In The Company of Greatness!

Many of you might already have been aware that last Tuesday, March 8th was International Women’s Day and hopefully all of you celebrated it to its fullest! Naturally, not only did Ten Thousand Villages of Austin want to be a part of the fun that people around the world were partaking in, we decided to extend the party through the entire week! Monday – Thursday, the store hosted 1 local Austin-based non-profit each night and between the hours of 5-9 PM,  and over $300 of the store sales went directly to the non-profits! Each organization that we hosted had the opportunity to raise awareness about incredibly powerful causes geared towards women’s issues. Check out our impressive Benefit Night lineup:

The Austin Wildcats is a preparatory basketball training program for boys and girls in grades 4th through 11th from Austin and the surrounding area that prepares kids to play competitive basketball in Middle and High School and to compete in life after basketball. The purpose of their Benefit Night at the store was to raise money and awareness for their Tournament for Hope (April 16th), where 100% of their proceeds will go to benefit the Seton Medical Center Breast Cancer Center.

DiscoverHope creates dignified solutions for women in poverty through their Microcredit Plus Model. By combining loans with learning, they provide access to credit as well as access to knowledge. They believe that women in poverty have the potential to lead and to take charge of their lives. The impact of these efforts positively affects communities for generations, creating a legacy of hope.

is a non-profit organization created to empower girls to excel in math, science, and technology. They have quickly established itself as a best-case practices leader in empowering, educating, and motivating girls to enjoy and become more proficient in math, science and technology. Girlstart offers a variety of educational formats designed for girls, adults, and families through after-school programs, workshop series, summer camps, Expanding Your Horizons, and free community events.

Dress For Success promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.

But wait… there was more!

On Friday, we hosted our 3rd annual International Women’s Day Award Ceremony where we honored local Austin women who had astounding accomplishments in the areas of Humanitarianism, Environmentalism, and Animal Advocacy.

We cleared out a whole section of the store so that we could create a stage to hand out the awards.


We had a gorgeous flower arrangement created by and donated by our very own Board Member Anne Olson!

Of course it wouldn’t have been a proper celebration without scrumptious cake donated by Coco Paloma Desserts.


We enjoyed delicious wine provided by our kind neighbors at Botticelli’s.


We grooved to the eclectic music provided by The Sangeet Millenium Ensemble.


Beautiful jewelry (uniquely hand crafted by our very own volunteer Raquel Colon) was awarded to all of our lovely nominees.


Staff and volunteers got to relax and enjoy the party!

Then, of course, the International Women’s Day Ceremony would not have been complete without recognizing the award winners!

Animal Advocacy Finalists

Amy Mills (winner of this category)  has been the Executive Director of Emancipet since 2006, which offers low-cost and free spays, neuters and basic wellness care to pets.  Amy has also spent many years teaching a dog manners class at the Austin Humane Society.  Amy mentors other communities across the nation interested in emulating the Emancipet model and has celebrated amazing milestones like reaching over 100,000 surgeries at Emancipet and 10 years of service to the community.

Dr. Ellen Jefferson joined Austin Pets Alive! in 2008 as Executive Director and in the first year the killing of homeless pets in Austin was reduced by 20% with over 7,000 animals rescued and over 6,000 adopted through APA. Ellen also founded Emancipet in 1999 and directed that organization for nine years. Before that she worked as an emergency room veterinarian and volunteered at the local animal shelter. Since 2008, Ellen has been the Mayor’s appointee to Austin’s Animal Advisory Commission.

Sheila Smith founded Shadow Cats Rescue in 1997 and currently serves as board president. Community cats are of special interest to Sheila, and she has committed countless hours and a driving passion towards improving their lives. To date, Shadow Cats has sterilized over 3,000 cats, placed over 500 cats into adoptive homes, feeds over 400 cats per day and manages several feral colonies.  In addition, the group provides long-term care and hospice for feline leukemia positive cats at the Sanctuary.


Humanitarian Finalists

Dawn Perkins, who currently serves Austin’s homeless as Community Relations and Volunteer Manager of Front Steps/Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH).  Dawn manages volunteers, contributes to development and communications, and educates the public about homelessness in Austin. And when resources run low, Dawn digs deep: she has been known to serve hot chocolate to people sleeping outside on freezing nights when ARCH is out of room.

As the Austin Branch Leader of the Women’s Global Network for the past two years, Jerri Conrado (winner of this category) has given many hours to the local community and the global community as well. Jerri sponsors a FREE monthly Sunrise Breakfast for new members and guests to get an insider’s look at the organization and meet new connections. Through these events, many women are introduced to the world of microfinance and exposed to critical issues that concern women across the globe, which is especially important at the annual Global Business Partners fundraising event where the group welcomes contributions from local business women of $200 to provide micro-loans to women in underdeveloped countries.

In 2006, Maggie Miller founded DiscoverHope, which is an international development nonprofit providing microloans and training to women in developing countries living on less than $2 a day.  Since 2007, DiscoverHope has funded more than 325 loans and 800 development classes for 1,900 participants who have asked for trainings related to traditional literacy, health education, business, culinary, computer, artisan skills and more.  The loan recipients have reported more than $9,000 in new income generation directly related to skills and knowledge obtained in the classes – which cycles directly back into their families and communities.  Maggie is an extraordinary leader who inspires everyone to give their greatest strengths to the world.


Environmentalist Finalists

Cindy Allsbrooks (not shown), a longtime advocate for recycling, came up with the idea for Keep Bastrop County Beautiful and is now the organization’s Board of Directors Co-Chair.  In Fall of 2008, Cindy started a petition drive in hopes of gaining popular support and in 2009, a group of citizens came together to form Keep Bastrop County Beautiful with a mission to promote recycling and environmental awareness in Bastrop County. In two years, the county now offers curbside recycling to many residents, a Christmas tree recycling effort became available to all residents, school recycling programs are in place and a recycling drop-off facility now exists in the county. Cindy encourages all to join and help with inspiring individuals and businesses to improve our communities and the natural environment.

Niyanta Spelman has been extensively involved in the local community.  She is a founding member of Livable City, and Executive Director of Rainforest Partnership. She is dedicated to protecting tropical rainforests from deforestation in collaboration with local communities, and creating a connection between those communities and communities in the U.S. in order to raise public awareness of the role of rainforests in climate protection. Her nonprofit now teams with rainforest communities in Peru and Ecuador to protect ecosystems by providing forest-friendly means of earning money.

Susana Almanza (winner of this category), Co-Director of PODER, People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources, is a native of East Austin.  She is a former member of the City of Austin Environmental Board and former Planning Commissioner for the City of Austin.  She has worked for a number of years to protect her East Austin neighborhood from hazardous industrial developments, including a tank farm, waste-recycling facility, a metalwork and casting plant, chip fabrication factory, and power plant, which due to zoning, dating back to 1931, had allowed and encouraged many of these incompatible facilities to be sited in her residential neighborhood.


It is no doubt that International Women’s Day is a wonderful time to not only show appreciation for the accomplishments of the amazing women in your life, but also to renew personal inspiration to “incorporate giving into everything that you do.”* THANK YOU to all of the women out there that do wonderful things (small and large) to make our world a better place!


*On a completely unrelated note, this quote was taken from a speech that Blake Mycoskie, Chief Shoegiver of TOMS Shoes, gave at Southwestern University last week (ironically given on International Women’s Day 3/8). The story of how he started TOMS Shoes was completely inspiring and I found that this quote is relevant on many different levels.