As 2015 drew to a close each of us at EDA reflected on our many blessings. To our surprise, CEO Bonnie Hagemann also gave us each a priceless gift. As part of the company’s annual charitable giving initiative, this year Bonnie allowed each full-time EDA employee to select up to two charities of our choice to support by way of an end of year donation. We all felt extremely blessed and honored to be able to support causes that were near and dear to our own hearts, benefiting communities in our hometowns as well as those that are countries or continents away.
Each full-time EDA employee has written a message about the charities that they selected this year. We hope you enjoy learning more about these deserving organizations.
Ellen Botsford, Client Services Coordinator
My charity is SPOON Foundation. It was co-founded by my friend Cindy who I met when we were in Kazakhstan adopting our kids in 2006. Its mission is to improve nutrition and feeding for orphans so they may grow and develop to their full potential. Lack of early nutrition and feeding practices greatly affected our children. When we met Max at age 6 1/2 months, he had been drinking only cow’s milk, was rarely held, couldn’t lift his head or roll over, and weighed only 10 lbs. He was considered “failure to thrive” until he was 2 years old. This charity is helping thousands of orphans like Max get the proper nutrition and care they need to survive and have a chance at life.
Amy Sullivan, Director of Operations
Austin Jazz Workshop devotes their time to elementary school aged children in Austin and the surrounding areas by bringing professional jazz musicians into the public schools. They started very small only doing a handful of programs during one school year and today they visit well over 120 campuses a year. With their growth, they have been able to incorporate a hands on component so the children can actually touch, feel, and even play some of the instruments. Music has always been a part of my life and I plan on continuing that with my own children. The organization was founded in 1994 by Michael Melinger. I studied under him for seven years as I learned to play the saxophone and I still enjoy playing to this day. I am hopeful that the work of Mr. Melinger and Austin Jazz Workshop will continue to instill a love of music in children for generations to come.
Maria Ehlis, Client Services Project Manager
The charity I support and is very near and dear to my heart is Austin Pets Alive! With the help of APA!, Austin went from a 50% live outcome to a 90% live outcome, becoming the largest no-kill city in the US. What I love about this great organization is that animals that would never have a chance to live are saved and given a chance at life. I specifically work with the ringworm cats. Austin Pets Alive! takes in cats with ringworm from the city shelter and treats them until they are ringworm-free. In many other shelters, these ringworm cats would never have a chance of survival. Other great programs include a sanctuary for cats with feline leukemia, a barn cat program, and a program to save puppies with parvovirus. There are also programs for cats and dogs that have behavioral issues and another program that saves bottle baby kittens and puppies. Austin Pets Alive! has set a great example of what can be achieved and more cities have started to do the same!
Erin Terry, Client Services Project Manager
The two charities that I’m honored to support are Luke Lives On and Amore Ministries.
Luke Lives On supports families who have endured pregnancy loss or early infant death. It was founded by my childhood friend, Lisa Hays, to honor her son, Luke Hudson Hays, who gained his “angel wings” on January 21, 2011. I am touched by Lisa’s profound commitment to support families as they grieve the unfathomable – the loss of their beloved child. Her tireless efforts have brought comfort to so many. I am happy to do what I can to see that continue.
Luke Lives On assembles and provides memory boxes to local hospitals that do not already have a uniform system in place to distribute tangible support items to grieving families. The boxes are delivered to participating hospitals semi-annually, in January and June. The hope is that the gift box will lessen the feeling of empty arms that so many mothers experience after leaving the hospital, and that the contents of the box will provide families with a variety of support resources as they journey from grieving to healing.
I am blessed beyond measure to be the mother of two happy, healthy boys. I am honored to make this donation on behalf of EDA in honor of my sons, Griffin and Foster Terry. Lord, please be with these families as they experience the unimaginable. Heal their hearts, calm their restless minds, and allow the light of their lost loved ones to shine on through their actions indefinitely. Amen.
Amore Ministries is located in a small community in Kakamega County, Kenya, with office space in a building on Cornerstone Church’s campus in Shibuli, Kenya. The organization was founded by one of my neighbors here in Austin, TX, Christa Horst.
After visiting Kenya in 2012, Christa did not feel that she could return to the comfort and privileges of her life in America and not continue trying to help this very isolated community in desperate need of resources. Amore Ministries has three primary focuses – providing women’s health services, clean water, and education for orphans.
The organization believes that every child deserves to be raised in a familial environment and that orphanages are a last resort for children. In order to help make it possible for an extended relative to care for these children, Amore Ministries helps the entire family unit by providing food and supplies throughout the year as well as paying for the child’s school fees, clothes, uniforms, shoes, books and school supplies; therefore taking the burden of providing financially off their extended family member and allowing the child to be raised in a loving home with their relatives.
A portion of orphan sponsorship dollars also goes toward the building of wells to provide clean water to the community. I am honored and humbled to contribute to Amore Ministries so that they can continue their awesome work that directly benefits children and caregivers in Kenya.
Liz Howard, Client Services Project Manager
My son was diagnosed with dyslexia less than a year ago. We have been fortunate enough to be in the same city as Rawson Saunders. Rawson Saunders is the only full-curriculum school in central Texas for children with dyslexia. The school is recognized nationally as a leader in innovative teaching methods tailored specifically to the way students with dyslexia learn. Through individualized, multisensory, research-driven instruction within small class sizes, they cultivate their students’ strengths while effectively addressing their needs. Children with dyslexia are intelligent, creative, outside-the-box thinkers with a wide range of natural aptitudes. The world needs these vibrant minds and when provided with the right learning environment to reach their true potential, these children will grow to be among our greatest innovators, scientists, entrepreneurs, engineers, artists, athletes, and more.
Conspirare is a virtuoso choir. The Grammy®-winning ensemble is made up of distinctive solo artists who are also committed to the highest level of ensemble performance. These professional singers travel to Austin from around the country to perform together, providing their audiences with a rare level of choral music making. Inspired by the power of music to change lives, Conspirare engages audiences in extraordinary musical experiences through world-class choral performances and recordings. Many people write to them describing the meaningful role Conspirare has played in their lives, whether through a soul-touching experience at a concert or being soothed at a tender or troubling time in life.
Bonnie Hagemann, CEO
Amigos de Fe is a faith-based organization headquartered in Puebla Mexico. I was introduced to them by my uncle when he took me on a mission trip to Mexico some years ago. Today, I am a member of their board. In Mexico, they have churches, TV and Radio, schools including a university. They feed the hungry, have prison ministries and so much more. Their love for the people of Mexico is intense and unending. The leaders have been invited to speak to the President of Mexico on numerous occasions. They are very frugal and able to stretch every dollar two and three times what we typically see here in the US.
KOJ Ministries is a faith-based mission. It was founded by Kristi Overton, a world-champion slalom water skier. She is one of my best friends and she is the mother of the biological brother of my adopted son Joel. The boys are from Russia and I met Kristi through the adoption. Today I am a member of their board as well. I want to give to her ministry because for $400.00 we can give her inspiring magazine to an entire prison population for 1 year. Having had a family member in prison at one time, I know how desperate the prisoners can be for reading material and I also know that sometimes an inspiring story in an article can give a prisoner hope and we all need hope.
Lastly, as a company, we’re happy to support one of our clients in his quest to win Dancing with the St. Louis Stars, a charitable event organized to raise money for the Independence Center, a non-profit organization committed to restoring the lives of adults with severe and persistent mental illness.
Independence Center is a community-based psychiatric rehabilitation program providing a comprehensive system of quality programs and services that assists adults in the St. Louis area living with serious and persistent mental illness to live and work in the community, independently and with dignity. The nonprofit organization was founded by a group of parents and friends of people living with a mental illness, who wanted to create a welcoming community where their loved ones could locate employment, access safe and affordable housing, improve their physical and mental health, and enjoy social activities.
Last year, Independence Center provided over $500,000 in charity services to individuals in the St. Louis community who live with major mental illnesses. Because of their illness, many are disabled, living below the federal poverty level, or are otherwise unable to afford to pay for needed services. Their inability to pay for assistance, however, does not diminish their need for it, nor their capacity or desire to work, live independently and build a better life. The cost associated with provided services to each unfunded participant is $2,000 per person, per year. Donations made to Independence Center via Dancing with the St. Louis Stars, as well as our other fundraising events, enables hundreds of severe mentally ill adults to build a path to recovery and a life of independence and hope.
All of us at EDA are delighted to have the opportunity to support each of these deserving nonprofit organizations. Giving back to the communities that we serve is important to us as a company and to each of us individually. We are happy to usher in 2016 in a spirit of hope, generosity, and support of others. We plan to continue to pay it forward as much as possible this year, and hope you will too.