Stand Up and Be Counted

March 10, 2020 | Posted in Get Involved, Volunteer, In the News | Keywords: ,

Did you know that the census happens once every 10 years, is required by law to complete and that your responses will shape our community’s future?

Every year, billions of dollars in federal funding go to support medical assistance and healthcare programs, housing assistance, supplemental food and nutrition programs, highway planning and construction, education programs and more.

Who is counted? EVERYONE! Your answers to the survey are safe and everyone should be counted regardless of citizenship or immigration status.

Foundation Communities has a team of trained volunteers working to make sure our residents and tax program clients understand the impact and importance of the census and are counted.

For more information, contact Nikki.Krueger@foundcom.org.

FC Doubles Solar Capacity in Four Years

September 25, 2019 | Posted in Green Building, Affordable Housing, Housing | Keywords: , , ,

Kermit the Frog may have said it best: “It’s not easy being green.” Building green may have its challenges, but Foundation Communities has continued to find ways to build beautiful, affordable housing for residents in need, while allowing us to continue to let our green-side shine through.

We have made great strides in our green building initiatives, said Katelynn Essig, Foundation Communities’ sustainability manager. Since 2014, we have more than doubled our solar capacity and now have nearly 1.1 Megawatts installed across 14 properties.

“We have saved enough greenhouse gas emissions, it’s like removing 4,300 cars from the road for one year!” Essig said. “We beat our goal to reach 1 Megawatt of installed solar 2 years early and are excited to see what unfolds as we continue to build beautiful, green, affordable housing.”

With our newest community, The Jordan at Mueller, opening later in 2019 and Waterloo Terrace, now under construction along MoPac Expressway near The Domain, we will continue to add to our green building and solar energy initiatives.

Read more about our green values.

Teacher Brings Love, Respect to the Classroom

July 29, 2019 | Posted in Education | Keywords: , , , ,

Silvia Villacorta was teaching at a Montessori school in Costa Rica when she got the call. The principal at St. Elmo Elementary School invited her to create an early-education program to help youngsters’ years before they step into an elementary school.

The program is a partnership between AISD and Foundation Communities, and beacause of its success will expand during the 2019-20 school year to two additional classrooms, two at Sierra Vista and one at Vintage Creek, Silvia said.

With 22 years of teaching experience, a master’s degree in human rights and experience founding educational programs in Spain, Silvia was excited to build a program with strong community involvement.

“It has been a nurturing, sweet place to be. We talk a lot about love and respect,” Silvia said of the Pre-K-3 program.

Her background in instructional design and Montessori education helped her create an environment where children work independently, build social, emotional learning skills and where families engage in their children’s’ educational growth.

A place where kids love to learn.

The love and respect the program fosters is evident. Parents don’t drop off their children and leave, they are invited to stay and eat breakfast with them, giving Silvia an opportunity to talk with them and build bonds.

“Children are encouraged to go around the classroom and freely choose what they want to do. The learning experiences are based on self-motivation… All of the materials are created for their developmental levels and are easily accessible,” she said.

“Our program is so full of joy because as educators, we love our job,” Silvia said. “I will summarize it in a quote from my beloved and admired educator, Dr. Maria Montessori, ‘I didn’t come here to teach you, I came here to love you. … Love will teach you.’ Each child that crosses our door gets real, authentic love. And, love teaches.”


Grant Funds to Benefit Community Tax Centers

June 26, 2019 | Posted in Tax Services, Financial Stability, Volunteer |

Since 2016, Terri Pensock has volunteered at our Community Tax Centers and as a Financial Coach. On behalf of Foundation Communities, she applied for and received a $2,000 grant from the IBM Community Grant Program. The grant funds will be used to purchase new computer equipment for use at our Community Tax Centers.

IBM provides community grants to organizations where IBM employees and retirees volunteer.  To be eligible to apply for funds, volunteers must have at least 40 service hours.

This year, more than 600 volunteers at our Community Tax Centers completed more than 20,000 tax returns resulting in $35.4 million in refunds for our clients. A huge thank you to Terri and  IBM for providing grants for community programs.

Read our Community Tax Centers End of Season Tax Report.

Learn how to Get Involved with Foundation Communities.

A Second Chance to Serve

May 20, 2019 | Posted in Housing, Health | Keywords: , , , ,

The day before his 58th birthday, Veteran Tvan Bryant moved into his new home at Bluebonnet Studios. To him it was a gift from God.

“Life feels different now that I have a roof over my head,” he said. “I have my own place. My own bed, my own kitchen. I’m never hungry anymore.”

Tvan has not always been so lucky. During his life, there have been several times when he didn’t have a place to call home. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon for many veterans living in Austin. The VA directed Tvan to Foundation Communities, where his life turned around.

Bluebonnet Studios is one of our six communities solely for single adults. Free wraparound support services are available on site to help residents like Tvan navigate life and be successful.

During high school, he was an average student who was great at sports. When given the choice to join the military or attend college on sports scholarships, he chose to enlist in the U.S. Army. Through his travels he met and married an “Army brat,” and, they had a daughter. But, after five years, the marriage ended. This was a hard blow for Tvan.

He moved back to Texas seeking a fresh start, but depression led him to drugs, which sadly led him to prison. Tvan lost contact with his daughter and his family.

After he was released, he knew he had to make drastic changes. Today, he is a self-professed addict and alcoholic in recovery for many years. Every day he works to maintain his sobriety, while also managing PTSD from traumas he’s experienced throughout life.

“I don’t think I would be as successful if I didn’t live here. Besides having a case manager, who works right in my building, we have a nurse who regularly visits Bluebonnet,” Tvan explained. “This makes a huge difference for me – just knowing someone is there to check on me and make sure I’m okay.”

Other health programs available to Tvan are stress management classes and yoga classes.

“You really feel like someone cares about you,” Tvan mused.  “And, that alone is a huge help with my stress and anxiety.”

With all the positive changes Tvan’s made in his life, he didn’t hesitate when Foundation Communities asked him to be Bluebonnet Studios’ Community Engagement Specialist.

“This is a great job!  I get to help my neighbors.”

Tvan sets up for special events, hosts movie nights, works with volunteers and assists with the on-site Food Pantry.

“Foundation Communities has really changed my life, in more ways than I can describe,” Tvan reported. “I honestly had gotten to the point where I didn’t want to even be around people. I was just too uncomfortable. But, with my new job, I have to communicate, to connect with the other residents. I get to be of service again. And, I can do it, because I have the support I need right here where I live. I feel healthy and very content. I know I’m a blessed man.”


5th Annual Running Buddies Fitness Camino Celebrates Healthy Kids

April 29, 2019 | Posted in Health | Keywords: , , ,

Waiting for the horn to sound with new running shoes on their feet and numbers on their shirts, a group of about 25 kids were ready to run what was for most their first 5k road race. Some were laughing and smiling, while others had a look of serious determination as they set off to complete the 3.1 miles.

Foundation Communities held its 5th Annual Fitness Camino Saturday morning at its Sierra Vista Apartments. The Running Buddies Fitness Camino 5K was started in 2013 as a way to encourage participation in fitness activities and promote overall well-being. Through the Running Buddies program children in third through fifth grades trained for six-weeks with coaches and mentors who supported their fitness goals.

For the last two years, David Chandler, a running coach with 17 years of experience mostly at the college level, has coached Running Buddies.

“This is the grassroots,” he said. “The real beginning – a key point in their lives and some of these kids really need a chance to be part of something.”

Lucero Gomez has participated in the Running Buddies program for two years. A 10-year-old who is in the 4th grade at St. Elmo Elementary School, Lucero said she has enjoyed training for the race.

“What I like about training is it can help me run faster than I used to,” she said. “The race is important because I get to see my progress over the weeks.”

Through a grant from The Amerigroup Foundation, healthy food and snacks are incorporated into the Running Buddies program, which helps the children learn to make more nutritious choices.

The program has helped Lucero feel healthier and when she’s participating in running buddies, she eats healthier, goes to bed earlier and drinks more water, he mother Marta Gomez said. Her mother has seen a positive change in her since she started Running Buddies this year and she even appears to be leaner.

“At Foundation Communities, we are aware of the lifelong health impacts resulting from childhood obesity, and are working tirelessly to implement rigorous programming aimed at combating obesity as well as chronic disease throughout our communities,” said Aaron DeLaO, Foundation Communities Director of Health Initiatives. Since its inception, the Running Buddies/Fitness Camino 5K has been an impactful addition to Foundation Communities’ fitness and nutrition programming. With continued support we look forward to bringing Running Buddies and 5k races to even more properties and continuing to expand fitness opportunities for all of our residents and their families.”

Children who participate receive free training shoes, water bottles, and a T-shirt. The road race replicates an adult 5k and the children wear numbered bibs and they receive a medal at the finish line. Robert Graves, 12, was the first to cross the finish in a time of 27:27. And, it was also his birthday.

Lucero’s parents were surprised when she said she wanted to participate in Running Buddies, her mother said. She is extremely proud of her daughter and said she excels at everything she does, even encouraging the family to try new activities.

“It’s like she found a calling for herself,” she said. “I thought it would just be a race, but it became therapeutic for Lucero. She has a love of running now, it’s not just a hobby.”

The whole family is physically active, but Lucero is the only runner. She is inspiring her three younger siblings, Estrella, 8, Abrahan, 6 and Eden, 4.

“Her sister Estrella is upset she can’t do running buddies yet, because she knows she can do it,” Marta Gomez said. Next year her little sister will be old enough to participate.

Lucero received the Running Buddies Leadership Role Model Award this year because she is so inspiring to others, said Cynthia Gonzalez, the Learning Center Coordinator at Sierra Vista.





Tax Services Help Mom Imagine a Brighter Future

March 25, 2019 | Posted in Tax Services, Financial Stability | Keywords: , , , ,

Christina spent years working multiple jobs to provide for her children. She struggled to make ends meet and they fought to keep a roof over their heads, staying with friends and family whenever possible. At times, they lived out of their car, and she prayed daily for answers and clear direction with hope that was fading quickly.

Then she was connected to Foundation Communities.

“It was a godsend!” Christina said. “When I was told about all of the services, it sounded too good to be true!”

She was informed about assistance at the Community Tax Centers and decided to try it. She is now extremely grateful for the volunteers who helped complete her taxes, which were muddled due to years of homelessness.

“If I had not come here and utilized the tax services, I wouldn’t have known it was possible to file an itemized return after gathering everything over the years,” she explained. “The cost for preparing my taxes elsewhere continually paralyzed me and prevented me from taking action to get them done.”

Growing up in an unstable environment compelled Christina to strive for stability. She was one of 17 children, many living with her parents in a house without running water, electricity or a phone. Competing for food at dinner was traumatic, so she decided to quietly skip meals and do without. Home life was filled with turmoil, and the lack of parental supervision only allowed this problem to go unnoticed. She fell in love and married young to escape the traumatic environment and began building a family, having 4 children in eight years.

“My children brought meaning to my life and opened my eyes,” Christina said.

Christina only wanted safety and security for her family. Her husband would become violent when he couldn’t sort out his feelings, which landed him in jail. Christina was left to provide for her children, with very little support. The stability she had been craving seemed to have slipped away.

Finding Foundation Communities allowed her to feel hopeful in a way she hadn’t in years.

When she learned she would be receiving a tax refund, she was ecstatic. Christina tells people daily about the Community Tax Centers. With six locations, people earning up to $55,000 can have their taxes completed for free.

“The volunteers are amazing. They’re patient, thorough, and professional” she said. “Because of their help my family is able to believe stability is within reach. It’s empowering and invigorating. I thank God that I found this program.”

You can learn more about our Community Tax Centers by calling 2-1-1 or visiting CommunityTaxCenters.org.

Lugo Family Finds Success & Opportunities With Community Support

February 4, 2019 | Posted in Housing, Financial Stability | Keywords: , , , , ,

More time together has been the greatest benefit the Lugo family has gained since Foundation Communities nominated them to be Austin American Statesman Season for Caring recipients. Those selected are provided with funds from the community to improve their lives.

Among the items the Lugos requested were clothing, assistance with rent and utilities, and help providing piano lessons for Andrea and drawing lessons for Giselle.

Prior to being chosen, Mirtha Lugo was working two jobs and was away from home at least 50 hours a week. Receiving rental and utility assistance has allowed her and her daughters the opportunities to pursue their goals.

Mirtha Lugo left her homeland of Paraguay after a failed marriage led her to become estranged from family. Because they didn’t approve of her divorce, she was left without resources. She moved to the United States and worked cleaning houses for years. She eventually met her daughters’ father, but the relationship didn’t work out.

Lugo struggled to make ends meet, and her desire to become a citizen seemed unachievable until she was able to save the $800 required, and last fall she passed the exam.
Now, with two daughters in high school, she wants her children to be able to achieve their dreams.

Season for Caring wrapped up on Jan. 31 and in the short time since receiving community support, Lugo and her two daughters, Giselle and Andrea, have gained resources to successfully pursue their ambitions.

Andrea, a sophomore, is already thinking of college. Her mother has started contributing to a college savings account on her behalf. Andrea has started taking advantage of Foundation Communities College Hub program, which will prepare her for completing applications and applying for scholarships and financial aid.

Giselle, a freshman and gifted artist, is being encouraged to take advanced art classes. Her art teacher says she is her best student. Photography is also a passion for Giselle and she will soon receive a digital camera.

Meanwhile, Mirtha Lugo started taking ESL and computer classes, in addition to learning to sew. She is completing a financial coaching program and has opened an Individual Development Account with Foundation Communities. This will allow her to save money over the next six-months and her savings will be matched!

Today, Mirtha is radiating positivity. She is filled with excitement and gratitude about her family’s future and the possibilities that await.

Jacky – A Story of Hope

August 28, 2018 | Posted in Uncategorized |

Meet Jacky – A Story of Hope

Jacky has lived with Foundation Communities most of her childhood. She never considered college a real option until she started attending our free, on-site learning center. She is now a graduate and is helping to break her family’s cycle of poverty.

Free Minds Sparks Mom’s Love of Learning

January 31, 2018 | Posted in Financial Stability |

Lanna always dreamed of a life filled with adventure and learning. She was one of twelve children in a working-class family and grew up in a small town in Illinois. Getting a job as soon as she could, Lanna was proud of making her own money and being in charge of her own life. She intended to go to college but became a young mother not long after high school and her plans changed. After years of bouncing from one job to another to support herself and her daughter, Lanna is finally pursuing her college career by accessing the services offered through our College Hub program.

Lanna is one of 23 students currently enrolled in Free Minds, a free, two-semester college humanities course we run in partnership with the University of Texas and Austin Community College (ACC). Students earn six college credits from ACC in order to help them get started or return to the path of earning a college degree. Many of the students in Free Minds have faced barriers to higher education, just like Lanna, who struggled to afford college and pay for childcare.

Free Minds is part of our College Hub – a one-stop shop for nontraditional students who want to start or finish a college degree or certificate. In addition to Free Minds, College Hub includes a wide range of support services to help students consider their education options, navigate the admissions process and get the most out of financial aid assistance.

Being part of Free Minds is already changing Lanna’s life.

“I feel I was meant for college,” Lanna said. “People light up when you tell them you’re in the class. It makes you more confident for when you go back to school.”

She particularly enjoyed Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. It seemed like another language but Lanna pushed forward and loved when she and her classmates got to act out the play.

She is also looking forward to the poetry unit that will begin soon.

“Poetry gives me the freedom to be me and to express myself,” Lanna said.

Lanna said she learned about Free Minds at just the right time. She and her daughter live at one of our affordable housing communities and, when she saw the Free Minds flyer on her door, she knew it was the step she needed to take to get her life back on track. Not only is the class free, but there is a program offered at the same time and place through Camp Fire USA for students’ children. This helps promote intergenerational learning and removes the barrier of childcare for students.

Lanna wants to set an example for her daughter and is determined to finish college. She was previously enrolled at ACC and expects to return once she completes Free Minds. She hasn’t decided exactly what she wants to study, but she is considering something in the education field.

Right now, Lanna works at Lamar Middle School and said she feels at home in a classroom, helping students.

Looking to the future, Lanna hopes to find a career she loves and see her daughter achieve her own educational goals. She continues to envision herself as an adventurer and is eager to soak up all the world has to offer.

“I want to go everywhere,” Lanna said. “I want to meet different people, see different places and learn new things. And Free Minds is a wonderful start.”

You can learn more about our College Hub program by clicking here.