
A little closer to home, I am grateful for numerous wonderful efforts to spread cheer to needy families, like CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) and Blue Santa. My wife, Suzanne, and I decided to participate this year and are so glad we did. Both organizations help ensure that poor families have Christmas gifts during the holiday season, particularly where children are involved. You may learn more by visiting www.CASATravis.org or Operation Blue Santa at www.BlueSanta.org.
Around midnight on Thanksgiving morning I became aware of Operation Turkey, an incredibly well-organized meal delivery effort for homeless and needy Austinites with several locations. My job was to deliver about 10 meals to a specific geographic area. The host restaurant was a P.F. Chang’s on Jollyville in northwest Austin, near where I grew up. It was very moving on Thanksgiving morning to be surrounded by hundreds of generous and patriotic Austinites who were donating several hours on a holiday to serve those in need. You may learn more by visiting www.OperationTurkey.com.
While it is not necessarily specific to the holidays, Suzanne is president-elect of the Ballet Austin Guild, which is the volunteer force that supports Ballet Austin through assisting with community and education programming. They also help by funding part of the Ballet Austin budget by generally donating around $100,000 each season. The lion’s share of those funds comes from stocking and selling items at the Gift Barre during Ballet Austin’s performances, including at performances of “The Nutcracker” during the holidays. The Guild is also holding a spring fundraiser on April 30 at Hotel Ella, the proceeds from which will support scholarships to the Ballet Austin Academy for young boys and girls. You can learn more at www.BalletAustinGuild.org.
Finally, I was privileged to be a candidate for “Man of the Year” through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) last year, and I am now honored to serve on the leadership committee that is planning this year’s fundraising contest. LLS is an extraordinary organization that supports those diagnosed with leukemia and lymphoma — which in many cases includes young children — and donates millions of dollars each year to fund vital research for cures and treatments. You may learn more by visiting the Austin chapter of LLS at www.lls.org/south-central-texas.
These are just some of the organizations that we support.
These organizations and their work give me great hope.
There are many other worthy organizations performing important volunteer and charitable efforts in our community.
The holiday season is a wonderful time to give back.
Mackowiak is the president of Potomac Strategy Group LLC and the host of a new national politics podcast, “Mack on Politics,” which is produced in partnership with The Washington Times.