Where I Found Greatness In Texas

December 14, 2017

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Where I found Greatness in Texas

Last month I asked y’all to nominate individuals and organizations that are doing great things in Texas. I’m excited to be partnering with Ozarka® Brand on their Greatness Springs from Here™ campaign to showcase local Texas individuals and organizations that are making our community great. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve sat down with individuals and organizations to hear their personal stories and heartfelt passions to learn all the ways they’re making this city of Austin even better!

SEE ALSO: Finding Greatness in Texas

Read on for five individuals and organizations that are doing amazing things in Texas, from a bake sale that raises funds for natural disasters to fighting homelessness. I’ll also tell you how you can get involved. Because believe me, you won’t have to look far to find a cause you can get on board with around here!


Keep Austin Fed


The idea for Keep Austin Fed began in 2004 when the founder noticed caterers at a big event taking all the leftover food to the dumpsters. He asked the caterers if he could take the food to the local shelter down the street. The idea grew from there and by 2014, Keep Austin Fed was an organized non-profit.

Today they pick up and deliver food to local shelters and recipient organizations in Austin. They don’t have any storage facilities of their own, so the prepared foods and produce are delivered daily to hungry communities and organizations where cooks can prepare it for those in need.

A few of Keep Austin Fed’s biggest local partners include HEB – Circle C, Snap Kitchen, and several catering companies. Many restaurants also donate, like Tacodeli, Upper Crust, Eddie V’s, and even the Regal Ravioli food truck. Donations, grants, and funding campaigns keep this nonprofit running. Keep Austin Fed turns food that would otherwise be wasted into something beneficial for others!

How you can get involved with Keep Austin Fed: Sign up to volunteer at Keep Austin Fed to help transport food between the restaurants/business to the hungry communities.


Nina Berenato Jewelry


Nina Berenato originally studied fashion, but when she met a jewelry designer through her styling job in New York, she ended up becoming a metalsmithing apprentice. As she helped produce her friend’s jewelry line, she learned the basics and began a collection of her own called Psyche Jewelry.

In 2015, she moved to Austin, rebranded under her own name, and opened up her first brick-and-mortar store in an airstream trailer. Now she has set up shop in The Domain and the rest is history!

Nina says she has a rule for her business, “Never say no to charity as long as their values align.” She got involved with Girls Inc., an organization that teaches confidence and job skills to young girls, while living in New York. Female empowerment was always an important part of her business, so naturally she decided to work with the Texas chapter of Girls Inc. too. Nina created a rose gold collection for all of her jewelry pieces and donates 10% of the proceeds to Girls Inc. Not only was the idea popular with her customers, but the pink matches the Girls Inc. motif and they were ecstatic on partnering with her!

How you can get involved with Girls Inc: Purchase anything from Nina’s rose gold line and 10% of proceeds will go to Girls Inc. You can also visit the Girls Inc. website to donate directly or help them fundraise. Join in on their social media conversation using the hashtag #inhercorner.


Lettuce Networks


You really can’t eat more locally than this! Lettuce is a network of urban farms throughout Austin that specializes in growing sustainable foods and delivering them straight to your door. They package organic, nutritious produce into convenient, affordable meal kits, and they even include recipes to help you cook your ingredients.

Lettuce grows all of their food within the city limits to reduce their carbon footprint and provide you with the most hyper-local meals possible! Perhaps the most impressive part is that they have a zero-waste policy, so along with your meal kit, they’ll provide a box for your scraps. Lettuce will then pick up your scraps to use as compost for their farms. Genius!

Lettuce also plants urban farms on school campuses around the community, as well as donating 10% of their proceeds to local PTAs. They aim to connect kids with what they eat by teaching them about farming and gardening. Oh, and if you’ve got 40 square feet of land to spare, Lettuce can show you how to start your own mini-farm! Their urban farming kit program comes with a monthly box of supplies to give you everything you need to care for your garden so you can grow your own produce.

How you can get involved with Lettuce: Become a locavore and sign up for a Lettuce meal plan that’ll give you all you need to make local, fresh, pre-portioned meals. You can also invest in a mini-farm or contact Lettuce to get involved with your local school community.


Niki Paul of ECHO


Niki Paul is the Chief Programs Officer for ECHO, which stands for the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition. She’s a fierce advocate for ending homelessness in Austin, and she works with a dedicated staff who hope to make homelessness “rare, brief, and non-recurring” for anybody who experiences it. (Her words!)

ECHO works to gather partners, increase resources, and create strategies to combat homelessness in Travis County. As Niki explains, it’s not just about charity – it’s about using data-driven efforts to get people off the streets. She says that we need to recognize that every person experiencing homelessness is a unique individual that should be met with care, dignity, and respect.

Niki has worked hard to end veteran homelessness in Austin, coordinating successful programs to get them back into housing within 90 days. ECHO also breaks down barriers to affordable housing by working with private owners and government officials. Currently, Niki is leading our community in developing a plan to end youth homelessness. To aid with these efforts, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded $5.2 million in grant money to ECHO and local nonprofit LifeWorks!

Niki is a true community hero. She’s a pioneer in Austin and the type of leader we should all aspire to be. She’s passionate and committed to ending homelessness in our community and I believe it will happen with her leading the charge!

How you can get involved with ECHO: Every dollar donated helps ECHO advocate for more resources. Check out the Austin Housing Fund. Donate your time or money directly to nonprofits in the community like the Salvation Army, LifeWorks, LifeSteps, and Caritas. You can also volunteer in January with ECHO for the Annual Point in Time Count if you’d like to interact with those in the community who are experiencing homelessness.


Crema Bakery


Austin Bakes was born in 2011 after major earthquakes and a devastating tsunami struck Japan. A group of food bloggers (including myself), home cooks, and local businesses came together to throw a huge bake sale in order to raise money for disaster relief efforts. Today, Austin Bakes continues to raise funds for victims of natural disasters each year, including places like Haiti, Nepal, and most recently, Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Austin Bakes is completely run by volunteers and they hold two bake sales each year. Small businesses host the events and donate baked goods. Businesses like Crema Bakery, Whole Foods, Stiles Switch, Springdale Farm, Make It Sweet, Foreign & Domestic, Jo’s Coffee, and Sugar Mama’s have all participated.

The most recent bake sale for Hurricane Harvey raised over $20,000 for Americares. More than 100 volunteers and bakers came out, making it their most successful bake sale so far. That shows you what an amazing, supportive community we have here in Austin!

How you can get involved with Austin Bakes: Visit the Austin Bakes website and join their newsletter to be notified about upcoming bake sales. You can also join the volunteer group on Facebook.

Thank you so much Ozarka® Brand for partnering on this feature. It’s been my goal to showcase individuals and businesses that are doing great things in Texas!

To see more examples of greatness, visit ozarkawater.com/local-greatness.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Ozarka® . The opinions and text are all mine.



Jane Ko is the Austin blogger behind A Taste of Koko, Austin's top food and travel blog featuring the hottest restaurants and weekend getaways. Jane has been a speaker at South by Southwest (SXSW), Texas Conference for Women, BlogHer, and more on entrepreneurship and social media. She lives in Austin Texas with her dog and cat.