New year, new possibilities with $821,642 raised for local families

Dec 31, 2017
The Ashour family, refugees from Syria, moved into their new three-bedroom apartment in Northwest Austin on Dec. 20 and received new furniture from Star Furniture. Cindy Zavala, left, operations manager for Star Furniture, watches Jana, 3, and the family open gifts from the company. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

A fresh start. That’s what many of the families featured in the 2017 Season for Caring program are waking up to on New Year’s Day.

Syrian refugee Sami Khalil Ashour, 48, and his family have settled into their new apartment with furniture from Star Furniture and Chair Whimsy. He is driving a new minivan from the AeLK Foundation and Apple Leasing, and his children have clothes and toys from Star Furniture and bikes built and donated by the employees at Waste Connections.

Rogaciano Ríos Marcial, 46, who lost his wife in May and is raising his four children alone, moved into a new apartment before Christmas furnished by Season for Caring donations and with rent paid in full by Austin philanthropists the Sheth family.

Marcelo Gracia, 45, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, now has in-home care from BrightStar Care, which allows his son Gael Gracia Garcia, 24, to go to work without worry. BrightStar Care also offered to pay for Gracia Garcia to become a certified nursing assistant and have a future job with the home health care company.

These are just some of the ways donations to Statesman Season for Caring have changed the lives of the 12 featured families the American-Statesman introduced readers to Thanksgiving weekend.

This year, Statesman Season for Caring has raised $612,825 in monetary donations and an additional $208,817 in in-kind donations of goods and services. With $821,642, the 2017 Season for Caring is now the program’s second-best year, and there’s still time to give. Donations will be accepted through Jan. 31.

Some Season for Caring donations came in big ways with a matching $100,000 grant from the Sheth family, a $25,000 donation from Whataburger and a $34,011 donation from P. Terry’s Giving Back Day on Dec. 9. All of the featured families that needed it received new beds from Factory Mattress, vet care from Firehouse Animal Health Center and dental care from Capital Area Dental Foundation.

Since 1999, Season for Caring has given $11.4 million to the local community.

The Season for Caring partner agencies use donations to help fill the featured families’ needs first, but then will help hundreds of other families this year with basic needs such as rent, utilities, groceries, clothing, medical bills and transportation.

The Ashour family has had many of their needs taken care of through donations. They do need driver’s education for wife Ahlam Fouad Al Battal. To help, contact Interfaith Action of Central Texas, 512-386-9145, Ext. 7, interfaithtexas.org.

Ríos Marcial still needs a TV stand, children’s books, bookshelves, clothes for 10-year-old Alma, new shoes for all four children, a computer and internet service. Contact Boys & Girls Club of the Austin Area, 512-444-7199, bgcaustin.org.

Gracia needs help with living expenses, care expenses, and a tablet and wireless printer for Gracia Garcia. Contact Hospice Austin, 512-342-4726, hospiceaustin.org.

Other featured families also need your help.

Jazmyne Johnson , 24, and her three children had an amazing Christmas thanks to Grisham Middle School students, who donated more than $8,500 worth of gifts and gift cards. She is in desperate need of a car, an apartment near Hutto and tuition assistance. Opportunities for Williamson and Burnet Counties, 512-763-1400, opportunitiesforwbc.org.

The Matias family — Margarita, 72, who has ovarian cancer, Jessie, 60, who had kidney cancer, and son Ricky, 46, who has cerebral palsy and testicular cancer — went on a shopping spree at Academy Sports and Outdoors and now has a new accessible bathroom provided by Austin Facility Services. They still need a wheelchair lift for their truck, ceiling fans, microwave, smartphones, Tejano music CDs, an electrical wiring upgrade and a new window. CareBox Program, 512-296-2180, careboxprogram.org.

Nikki Jones , 35, and her daughter Adeline, 6, kicked off the holidays by lighting the Driskill Christmas tree. Nikki Jones, who has common variable immune deficiency, still would like a playhouse or swing set; a backyard awning; foundation repair; a dishwasher; help with medical bills; food delivery service; gym membership and gift cards. Wonders & Worries, 512-329-5757, wondersandworries.org.​

Lyric Wardlow , 19, who grew up homeless, had the tuition she owed at Austin Community College paid off by a group of college employees as well as received a laptop, printer and books for school. Her biggest need is tuition assistance to restart school. She also would like health insurance, gas cards, bus passes, cat food, cat litter, a gym membership, a bedroom furniture set, lamps, a vacuum cleaner, organizational bins and gift cards. LifeWorks, 512-735-2400, lifeworksaustin.org.

Bertha Foster , 43, who is paralyzed from a series of strokes, needs assistance getting a larger apartment so she can be moved out of bed more easily as well as a car for son, Donovan, 16, and driver’s education, a cellphone for him and cellular service. Donovan did receive his biggest need: a bike to ride to school from Waste Connections. Meals on Wheels Central Texas at 512-476-6325, Ext. 159 or at mealsonwheelscentraltexas.org.

The Sherwood family — mom Trisha, 40, who has multiple sclerosis; son Alden, 16, who is in a wheelchair after brain cancer; and son Jacob, 13, who is on the autism spectrum — need an accessible apartment; an assistance dog; help with rent and utilities; grocery store gift cards; art therapy and equine therapy; clothing and gift cards to the movies or Game Stop. Any Baby Can, 512-454-3743, anybabycan.org.

Hawa Hassan, 30, who lived most of her life in a refugee camp in Kenya, got to see her 9-year-old son Haji Mada try out his new electric wheelchair from National Seating & Mobility and Quantum Rehab last month. She still needs pots, pans, kitchen utensils, bedding, dressers, after-school tutoring for all the kids, a minivan with a wheelchair lift, driver’s education and everything for a new baby. Caritas of Austin, 512-646-1277, caritasofaustin.org.

The Negron family , who lost their father to a car accident last December, got some things for Christmas such as wrestling items for 10-year-old Luis and a computer for Samanta, 25, and Mayleth, 18. The girls need help with tuition assistance, and the family also needs a used car, repairs to their existing vehicle, another computer and a math tutor for Luis. Foundation Communities, 512-610-7391, foundcom.org.

Joyce and Kenneth Marvel , who both have intellectual disabilities and are 74 and 65, need more in-home care for Joyce, who uses a walker, a medical alert system and all new furniture. The couple is meeting with CG&S Design-Build this week to talk about possibly remodeling their condominium to make it more accessible for Joyce. Family Eldercare, 512-450-0844, familyeldercare.org.