Church’s Legacy to Live on Through FC Affordable Housing

September 17, 2021 | Posted in Uncategorized |

In Austin’s Riverside area, an old church stands in a grassy field among towering shade trees. The Parker Lane United Methodist Church (UMC) building has been on the eight-acre site for more than 60 years, but in 2019 it was forced to close because of declining membership.

On a sweltering Austin day, Foundation Communities Executive Director Walter Moreau stood underneath one of those majestic trees with a UMC official to discuss plans for the property’s next chapter. You can watch the conversation between Moreau and Brooks Schuelke, UMC Austin District Lay Leader in this video.

“The typical default for the United Methodist Church is just to sell the property,” said  Schuelke. “We thought that this property is too big of a resource to just sell.”

What they decided to do was enter into a lease agreement with Foundation Communities to allow FC to build an affordable apartment complex here for 135 low-income families with an onsite learning center. Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs has approved $15 million in tax credits for the construction, and the City of Austin will contribute $4.1 million in matching funds.

The plan is to start construction on Parker Lane Apartments next spring and welcome home families by the end of 2023. They’ll find an apartment community that’s environmentally friendly and comforting.

“(We’re) incorporating as many elements of “trauma-informed design” and “healing-centered design” as we can to better respond to the mental health needs of the community we serve,” said Megan Matthews, FC’s Director of Design.

Service to community is the main reason UMC chose to partner with Foundation Communities, as it’s a big part of Parker Lane UMC’s legacy. They especially love the learning center concept, which primarily houses after-school classes for children.

“Many, if not most of our churches are also involved in local schools doing similar kind of work,” said Schuelke. “You’re gonna have a food pantry. Many of our churches do food pantries.”

Capital Studios Resident is Full of Life, Despite Health Issues

September 16, 2021 | Posted in Uncategorized |

Manny Nanez greets everyone he meets as he walks around Capital Studios. As a Community Engagement Specialist, he’s constantly looking for ways to help others. He even delivers food from the food pantry to his neighbors through his work with Foundation Communities’ Supported Employment program.

You would hardly know it, but Manny has serious health problems. He’s on the waiting list for a new liver because the one he has been living with for almost 63 years is failing. He attributes that to his struggles with alcoholism, which also caused him to become homeless.

“I was lost,” said Nanez. “I had a rupture in the inside of my abdomen due to my liver damage.” Manny says he didn’t know it, but he was also suffering from depression and brain damage. In 2014, he was fortunate that a cousin found him and recognized that he needed help. His relatives took him to a hospital. “I was constantly bleeding (internally). How they stopped it, I don’t know. All I know is, I ended up in ICU and I went into a coma.”

When he came out of the coma, Manny’s relatives put him in a nursing home. His time there had a deep impact on him – the support of family, having nurses care for him and becoming friends with other people who had health problems worse than his. Manny decided he would get to work to regain his ability to walk without assistance. He succeeded. Then, he started encouraging other patients.

“I was going to people’s rooms that were in wheelchairs talking to ‘em, telling them if I did it, you can do it,” said Nanez. “My life, I know what I’ve done, but the only way to fix it is to go forward.”

With the improvements to his condition, Manny left the nursing home and moved into his sister’s home. While he was glad to be reunited with his family, Manny felt it would be better for his mental health if he lived on his own, as part of a community. In 2014 he applied for residency at Capital Studios, a Foundation Communities’ community for single adults in downtown Austin. Three weeks later he was preparing to move in.

At Capital Studios, Manny stays busy, attending therapy sessions and classes on mental health, chronic illness, yoga and meditation. In his free time he goes for walks to his church, the capitol building or UT. Staff at Capital Studios check on him regularly and they’ve  helped him get grants for free transportation to his many medical appointments and other medical needs. He really appreciates the flexibility of the Supported Employment Program. “That’s what keeps me going. I have to be busy,” said Manny. “And, me doing the work that I do, it gives me more faith to keep on living because, I’m not just feeding the people, to me it’s an honor to give to people that are hungry.”

The threat of liver failure still looms large. Manny keeps an emergency transmitter around his neck to call for medical assistance if he needs it. He’s now sober. As for depression, he says all the support he gets at Capital Studios has been like medicine for that.

Foundation Communities Awarded $3M to Help More Families and Individuals Secure Health Coverage

August 31, 2021 | Posted in Uncategorized |

This just in: our Health Coverage program has been awarded a $1 million federal grant for the next three years! This win will help us sustain the program, plus expand Health Insurance Enrollment to now serve 12 counties, including several rural counties in our region.

“Our team is excited and looking forward to utilizing this amazing grant award to expand our work in helping those with no insurance find high-quality health insurance plans,” said Aaron DeLaO, Director of Health Initiatives for Foundation Communities.

Since 2014, FC has assisted more than 20 thousand people find comprehensive health coverage. Even with the challenges presented by the pandemic, FC’s Health Coverage team helped almost 700 individuals enroll in health insurance plans during the Special Enrollment Period, which just completed on August 15th.

The CMS Navigator grant was awarded last Friday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

2021 CMS Navigator awardees like Foundation Communities will focus on outreach to particularly underserved communities. This includes people who identify as racial and ethnic minorities, people in rural communities, the LGBTQ+ community, American Indians and Alaskan Natives, refugee and immigrant communities, low-income families, pregnant women and new mothers, people with transportation or language barriers or who lack internet access, veterans and small business owners.

You can learn more about Foundation Communities’ Health Coverage program at https://foundcom.org/prosper-centers/health-coverage/.

Dealing with Financial Ups and Downs – FINANCIAL WELLNESS UPDATE

August 3, 2021 | Posted in Uncategorized |

These are uncertain times, and for many of us, that means uncertain income. Fluctuation in the availability of work and childcare, as well as complicated tax credit rules can make it difficult to know how much money you can rely on in the near future.

So what do you do when you have more or less money than expected?

When you have less: If you won’t have as much as normal to count on, prioritize your expenses and cut where you can. Are there subscriptions you don’t use much? Can you spend less on going out to eat? What else can you do without until your income is back on track? You can also talk to your creditors about making alternate payment arrangements during financial hardship. Some creditors will allow you to skip a payment, change your due date, or change the minimum monthly payment. Whatever you do, try to avoid skipping payments altogether, or taking out expensive loans like payday loans.

When you have more: Are you getting a tax credit you weren’t expecting? Were you able to work extra hours? Rather than spending the extra on immediate wants, consider paying off debt or past-due bills. If you’re on track with bills, you can also consider putting some money aside in a savings account to help you weather financial storms to come. Your future self will thank you!

Would you like to talk through your options with a Financial Coach? Coaches are ready to meet with you! Call 737-717-4000 or visit www.foundcom.org/financial-wellness to schedule your appointment.

Foundation Communities Residents Deliver Food, Hope During Pandemic

June 20, 2021 | Posted in Uncategorized |

The Foundation Communities Supported Employment Program allows FC residents to receive work experience and pay as they provide vital services for neighbors in their communities. This video takes us on the job with some supported employees as they sort and pack food items for delivery to other FC residents.  This food delivery program became more important during the pandemic and the severe winter storm. The employees express how this work has also nourished their souls.

Sierra Ridge Resident Soars into Higher Learning

June 15, 2021 | Posted in Uncategorized |

As we mark the return of in-person instruction at all Foundation Communities learning centers this week, we highlight a true FC education success story. Andrea Arias- Zarate was a regular participant in the After-School program at the Sierra Ridge Learning Center. On June 3rd, Andrea graduated from David Crockett High School, decorated with an array of honor cords! She graduated with high honors and was in the top 10% in her class. Andrea was also awarded the Texas State Merit Scholarship, University of North Texas Excellence Scholarship and the University of Texas at San Antonio Distinguished Presidential Scholarship. She will be attending UT Austin in the Fall majoring in journalism.

Growing up with her mother and sister, Giselle, Andrea had plenty of challenges. Her mother worked hard to provide for her daughters, and they found an affordable home at Sierra Ridge through our Children’s Home Initiative (CHI).

“ I am proud of my daughter , she works so hard and think it is important for other Hispanic families like us who may not have much like us but we also have many accomplishments. I am very proud.” said Andrea’s mother Mirtha Lugo.

The family was featured in the Austin American-Statesman’s Season for Caring campaign in 2018. You can view their story here.

Congratulations, Andrea on seeing all your hard work paying off!

Miguel Stoupignan – Austin Gives Generous Business Awards Honoree

May 26, 2021 | Posted in Uncategorized |

Foundation Communities has many awesome volunteers, but sometimes a volunteer goes so far above and beyond that they deserve special recognition. One such volunteer is Miguel Stoupignan. Miguel has been with us for eight years helping clients complete their taxes and learn how to manage their household finances better… in English and Spanish! And, his friendly demeanor helps clients feel comfortable from start to finish. That’s why we are so proud that Miguel Stoupignan has won the “Individual Volunteer of the Year” award by the Austin Chamber of Commerce’s Austin Gives Generous Business Awards. This honor “recognizes an outstanding individual who exemplifies how through their example, coaching and willingness to work with others, they are helping forge the next generation of volunteer leaders in our community and beyond.” Miguel will receive the award at the Austin Gives event July 22nd. Here’s what we wrote to the Chamber, when we nominated Miguel for this honor.

What volunteer activities does the nominee participate in on an ongoing basis?

Miguel Stoupignan is motivated by the opportunity to build transformative and positive relationships with others and leads with heart. He began volunteering with Foundation Communities (FC) in 2013 out of a desire to help others achieve their financial, professional, and personal goals, while also further developing his own skillset. He says he’s constantly learning as a volunteer! Given his commitment to relationship building, he gravitated towards two FC volunteer opportunities: volunteering as a Tax Preparer with FC’s free tax preparation program and serving as a Financial Coach for individual community members whose goals may range from setting up a budget to reducing debt to starting a small business for the first time. 

As a Tax Preparer, Miguel helps ensure that Austin-area households with low-to-moderate income can access free tax preparation services, avoid costly preparation fees, and maximize their refund. He has prepared more than 550 tax returns during his volunteer tenure, which means he’s saved the community more than $137,000 in tax preparation fees. Beyond the numbers, Miguel ensures each client feels empowered and understands their tax situation. He is especially interested in helping self-employed folks understand tax law nuances related to their unique situation. Additionally, nearly one-third of FC’s tax clients speak Spanish as their primary or preferred language, and Miguel’s ability to provide them with linguistic and culturally responsive service is invaluable.  

As a Financial Coach, Miguel provides 1:1 mentorship that meets the needs of individual clients. He is one of our most popular coaches and is especially committed to ensuring Spanish-speaking clients receive quality services. Additionally, when the pandemic necessitated switching from in-person to on-line coaching, Miguel remained committed and adaptable. He even took on extra appointments, as other financial coaches were unable or preferred not to switch to the virtual format. During his financial coaching tenure, he’s also led tax-related workshops for small-business owners and local musicians.  

As both a Tax Preparer and Financial Coach, Miguel shines in his ability to create a comfortable and nonjudgmental space for clients to talk about highly sensitive topics. He understands the emotional and psychological ties that accompany financial-related decisions and conversations.  

  1. In what ways has the nominee taken on volunteer leadership roles?

Miguel became a member of our Tax Volunteer Leadership Team in 2018. As a VLT he provides guidance, support, and encouragement to fellow volunteers at our tax-sites (especially less experienced volunteers) and stays up-to-date with the latest tax law and procedures. At our tax sites, he’s happy to jump in wherever the greatest need exists, conducting intake interviews, preparing returns, and/or translating. He’s also served as a Rover during our tax training sessions, assisting fellow volunteers in navigating the tax software and concepts during class.  

In addition to Financial Coaching, Foundation Communities invited Miguel to take on a leadership role by leading Money Management classes for clients: an interactive class series that offers an introduction to money management and covers the 101’s of debt, budgeting, and saving. 

  1. How does the nominee engage others in volunteer experiences?

Beyond volunteering, Miguel participates in outreach and fundraising efforts for Foundation Communities. He served as a Table Host for three of FC’s annual Welcome Home Luncheons from 2013-2016. This role involved inviting individuals from his network to fill a table at the event and reach a fundraising goal to contribute to the organization’s mission of ensuring everyone has an affordable and attractive place to call home.  

Additionally, he’s hosted an Open House, which is another way for current volunteers or donors to invite their friends, family, and community members to learn more about Foundation Communities’ work and how they can get involved, whether via volunteering, donating, corporate engagement, or word-of-mouth outreach.  

His outreach is also personal. His granddaughter will be part of the upcoming 2021 Financial Coaching training group. She shared in her volunteer interview how Miguel has helped educate her about the ins and outs of financial wellness, and she’s motivated to give back in the same way as he does to the community.  

  1. Does the nominee share their story and the story of the organizations they serve?

Miguel was instrumental in introducing Foundation Communities to a contact he had at the Consulate of Mexico in Austin. This connection ultimately led to a partnership between FC and the Consulate in offering and administering the MexAustin scholarship, a yearly $1,000 scholarship awarded directly to more than 60 Latinx high school seniors across Central Texas. 

Miguel is highly relational and exceptionally personable. He is a natural personal and professional connector. He organically shares his volunteer story and the work of Foundation Communities throughout his personal and professional interactions. He always mentions how much he loves FC, our work, and his volunteer work, and we’re appreciative of the depth of his dedication and commitment to creating equitable housing access and support services for both residents and community members to thrive. 

Internship Helps St. Edward’s Student Nourish her Love for Helping Others – Vivian Phillips

May 14, 2021 | Posted in Uncategorized |

I knew I wanted to gain more experience in the nonprofit sector and my internship at Foundation Communities helped me do just that. I was the volunteer engagement intern and I helped with the Holiday Assistance Program and Tax Help. My favorite project was the Holiday Assistance program since I got to help organize the family photos that would be sent in and read the stories of the residents. Given that we are still in a pandemic, it was nice to be able to interact with residents this way, virtually.  I also enjoyed making thank you calls to the donors to the Holiday Assistance Program to let them know that we appreciate them caring and supporting their neighbors!

Through this internship, I learned more about how I work as an individual and was able to develop better time management skills. I loved working with my team on different projects, DEI meetings, and weekly check-in meetings. After my internship at Foundation Communities, I plan to teach English in Spain for one year and then hopefully attend law school. – Vivian Phillips

St. Edward’s Student Discovers a Diversity of Experiences through FC Internship – Taylor McGee

May 13, 2021 | Posted in Uncategorized |

Throughout my internship with Foundation Communities on the Corporate & Volunteer Engagement Team (CVET), I had the opportunity to work on various components of DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion), specifically, navigating DEI in a professional environment. Throughout these conversations I was able to assess my own relationship with DEI, as well as gain insight into others. I appreciate the CVET for creating a safe environment for me to process these topics. Additionally, as a major in Religious and Theological Studies, I was able to understand that the conversation of DEI is not just limited to race. It has so many parts – sexuality, religion, age, etc. Prior to the internship my understanding was so limited. It provided me the opportunity to understand the interconnectedness of it all. With this understanding, I’ve been able to apply it to my leadership positions at St. Edward’s, and I intend to apply it to my career in education and daily life as well.

During my time at FC I had the opportunity to work on a variety of projects. My favorite project at FC was a DEI presentation over code switching with my co-intern Vivian Phillips. It allowed me to apply skills that I had been working on throughout the year such as teamwork, presentation skills and navigating difficult conversations.

Specifically, with my position as volunteer engagement intern, I was able to understand the importance of community. FC has some of the most enthusiastic volunteers. Even with limited interaction, I noticed this from their constant attendance for programs and events and from families sharing about the impact volunteers have made on them. I can see that what they do means something. It has been a pleasure to have the opportunity to assist them in little ways through creating tools like Zoom guides, or creating spaces for them to interact like the St. Patrick’s Tax Social.

This internship taught me so much about myself. I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity, especially during the pandemic. I will definitely miss the CVET, and I can’t wait to see what comes from my experiences with FC! – Taylor McGee

Communications Intern Rewrites the Story of Her Future – Nina Martinez

May 12, 2021 | Posted in Uncategorized |

It’s been a hectic year, to say the least, switching from in-person classes to remote learning, and then all of a sudden, I found myself interviewing on Zoom for my first internship. Internships are meant to teach us, to learn from, and throughout this experience I’ve learned some hard lessons that helped shape my values and make me a better writer. Throughout these two semesters, I rekindled my love for storytelling. As a journalism major and news editor, I’m used to strict, point-blank reporting. As the Communications Intern at Foundation Communities (FC), I learned to tap into a different kind of a reporting, a humanizing form of reporting – storytelling.

There is one project that not only helped me advance my writing and interviewing skills, but also served as a learning opportunity. My supervisor for part of my time at FC, Amy Jacobs, walked me through creating the newsletter and sharing a story. It was with the utmost pleasure that I shared the story of resilient resident Deja. I learned there will always be trials and tribulations, even in a nonprofit. Despite those trials, I set a goal of telling the residents’ stories and painting them as the resilient, beautiful people they are. I learned how to respectfully ask sensitive questions and create a safe, welcoming environment for interviewees to share. Following this project, Amy and I also created a trauma-informed guide for communications in not only storytelling, but everyday occurrences.

Before this internship, I struggled with the idea of being a hard news reporter or editor, always surrounded by and reporting on the most pressing issues and never seeing the change. At FC, I learned I could still report, and report on the change that is made. I learned that nonprofit work isn’t only about bettering the community outside of you, but improving the one in the office as well. Some of my mentors at FC like Amy, Anne Chamberlain, Olivia Rodriguez, Megan Sappenfield, Meghan Hein and April Richard fostered an environment for me and other interns to speak up when we had an idea for change, and to address issues we noticed could be improved within FC. I found myself using my voice a lot to better the way we wrote stories at FC. Although a tough lesson and troubling journey, through much self-advocacy encouraged by my supervisors, many others and myself were able to change the way we tell people’s stories. Overall, I learned I want my writing and communications skills to be a part of something bigger, part of change.

I never imagined myself working in a nonprofit. Now, though, as a rising junior, I find myself applying to not only editorial internships but other communications internships at nonprofits. All thanks to my experience at FC, I am able to broaden my horizons and see where else I can take my work. I’m looking forward to my fall semester as I take on a new role on campus as Editor-in-Chief at our student newspaper, Hilltop Views. Until that time arrives, I’ll be working at a small local restaurant in my hometown saving up for my future and preparing to be an aunt! – Nina Martinez