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Member Spotlight

Impact Austin Member Spotlight on Melissa Gray

Melissa is a founding member of Impact Austin and she had great memories to share.

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Melissa is a founding member of Impact Austin and she had great memories to share.

We asked how she even heard about Impact Austin back in the beginning.

“I was at the very first coffee at Nancy Word’s house in the summer of 2003. Glenda Holmstrom, who was helping to build the grant making organization with the amazing “kitchen table six,” invited me to hear about Impact Austin. I was sold from the minute Rebecca Powers started speaking. In fact, I was worried they would not let me join! Little did I know then that the only requirements for membership are $1,250 and being a woman. “

“After I joined, I became very involved with building the grant-making process. It was the fall of that year and I had just had a baby in February. That baby (Claire) came to all of our meetings and sat by my side during the hours of work I put in creating processes, manuals, application forms, etc. I can always remember how long I have been a member by Claire’s age. She’s twelve now!”

“I was an attorney for many years, but gave that up when Claire was born, to stay home and help my husband raise our four children.”

What are the different jobs you have done in Impact Austin?

“There is almost nothing I haven’t done at Impact Austin! I was on the Founding Board for the first four years serving as Vice President and even Treasurer for a (very) short time. Then, the Board Members chaired the FACs, so I chaired two. I also spearheaded our first strategic planning process.”

“After leaving the board, I worked on the grants committee where I served as an advisor to several FACs; chaired the finalist process for many years, and I have been a Community Partner Liaison for the past two years.”

“Currently, I co-chair the Volunteer Engagement Committee. This committee works to ensure that every member of Impact Austin is thanked and welcomed into the group and has been given the information she needs to get the most out of her membership. This is a relatively new committee so we are constantly improving how we connect with our members.”

Are you working with other nonprofits besides Impact Austin?

“I am on the board of Jeremiah Program. (Something else Rebecca and Glenda got me involved in!) It is a fairly new nonprofit in Austin that helps single mothers complete their college educations and prepares their young children for kindergarten. Jeremiah provides safe, high-quality and affordable housing; free high-quality childhood education, support services, life skills classes and everything the mother needs to complete her education. The women come out of the program earning a livable wage and their children are kindergarten-ready. This program truly transforms lives!”

“I also support many other organizations in town – including Texas Advocacy Project, Urban Roots, Austin Shakespeare and Emancipet -- but on a much more peripheral level.”

Tell us a little about your family!

“My husband, Tim, and I have four children – Jack (17), Sophie (16), Charlotte (14) and Claire (12). Yes – I will have three in high school next year! We also have a strange smattering of pets: Eleven chickens, a guinea pig, a few fish, a chameleon and a dog (who we saved minutes before they were going to euthanize her).”

What is the most important thing you have learned by being an Impact Austin member and your favorite thing you have done with the organization?

“The most important thing I have learned from being an Impact Austin member is that anyone can be a philanthropist. “

“It can be intimidating to try and connect with an issue or nonprofit that you are passionate about and Impact Austin helps give you that confidence and opportunity. I have learned about how nonprofits work and what their needs are.  I have met many incredible nonprofit leaders who could do anything, but have devoted their lives to making Austin a better place.”

“I think my favorite thing was sitting on the founding board. I loved the (almost) daily interaction with the smart and brave women who started this organization. We felt like a family (both the good and the bad parts!) and to this day, I have such a strong connection to and admiration for those women. Helping to build Impact Austin was one of the most challenging and inspiring things I have ever done.”

Tell us something surprising or unusual about you! 

“We traveled in Europe for eight months when our children were young. My husband decided it would be a great adventure! I was not on board, at first – I had four children ages 8, 6, 5, and 2 and traveling around Europe with that clan didn’t sound that pleasant to me. We rented a house in Lugano, Switzerland, and we traveled from there, sometimes for ten days and sometimes for a weekend. We visited so many other countries – France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary and even Luxemburg. It was an adventure I will never forget. I have even forgiven my husband for making me go!”

Community Partners

Austin Youth River Watch

2014 Environment Grant Recipient
In 2014, we granted $100,000 to Austin Youth River Watch for their program, River Watchers Restoring Austin Streams. Check out this video highlighting their program! 

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2014 Environment Grant Recipient
In 2014, we granted $100,000 to Austin Youth River Watch for their program, River Watchers Restoring Austin Streams. Check out this video highlighting their program! 

 

Austin Youth River Watch combines environmental education with drop-out prevention, providing a safe place for teenagers to grow and gain confidence, while learning to be active stewards of our planet.  In the current program, approximately 120 at-risk students from nine Austin Independent School District high schools learn to collect, analyze, and publish water-quality data from 25 freshwater sites along Austin-area streams and the Colorado River. The new program funded by Impact Austin will engage these students in hands-on stream restoration projects, such as bank stabilization, vegetation management, and trail building. These week-long service-learning projects will include a weekend “work day” with community volunteers led by the students. The new program will benefit Austin-area streams and the ecosystems they support through at least 10 restoration projects each year; enhance students’ knowledge of aquatic science and improve their leadership skills; and involve at least 100 new community volunteers.

For more information visit www.ayrw.org