Archive for February, 2010

Southwest Key Volunteers Give Back

Here at Southwest Key Programs we strive everyday to fulfill the mission of our organization.  We’re also encouraged to involve ourselves in volunteer and community work outside of our “day-jobs.”

Here’s a post written by an employee, Marjorie on a recent service project we undertook with Habitat for Humanity right here in Austin.

“This past Saturday a group of Southwest Key employees had the opportunity to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.  It was a cool, drizzly morning when we showed up at the site in South Austin.  After a brief safety training – and after we handed in our liability waivers – the corps of experienced homebuilding volunteers divvied up our group.  No prior construction experience needed, we were told, and I for one fit that description perfectly.  I worked with the other Marjorie of Southwest Key – yes, we have two – under Dave, a friendly and moderately crusty regular volunteer, who explained the house was being built in “board and batten” style and our task was to measure, cut and nail on the battens that sealed the seams between wallboards.

He showed us how to use the electric saw and a nail gun (casually mentioning that occasionally the nails ricochet and have been known to lodge…well, you get the idea) and we set to work.  The house also needed “soffit” (thank you other Marjorie for knowing what that was) which basically means filling in the space under the eaves with many hundreds of sections of perforated vinyl.  The worst job had to be standing at the top of a ladder, arms raised overhead and neck strained back as you wrangled a balky piece of soffit into an unyielding set of plastic grooves.

At day’s end, site supervisor Bree told us we had gotten a lot done, and whether that was true or not, it was nice to hear after a day of somewhat arduous manual labor.  While I was happy to head home for a hot bath, I have to say that it was a fun day with a great group of coworkers, and that it was satisfying to know we’d made a concrete contribution toward building a house that a family would soon be able to call home.”    For more photos follow this link.

February 25, 2010 at 12:18 pm Leave a comment

Southwest Key Programs awarded $100K grant

We are happy and proud to announce that we were awarded a new $100,000 grant from The State Farm Youth Advisory Board,  one of only seven youth-picked grants statewide.

The State Farm Youth Advisory Board passed out $442,775 to a total of seven Texas organizations for programs addressing access to higher education, disaster preparedness, financial literacy, drivers’ safety and environmental responsibility.

The 30-person board of 17-20 year-olds picked grant winners from more than 1,100 applications totaling nearly $80 million nationwide.

“It was extremely difficult to narrow it down to just these seven since Texas saw a growth of 152 percent in grant applications received this last round. As a Board we review proposals and chose the programs that will ultimately have the greatest impact on their community, the most significant need, and are led by youth,” said Greg Weatherford, Senior Youth Advisory Board member for Texas.

We received $100,000 for our “breaking barriers through success” program that raises awareness about gaps in higher education access and provides tools for closing them. This grant will greatly help our East Austin College Prep Academy students, and help Southwest Key Programs fulfill our mission to open doors to opportunity so young people can achieve their dreams.

Congratulations to all seven organizations who received grants and thank you again to our friends at The State Farm Youth Advisory Board for supporting one of our new educational initiatives.

February 23, 2010 at 11:35 am Leave a comment

Presenting a Voters Guide to the 2010 Judicial Candidates

Following on from the two judicial electoral forums Southwest Key Programs hosted back in December 2009, the members of the East Austin Leadership Program have also developed a voters guide to those races. Last Saturday, members of the program supported by Southwest Key volunteers distributed the guide to every household in the local voting precinct.

Many citizens are unaware that judges are elected here, and their decisions could well affect you or someone in your family. So here is your chance to meet the candidates in print before you vote.

Remember, if you live in Precinct 123, your polling station is at the Southwest Key Programs Community Center located at 6002 Jain Lane, Austin. You can also vote early at our center this Friday, February 19 between 9-6pm.

Voters Guide 2010

February 16, 2010 at 5:05 pm Leave a comment

East Austin Neighborhood Support & Transformation – 2006

Southwest Key Programs (SWK) moved its national headquarters into the heart of Austin’s East side for a reason.  We pride ourselves on being a part of the community we serve, and our community center acts as a host for many neighborhood events. We provide a much-needed middle school, job training, leadership development, a Boys & Girls Club, arts and cultural activities, family support programs and much more.

To further help the families and accelerate the neighborhoods transformation, we launched our East Austin Children’s Promise to ensure that for all East Austin children, the best that Austin has to offer will also be available to them. This model is based upon the Harlem Children’s Zone, and all starts from an anchor organization and community center providing and coordinating services for local children and their families.

Looking back through our archives, I came across this local TV news coverage from four years ago in 2006, that outlines our neighborhood transformational approach and the trust and support we enjoy from the community we serve.

February 12, 2010 at 3:37 pm Leave a comment

Southwest Key Featured in Oscar-Nominated Documentary!

You may not know this, but a Southwest Key facility was featured in a recent HBO documentary, “Which Way Home”, that was just nominated for an Oscar in the category of Best Documentary Feature category!!

The film highlights the journey of four unaccompanied minors that travel from Central America to the United States.

One of those youth, Kevin, becomes a client at one of our shelters and part of the film was in fact shot in that shelter.

We were happy to be able to help the filmmakers, and are very excited that the documentary was nominated for an Oscar. Congratulations to Rebecca Cammisa (the director) and we hope her documentary wins!

February 12, 2010 at 12:17 pm 1 comment

Helping Haitian Kids – Esther’s Story

As previously mentioned, following the devastating earthquake, Southwest Key Programs (SWK) was asked by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to help in a special project involving Haitian children already in the process of being adopted by American families.

SWK staff are working from sites in Florida interviewing prospective adoptive families and expediting paperwork so these Haitian children can be united with their new families.

I just received another account from one of the SWK volunteers who just returned from Florida.  Here is her story. Her name is Esther.

“While in Florida, I had the opportunity to provide immediate care to Haitian orphans and to help expedite their unification with their adoptive parents. One night a plane came in with nearly twenty children. My guess would be that most were under the age of 10, although they looked much younger to me. There was one little boy who I helped get cleaned up that looked like a 4 year old at most, but I found out later he was 6 years old. He was small and clearly malnourished.

When they first arrived, they all looked fatigued, shocked, and sad. We had prepared mats with blankets for each kid. We then cleaned the kids who needed to be cleaned and gave them all socks and shoes if they didn’t have any, along with juice and snacks. Each child also had a medical check up to make sure they did not require emergency medical care.

We got to play with the kids, who by that point looked entirely different than when they arrived—now with smiles and laughter. Some had enough energy to play for hours, while others preferred to take a much-needed nap.  All this was happening while we prepared paperwork and did other relevant tasks. On one occasion, I had the chance to see an adoptive mother leave with her two girls. The kids were all just absolutely precious.

I am blessed to have had the opportunity to do this work alongside passionate and competent Southwest Key staff from several states. I learned a tremendous amount from their expertise and was impressed by their patience and flexibility. Truly, the people of Southwest Key are making a difference in the lives of many.”

February 10, 2010 at 1:29 pm Leave a comment

22 Acres of Amazon Rainforest

As previously reported, the students of Southwest Key’s East Austin College Prep Academy, recently sold t-shirts to raise money to save part of the Amazon rain forest.  Through their effort, 22 acres were saved.

Here is their teacher and some of the students reflecting on their project and what they achieved.

February 9, 2010 at 6:14 pm Leave a comment

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