On Tuesday, May 3, San Antonio will take part in one of the biggest 24-hour fundraising efforts across the country to support more than 1,050 of the area’s nonprofits and the causes they champion.
While the work of these organizations and the passionate individuals need year-round support, The Big Give SA is an opportunity to put that appreciation into unified action and make nonprofits eligible for large cash prizes. Anyone can donate a minimum of $10 through the Big Give website to as many nonprofits as they please.
Below are just three examples of local nonprofits that are doing unique, effective work in the greater San Antonio area. Click here to view a full list of participating organizations.
Of the 1.6 million homeless young adults in the U.S., about 40% identify as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ). While the causes of their homelessness vary, 84% report being kicked out of their homes, with nowhere to turn, as a direct consequence of their sexuality.
“It’s pretty much an epidemic,” said Sandra Whitley, Thrive Youth Center executive director. “There are only a few shelters in the country, maybe four or five, that cater specifically to LGBTQ, and (Thrive Youth Center) is not only the only one in Texas, but in the whole southern part of the U.S.”
Operating within Haven for Hope, Thrive provides services like one-on-one and group counseling, job training and resumé preparation, and legal assistance to people between the ages of 18 and 25 in the LGBTQ community.
“Most of our young adults have been on the streets since they were 15 or 16, so they lack certain life skills,” Whitley said. A lot of youth in the program, for example, don’t know how to open a banking account after starting work. Some don’t even have an I.D.
“Being with them through that whole process makes all the difference,” Whitley said. “Not just giving them a map for their first time with something, but actually going with them and showing them how something is done.”
The struggles modern LGBTQ teens face are also personal for Whitley, who as a gay teenager was outcasted by her family and friends.
“If your own family disowns you, which is just about all of the cases here, then you think, ‘Well who in the world would want anything to do with me?’” she said. “(All of the services) have to work together – and they do. Without the counseling, they probably wouldn’t care to get a job or their GED because their self-esteem is so low. Us sitting there and listening to them and helping them is vital.”
Thrive has already assisted hundreds of members of the homeless LGBTQ community since opening a little more than a year ago. It’s work that wouldn’t be possible without the help of dedicated volunteers who, along with daily operations assistance, offer exercise and creative classes for Thrive’s youth. With increased funding, Whitley hopes to expand Thrive’s services, to help more youth with more specific needs.
“Some of these kids would be dead. The things they have to do to survive is not pleasant,” she said. “We’ve given them an opportunity that nobody’s given them in their lives.”
Those interested in volunteering at Thrive Youth Center can contact Chelsea Berkowitz at email@example.com.
Successfully treating post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain, and other effects of war often require more than traditional medical care. Veterans Team Recovery Integrative Immersion Process (Vet TRIIP) is a program that aims to assist the city’s veterans in healing from their physical and emotional trauma with alternative medical practices.
“We were looking for populations of people that the medical community has not been able to serve well and they’ve been struggling,” said Bob Deschner, Vet TRIIP co-founder. While Deschner and his wife Dottie are not veterans themselves, the experience of watching their veteran family members deal with physical and emotional ramifications of war inspired them to seek more holistic approaches of treatment.
Studies show that complementary and alternative medical practices have been effective in treating PTSD and chronic pain.
“We do integrative services. Instead of giving them one or two things for very complex conditions like PTSD and chronic pain, we offer a wide range of treatment options.”
Vet TRIIP operates out of community spaces, including several city churches, throughout the week with part time staff and volunteer medical practitioners to administer services like acupuncture, chiropractic rebalancing, therapeutic massages, Qi Gong, yoga and more.
Participating veterans get individualized two-hour treatment sessions each time.
“We have a very simple premise: more relaxation, comfort, and better sleep improves everything,” Deschner said. Maintaining a focus on those three things has led Vet TRIIP to positively affect the lives of more than 1,000 veterans in San Antonio and several surrounding counties.
“Eighty-five percent of veterans are community resource referrals from the VA, (Brooke Army Medical Center), and (San Antonio Military Medical Center),” Deschner said. “They do all the heavy lifting.”
A humble budget has not limited Vet TRIIP in its offerings. Last year, the nonprofit completed about $382,000 of service with only a $32,000 budget, thanks to the time and resources given by volunteers across the city.
As a leading military city in the country, San Antonio could become a model in holistic veteran care with services like Vet TRIIP.
“Military families are the backbone of America and having these veterans back home to become leaders in the country and the community I think can help our country survive.”
Since 1987, Respite Care of San Antonio has provided valuable support for hundreds of parents and families of children with special needs. Founded by families of special needs children, Respite Care’s services put a special emphasis on giving relief to parents with short-term and overnight care in their specialized care facilities.
They recognize the challenges that come with caring for a disabled child, and how the time and emotional commitments can be taxing on a parent’s wellbeing.
“Every now and then they need a break, a breather, the opportunity to go and just enjoy dinner knowing that their child was in phenomenal, safe and loving care,” said Bert Pfiester, Respite Care president and CEO. “We’re all about working with families because those temporary respite supports are proven to make the difference in a family’s life.
If you can take those breaks then that’s a huge contributor to empowering that family to be a beautiful family.”
While the organization started with an emphasis on relief for families, they widened their scope and advocacy efforts immensely. They’re now a shelter for disabled children from all over Texas rescued from abusive or neglectful environments. Respite Care is one of the only shelters in the state to provide such specialized care for special needs children, and their daycare in the center city is the only one in Texas with a nursing medical component.
“A child with (disabilities), because of their needs behaviorally and medically, needs a safe space, and a facility for that care,” Pfiester said.
Respite Care’s unique foster program situates foster homes next to the care facilities to smooth out the often difficult and traumatizing transitional period a child goes through when removed from their home.
But with its funding, Respite Care does more than provide a safe space for abused and neglected children.
“The dollars raised … ensure childhood memories occur,” Pfiester said. Respite Care staff makes an effort to regularly take the shelter children on fun outings to place like the Zoo or the rodeo, things they probably would have never had the opportunity to do before.
“Your memories in childhood are about those experiences.”
To learn more about Respite Care and the multitude of services they provide, click here.
Disclosure: The Rivard Report became a nonprofit this year and it will campaigning for donations during The Big Give SA.
Top image: Dozens of nonprofits in the south central Texas region gather outside City Hall at a press conference ahead of The Big Give. Photo by Scott Ball.