Hearts of Texas charitable campaign kicks off

Organizations that provide legal aid to the poor, housing, meals and support for cancer research are a few of the charities university employees are supporting as part of the 2007 Hearts of Texas charitable campaign, running through Oct. 31.

"Hearts of Texas provides a way to support organizations we admire while also making a statement about how the university gives back to the community," said Lynda Frost, associate director of the Hogg Foundation.

Frost feels inspired to give to organizations that perform poverty-related work, like the Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid.

"I give to Legal Aid because having access to justice and meeting other basic needs is a threshold for being an active participant in our community," she said.

The Hearts of Texas campaign is part of the Texas State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC) and the university is the largest participant in the Capital Area.

Last year the campaign raised about $9 million, $1.9 million of which came from the Austin area and of that total, $647,000 was donated by The University of Texas at Austin's 2,357 employees. The 2007 fundraising goal is $9 million statewide and $2 million in the Capital Area.

"This campaign is extremely important to not only Austin, but the entire state because it gives state employees an opportunity to give back to the community through a more effective gift with yearlong payroll contributions," said Nicole Senchack, manager of the Capital Area SECC. "The state and higher education workforce is large and there is definitely power in numbers."

Executive Vice President and Provost Steven Leslie, who is serving as this year's honorary campaign chair, encourages employees to "participate in this university-wide endeavor to reach out to our greater community and share with those in need the gifts we enjoy."

Hearts of Texas participants can choose from more than 500 local, state, national and international non-profit organizations in need of support.

"These organizations represent a broad range of charitable concerns, ranging from medical research, to social services, to environmental preservation," Leslie said. "I'm sure you will find at least a few organizations that have touched your life, or the life of someone you care about, in a significant way."

Donations as small as $5 can save the lives of 50 babies suffering from life-threatening sickness while $10 delivers a nutritious lunch to three homebound elderly or disabled persons and $20 provides the materials to build one room in a new house for a homeless family.

"I've been very, very blessed in my life, and I feel it is important to help those who are less fortunate," said Kathy Bartsch, executive assistant to President William Powers Jr. "I support the Hearts of Texas campaign because it's a valuable tool that makes giving back to the community easy."

Past participants said the ease of donating and learning about the organizations contributed to their continued support of the campaign.

"Between the payroll deduction option and the on-line donation process that remembers last year's information, it's never been so easy to give away money," Frost said.

Doug Bolin, artistic director for the Office of Relationship Management and University Events, said the campaign provides a single point of contact for numerous organizations, both locally and nationally, making it easy for him to research whom he wants to support.

"Each group's purpose, operational cost and other valuable information is available in one convenient location, allowing me to make a quick, yet informed decision."

The list of more than 500 organizations makes it easy for employees to find something they are passionate about.

Bolin chooses to support organizations "making a tangible difference in people's lives," such as The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Meals on Wheels, AIDS Services of Austin and the UT Staff Emergency Fund.

Bartsch contributes each year to Habitat for Humanity.

"I like Habitat because it enables families to achieve the American dream - affordable, quality housing," she said. "They build communities, not just houses."

The campaign also serves as an important tool in living the university's motto "What Starts Here Changes the World," Bolin said.

"It allows each employee the ability to give back to our community in his or her own way," he said. "It allows us to show collectively that buried deep in one of the biggest institutions in Texas, are the biggest hearts of Texas."

For more information on the Hearts of Texas campaign go to www.utexas.edu/events/secc.