87° F Sunday, June 25, 2017

PHOTO BY KEN FARR  Debi Krakar of Austin Dog Alliance and therapy dog Levi teach Leadership Lake Travis class members, from left, Chip Gist, Lisa LaCaze and Lauren Conrad how petting a dog can release serotonin in the brain.

Debi Krakar of Austin Dog Alliance and therapy dog Levi teach Leadership Lake Travis class members, from left, Chip Gist, Lisa LaCaze and Lauren Conrad how petting a dog can release serotonin in the brain.

By Cindy Taylor

Leadership Lake Travis Class 004

Leadership Lake Travis 004 classmates got to spend Valentine’s Day together to enjoy the Nonprofit Day planned by the team consisting of Chip Gist of Golf Hospitality Association Inc., Jennifer Farley of Lake Travis school district, Tom Williamson of Keller Williams, Jolene Weinstein of Realty Austin and Liza LaCaze of Edward Jones. The team leader was Devin Monk of the Lake Travis View.

Their theme for the day was “Have a Heart.” How appropriate was that for Valentine’s Day to open our eyes to how the area gives to those less fortunate?

Gist welcomed his classmates at Santa Catarina in Lakeway for breakfast and reported that in 2012 people gave $10.7 billion to charity in the United States. Texans donated $440.6 million and citizens of Lakeway contributed $19.2 million to charity.

Weinstein shared a heart-warming video with the group. Collin Wallace, executive director of the Austin Parks Foundation, mentioned that when starting a nonprofit organization, one should “Think big, but start small.” For instance, Nike sold 80 million yellow wristbands for only $1 a piece for the Livestrong Foundation.

The brand new Lake Travis Community Library was the next stop. Morgan McMillian, director of the library, and Carol Black, president of the library board, greeted the class and gave a tour of the facility. Diane Taylor, president of the Friends of the Lake Travis Library, also spoke to the group about volunteering. Legend Communities Principal Haythem Dawlett, who graciously donated the land for the library, was also in attendance.

Next, the class traveled to KDRP’s studio in Dripping Springs. The independent community radio station’s founder and volunteer Daryl O’Neal entertained the group with his wit and “Richard Gere look-alike” charm. The music genre of the station comes from Texas and the Mississippi Delta – jazz, blues, country and Americana. The station does not have disc jockeys. They have presenters who teach about music culture – it is a “people’s radio station.” KDRP sponsors Hill Country Galleria Concert Series.

Patrick Easter, Rotary Club of Lakeway/Lake Travis president, welcomed the class as we lunched with the club at Fore restaurant. Rotarians spoke about their major fund-raising projects – the Tanzanian Water Project, Shelterbox USA, local area LTISD scholarships, Adoption Awareness Picnic and the Christian Compassion Center.

The group’s last stop was at the Lake Travis school district Educational Development Center, where six local nonprofit groups spoke. Debi Krakar of Austin Dog Alliance explained how her dogs help children across the behavioral spectrum from those with autism to children who are shy. The dogs also help the parents of these children. There have been indications from research that people who live with a dog are healthier, happier and recover more rapidly from illness because the pets cause humans to release serotonin.

Lake Travis Youth Association Past President Chad Wilbanks said the association keeps kids off the streets and is now 4,500 members strong. LTYA now has 10 different sports offerings with martial arts as the newest. They implemented the “Positive Coaching Alliance” which includes zero tolerance background checks on coaches.

Austin Families for Families is a group of Lake Travis school district students, mostly Eagle Scouts, who helped 78 Lake Travis families in 2012. Their goal is to help all local children wake up on Christmas morning to find unexpected gifts underneath the tree.

Other nonprofits making presentations were Lakeway Civic Corp., LTlov and Lake Travis Crisis Ministries.

Realty Austin co-owner Jonathan Boatwright delivered the last presentation of the day where he described how his Realtor “family” is already working on their second Habitat for Humanity home through a matching funds program.

Boatwright’s wife and co-owner of the company, Yvette, said her mother always told her, “When you give, it comes back tenfold.”

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