In November of 2019, Beth generously donated an RV to Community First!, the village in Austin, TX developed for the homeless community.
More about Community First!: The village is a 51-acre master planned community that provides affordable, permanent housing and a supportive community for men and women coming out of chronic homelessness. As Community First! puts it: “This transformative residential program exists to love and serve our neighbors who have been living on the streets, while also empowering the surrounding community into a lifestyle of service with the homeless.”
Community First! was developed by Mobile Loaves & Fishes, which was created in 1998. Through its “Truck Ministry” and thousands of volunteers, MLF goes out 7 nights a week, 365 days a year to provide food, clothing and other life-sustaining items to homeless men and women who are struggling to survive. It has served 5.5 million meals since its inception.
The village now houses 180 formerly homeless men and women. Phase l covers 27 acres and will reach full capacity when it gets to 200 individuals. Phase II began in the fall of 2018 when another 24 acres directly adjacent to Phase I was acquired. Once complete, Phase II will house another 300 formerly homeless men and women. The total from both Phases will house 500 individuals and will represent 40% of Austin’s chronically homeless population. First Trust has donated funds to build 2 micro homes, both of which are now occupied, along with the funds for an RV, also occupied.
The village is also home to “Community Works”, which empowers individuals to “rediscover their God-given talents and move those talents into the economy”. The program enables the village’s residents to earn income (every resident pays rent for his or her home) while also developing new skills. Among the Works: Community Inn, Genesis Gardens, Car Care, Goodness Press Screenprinting, to name a few.
The Foundation asked Beth about her donation and how she came to find Community First!
What moved you to donate your RV to Community First!?
I had read an article about them in People magazine. As I was reading, it sounded like the same organization I had read about FT Cares Foundation supporting. I contacted Lisa Weier to confirm. Circumstances had changed for me and I realized I wouldn’t be using the RV, so I wanted to do something worthwhile with it, and I approached Community First! to see if they could use it. Knowing FT Cares Foundation had already done the research into the organization made me confident that they would be a good organization to go to. Sure enough, they thought they could use it for their bed and breakfast. I arranged transport of the RV and booked a ticket for me to do some training in our Austin office and visit the village.
What were your impressions when you visited the village?
What an experience! Everyone who works there is so enthusiastic about what they do. The way the village is arranged is just lovely. There are winding paths connecting all the different variety of small homes together, giving it a very welcoming neighborhood feel. There is a tremendous sense of community, so it definitely lives up to its name.
Did anything surprise you about the village?
The place is spotless. It has been very well thought out and nicely engineered and there is space to expand. The variety of housing options provides shelter at different price points and everyone pays rent.
The Foundation is deeply grateful for Beth’s generous heart and this wonderful donation to Community First!. If you find yourself in Austin, let us know and we’ll arrange a visit for you!