If you haven't heard of Austin's RecognizeGood non-profit, which recognizes the power of good, then you are missing out. Every year, the city of Austin, Texas, holds a celebration of service, where individuals who go above and beyond to give service to their communities and the world can be nominated as this year's "Legends." The program has paid forward over $150,000 in its eight years of running.
The stories of these amazing people will touch your heart and make you wonder why you haven't gotten involved yet.
The public can vote say thanks by texting or emailing in their Legend of choice from Jan. 5-30. So, who are this year's Legends? Find out below, and then go say thanks!
1. Suzanne Gladden
After finding out that many foster and homeless children don't get to celebrate their birthdays, Gladden decided to bring them a bit of fun and joy. Her organization, Happy Birthdays, gathers volunteers and donations to fill birthday boxes and provide the children with a priceless opportunity to celebrate their special day. These birthdays in a box have been given to more than 2,500 children so far.
Sharinghappybirthdays.org describes, "We know there are many children whose special day passes each year without being recognized. Our goal is to bring a little birthday joy to as many of them as possible."
2. Dr. Ellen Jefferson
If there was ever anyone who cared so deeply for helpless animals, it would have to be Jefferson. This vet started her career by taking sick animals bound for euthanasia into her home to treat them, her goal being to give these creatures a second chance at life.
Since joining Austin Pets Alive! in 2008, she has saved the lives of over 25,000 dogs and cats.
Austinpetsalive.org had this to say about her: "Within the first year of her leadership, Austin Pets Alive! reduced the killing of homeless cats and dogs in Austin by more than 20 percent."
3. Scott Hardy
You can see why Hardy has been called the greatest man in Austin. He's an EMT, a volunteer firefighter, a roadside assistance HERO and co-owner of a dog rescue with his wife, Christine. He looks for ways to give service.
He can frequently be found handing out flowers as a random act of kindness to people on the street. The flowers each have a small wooden coin attached to them. His website, unclemullet.com, gives visitors the opportunity to track their coins as they are inspired to pay it forward with their acts of kindness.
Unclemullet.com is described as "a place to celebrate acts of kindness, laughter, and love."
4. Kathy Manning
Tens of thousands of young men and women can say their lives have been impacted by Manning. For over 30 years, she has worked to help provide affordable youth sports for kids in Central Texas. Her work with Town & Country Optimist Club includes recruiting volunteers, organizing sporting programs, keeping her program budget in the black and many other time-consuming projects.
Jerry Appleby, a longtime club member, had this to say about Manning: "All of her time and effort has been as a volunteer with no payment for her efforts . . . Her focus has always been on fair play and fun for the kids."
5. Rodney Page
Page's personal motto is "Learn, Grow, Expand." He started his career as the first women's basketball head coach for the University of Texas, before teaching health and physical education to public school students of all ages. In 2001, he organized two mentoring groups for students, and he now frequently helps teach educators learn how to understand students and help struggling young adults.
Lisa Greinert said about Page, "You could see the passion every time he talked about a child and the belief that any child could succeed."
He is now a life coach for young adults, helping them to navigate life and achieve success.
6. Ricky López-Galindo
López-Galindo's foundation, Apoyando a un Angel (Supporting an Angel), definitely lives up to its name. At the foundation's first event it raised over $10,000 in scholarships to support local children. He has also helped fill 800 backpacks to help kids get ready to go back to school, and provided a pajama party for children at Dell Children's Medical Center.
He also helped organize the filling of four full-sized semitrailers with much-needed supplies for victims of Hurricane Harvey.
Will Williams, former RecognizeGood Legend, says, "In a very short time, Ricky has gained my admiration and profound respect in what he has been able to accomplish for the community."
7. Kerri Oswald
Oswald has a soft spot in her heart for the elderly. She has spent over 14 years with AGE of Central Texas, helping to sharpen the minds of those who are experiencing early stage dementia.
Seeing a great need, she noticed that many of the elderly didn't have safe or reliable transportation. She then became a founding director of Drive A Senior Southwest. She has personally dedicated over 3,200 hours to giving the elderly transportation.
K.C. Lawrence, the Memory Connections Program Director at AGE says about Oswald, ”Her compassion for others and how much she enjoys the work is evident in the way she remembers details about each of our participants."
8. Carissa Mallory
"You're never too young to use your voice to effect change," says Mallory.
At the age of 14, after finding out that many Tanzania students have a hard time advancing to secondary school because they don't know English, she decided to help these students get the English books they'd need.
She founded the Reading Around the World Literacy Initiative, and so far her work has provided 350 desks and chairs, over 12,000 books and an educational app designed to help Swahili-speaking students learn English. She was also the catalyst for finding a donation of 1.5 million used textbooks from the United States.
Wondering how to say thanks to your favorite Legend? Check out these 6 easy ways to do so:
1. Click any Legend’s name at the “Vote Say Thanks, Austin” link
2. Text Legend’s last name to (512) 456-9244
3. Message Legend’s last name to Recognize Good’s Facebook fan page at facebook.com/recognizegood
4. Tweet Legend’s last name to @recognizegood with the hashtag #SayThanksAustin
5. Email Legend’s last name (in the subject line) to firstname.lastname@example.org
6. Write in your name, then sign and date where indicated on a Say Thanks Form