kids summer camp

Anita’s Story

As we continue to celebrate National Salvation Army week, we want to tell you Anita’s story.  Anita looks back to the three years when she was able to attend Salvation Army camp in the summer and what lasting impressions camp had on her.

Growing up in a poor, dangerous neighborhood, Anita and her brothers were not allowed to play outside because it wasn’t safe.  Their mother worked hard supporting the family and caring for their ill father.  “I remember my father being sick all the time…we spent a lot of our childhood in hospitals.”  When the boys started having trouble in school, a social worker suggested Salvation Army camp to Anita’s mom — a great benefit for the kids at no cost.  Going to summer camp opened a whole new world for eight-year-old Anita and her brothers.  At camp they were able to run outside and experience nature for the first time.  They learned to swim and fish, and Anita’s favorite activity was arts and crafts.

Summer camp letter from Anita to parents

Camp letter from Anita to her parents

Anita and brothers, with camp counselor at Camp

Anita and brothers, with camp counselor at Salvation Army camp

Anita and brothers at Camp

Anita and her brothers at Camp


Anita now owns her own business in Austin, and credits her time at camp for setting her on a path to success.  Years ago she received a Salvation Army appeal in the mail, and has faithfully donated since.

She said, “With the hope and joy that I still carry warmly in my heart for The Salvation Army, I decided thirteen years ago to pay it forward.  I donate to help send other children to camp so they can experience new adventures, grow, and have a little joy just as I did.”

Anita and her mom

Anita and her mom

“I’m grateful for what The Salvation Army did for my family.  It gave us hope…It made me the strong person I am today.”




Anita Rodriguez; Katrine Formby - Licarione Photography

Anita Rodriguez; Katrine Formby – Licarione Photography

Anita enthusiastically supports the work of The Salvation Army in our community and recently joined us, along with her friend, Katrine Formby, for our Doing the Most Good Luncheon.  Her faithful support ensures that many children like her and her brothers can have happy times attending camp even in the midst of challenging times for their families.  If you would like to help send a child to camp, click below to learn more.

Soup Soap and Salvation!

2016 National Salvation Army Week

Today we kick off the 2016 National Salvation Army Week and look back to just how The Salvation Army was formed.  In 1852, William Booth, an ordained Methodist minister, embarked upon his ministerial career, walking through the streets of London to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and the destitute, forgoing the traditional concept of a church.

William and Catherine Booth

William and Catherine Booth

In 1855, when Booth was invited to hold a series of meetings in a tent in the East End of London aided by his wife Catherine, he formed an evangelical group dedicated to preaching among the “unchurched” people living in the midst of appalling poverty, recognizing the interdependence of material, emotional and spiritual needs.  In addition, he became involved in the feeding and sheltering of the hungry and homeless and in the rehabilitation of alcoholics.

Originally known as “The Christian Mission”, The Salvation Army found footing in the United States when Lieutenant Eliza Shirley left England to move to Philadelphia and held the first meeting of The Salvation Army in the United States in 1879.  Today, The Salvation Army is now active in every zip code in the United States and in 125 countries, along with the Gospel being preached by its Officers in more than 160 languages.  In 1954, the first National Salvation Army Week was declared by the United States Congress and proclaimed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as a reminder to Americans to give freely of themselves.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower

President Dwight D. Eisenhower

The Salvation Army came to Austin in 1889 conducting the first meeting in a building downtown on the corner of 11th and Congress.  From this small beginning in our community, The Salvation Army has grown to include two emergency shelters and service centers, an Adult Rehabilitation Center, a Corps community center, four Family Stores, along with emergency disaster services and Christmas assistance.

We will be celebrating all this week with inspirational stories about our volunteers, programs and services.  Please follow and share our #NationalSalvationArmyWeek posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

2016 Doing the Most Good Luncheon

2016 Doing the Most Good Luncheon, Thursday, April 21, 2016

A first in Texas history happened at this year’s Salvation Army Austin Doing the Most Good Luncheon as Dick Rathgeber a long-time supporter and Advisory Board member – pictured above with his wife, Sara – was presented with the Honorary Colonel designation in front of a record crowd of more than 650 people at the JW Marriott.  And through heartfelt giving, guests donated a record $274,000 in sponsorships and donations to provide emergency shelter and services to local women and families. (See press release here.)

In addition to luncheon honoree Dick Rathgeber becoming the first in Texas to receive the Honorary Colonel designation, he is only the eighth person in the world to receive this honor in the 150 year history of The Salvation Army.

Along with the award presentation, attendees were treated to a live musical performance and film featuring Sam’s story about his family and how The Salvation Army helped bring them from homelessness to self-sufficiency.  It was a very moving presentation, with songs intertwined with Sam speaking on how his family found help at The Salvation Army when they were facing homelessness.  Our local organization was able to provide them housing, food, bus passes and most importantly, the support they needed to get back on their feet.

2016 Doing the Most Good Luncheon

Event Chair Cathy Present with Sam Espinosa and Event Committee Members Mary Durham and Betsy Hester – Licarione Photography

Sam experienced all of this with his family when he was in high school. Once the family had become stable again in their own home, Sam applied to and was accepted at Yale University, where he went on to receive his degree. Back in Austin now and a successful businessman, Sam said, “You may wonder if what you are doing is working.  I’m telling you today that it worked for me and my family.”  He then invited the crowd to write a check to support local families like his who come for help every day, taking out his own checkbook to make the first donation.

Many thanks to Ramy Antoun of Creative Arts Group and Clayton Corn of Crosswind Events + Experiences, who produced this moving live performance and film.  Other thanks goes to our emcee, Bob Cole of KOKE FM, our event chair, Cathy Present and her hard-working committee and to our faithful volunteers.  We appreciate everyone who took time out to attend the luncheon and donated from the heart.  If you were not able to attend but would like to make a difference for a local family like Sam’s, click the button below to donate now.

Click on the photo below to see the photo gallery of all of our luncheon photos taken by Licarione Photography and others at this year’s 2016 Doing The Most Good Luncheon.  To request a print quality version of a specific photo(s), please email and we will be happy to send you what you need.


Jerry Dollar; Britni Peters; Heather Merz; Ben Estes – Licarione Photography



Licarione-Photo_Colonels Henry and Dorris Gonzalez with Sara and Dick Rathgeber

Guests at The Salvation Army’s “Doing The Most Good” luncheon witness bestowment of prestigious award and get unique look at organization’s local impact

Dick Rathgeber becomes only the eighth person in the world to receive Honorary Colonel designation

AUSTIN, TX – The Salvation Army and Austin legend Dick Rathgeber made Texas history April 21 as the charitable organization conferred the state’s first ever Honorary Colonel award to Rathgeber, a long-time supporter and Advisory Board member. A record luncheon crowd of more than 650 guests were on hand at the JW Marriott in Austin for The Salvation Army’s “Doing The Most Good” luncheon, demonstrating their support for both Rathgeber and one of his favorite organizations. Guests also donated a record $274,000 in sponsorships and donations to provide emergency shelter and wraparound services to local women and families experiencing homelessness after hearing a first-hand account of how The Salvation Army Austin brought a family from homelessness to self-sufficiency.

Licarione-Photo_Colonels Henry and Dorris Gonzalez with Sara and Dick Rathgeber

Lt. Colonels Henry and Dorris Gonzalez, Austin Area Commanders, with Sara and Dick Rathgeber at Doing The Most Good Luncheon. Licarione Photography.

Event producers Creative Arts Group and Crosswind Events + Experiences treated luncheon attendees to a unique live performance that told the organization’s story in a moving and compelling manner, featuring a local family whose lives were changed by the support of The Salvation Army. A young man, “Sam,” detailed for the crowd how he, his mother and four younger siblings came to The Salvation Army more than a decade ago when they had run out of options, after sleeping from place to place. The organization gave the single mother and five children safe housing, bus passes, food and support so they could move beyond their immediate crisis. Sam, in high school at the time, went on to graduate from Yale University, and is now living and working in Austin. He credited his mother for her tenaciousness and love, and challenged the luncheon guests to donate to help The Salvation Army’s mission of making a difference for families like his.

“You may wonder if what you are doing is working,” Sam said to the attentive ballroom crowd. “I’m telling you today that it worked for me and my family.”

As one of the organization’s most ardent supporters, luncheon honoree Dick Rathgeber believes fervently in supporting families like Sam’s, backing up that belief with decades of giving to the organization. In addition to being the first in Texas to receive the Honorary Colonel designation, he is also one of only eight people in the world to receive that award in the last 150 years. Honorary Colonel is one of the highest honors a non-Salvation Army officer can receive.

Salvation Army Area Commander Lt. Colonel Henry Gonzalez acknowledged not only Rathgeber’s contributions, but the generosity of the luncheon attendees and other donors.

“The luncheon guests demonstrated their support for The Salvation Army by showing up today,” said Gonzalez. “All donors are crucial to success stories like Sam’s, and it’s important we get stories like his out to illustrate our belief that once individuals can stop worrying about meeting basic needs, they can cross a threshold to successful and productive lives.”

Ramy Antoun, founder of Creative Arts Group and a former drummer for Seal and the Black Eyed Peas, and Clayton Corn of Crosswind Events + Experiences, produced the live performance and film featuring Sam’s story. The elegant JW Marriott provided the ideal backdrop. The Cain Foundation, Cathy and Randy Present, and Nancy and Nyle Maxwell were major event sponsors, and Bob Cole of KOKE FM was the emcee. Cathy Present and her committee of Betsy Hester, Tami Schroeder and Mary Durham chaired the event.

For more information email, or call 512-605-1410.

For photos of the luncheon, click HERE.

Miss M

Amplify Austin 2016

Amplify Austin is I live here I give Here’s community-wide day of online giving that took place March 8-9, 2016.

We are thankful for the community’s support. Because of your donations we raised $30,329 total. A very generous anonymous donor matched these donations, bringing our total to $60,658! These funds stay local and help us to continue to serve families in urgent need, providing shelter, meals and services that help local men, women and children move from crisis toward self-sufficiency.

Six Amplify Ambassadors created their own fundraising pages to help us raise funds. Chuck Harris attached a fun focus to his campaign called the Jalapeño Helpers. He encouraged donors to eat a jalapeno then make a donation. Miss M (one of the cutest babies in Austin) asked Austinites to donate on her page because she believes no child deserves to be without a home.

Miss M

Miss M

We had several supporters show their support by sharing their I #AmplifyATX reasons, including our Area Commander, Lt. Colonel Henry Gonzalez.  You can find their pics on our Twitter and Instagram pages.


Colonel Gonzalez

The Amplify Austin kick-off began with many watch parties around the city, including ours, hosted by our advisory board chair, Dwight Thompson and his lovely wife Cathy. Party-goers watched the leaderboard as donations rolled in and enjoyed the music of Rick Hornyak and his friend, Jim an Austin attorney. We are thankful for Rick, a local musician, who volunteered his time to entertain our partygoers and has volunteered before to “rock the red kettle” during the holidays. Thank you to P. Terry’s and Hoboken Pie for showing their support and donating Amplify Watch Party door prizes.


We would again like to thank our donors and volunteers for continuing to show their support. We couldn’t do what we do without you! If you missed out on Amplify, you still have a chance to have your donation matched for a limited time. Donate here to have your donation stretch even farther, helping even more families have a better tomorrow.

BCM - Cory Morrow_James Soto Band_Dave Fenley

Local Musicians Rocking the Red Kettle

BCM - Cory Morrow_James Soto Band_Dave Fenley

Cory Morrow, James Soto Band and Dave Fenley at Barton Creek Mall

To learn about the Rock the Red Kettle ATX Concert 2016 – Click Here

Cory Morrow helped The Salvation Army kick off the Rock the Red Kettle campaign this Christmas. Not only did he headline our Rock the Red Kettle ATX concert, but Cory visited We Are Austin, wrote an article in The Austin American-Statesman, and recorded video clips for YouTube asking local musicians to rock the red kettles. We had an incredible response from the musical community here in Austin.

We Are Austin studios - Cory Morrow, Drew Womack, Jamille Ruebsahm and

We Are Austin studios – Cory Morrow, Drew Womack, Jamille Ruebsahm and Taylor Ellison

We know you’ve seen our red kettles but there was a twist this holiday season. Local musicians volunteered their time to share their musical talents at our red kettles located at The Domain, Barton Creek Mall and Lakeline mall. The music brought a festive atmosphere to mall shoppers.

Singer/songwriters Walt and Tina Wilkins who played with Cory Morrow at our Rock the Red Kettle ATX concert on November 22nd, rocked the red kettle at Lakeline mall twice.

The Domain kettle had some great performances also. McCallum High School orchestra played Christmas carols and Curtis Grimes played some original country tunes. Tony our friendly bell ringer joined Ed Kilman, a world traveling musician, for a song. The Hyde Park 6th grade girls sang joyfully as their teacher played the guitar.

Rick Hornyak

Rick Hornyak

Barton Creek Mall had some amazing performances as well. These Fine Moments showed their support by wearing a Salvation Army bell ringer apron during their performance. Country artist Adam Hood was in town from Alabama and took the opportunity to rock our kettle. Folks from Independent Insurance Agents of Texas stopped by to drop off Angel Tree donations and were happily surprised to see Adam Hood and took a photo with their favorite musician.

The Lost Vaqueros played Christmas songs to set the mood while Rick Hornyak and Carter Beckworth sang some original songs giving a Texas flair.

Adam Hood and fans

Adam Hood and fans

Snapdragon Santas, David Stewart, Jarrod Johnson, Drew Fish John Baumann, Matt Parish with Market Junction, Dave Fenley, James Soto Band, Fletch Wiley, General B. Smith, Baily Middle School Woodwind Quartet, Jomo & The Possum Posse, Ring 4 Him, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades and so many more signed up as well. Kristina Krause and Rick Hornyak played multiple times. Kristina Krause gave free CDs to those who made a donation to our kettle in any amount.

Our hearts are filled with joy to have so many local musicians come out and show their support of The Salvation Army Austin this past Christmas season. We’d like to thank all the musicians for volunteering their musical talents to help those in need in our community!

(Scroll down to load photos)


selling crafts

Kids Crafting for a Cause

selling crafts
We recently witnessed a very special act of kindness by a young girl named Destinee. Destinee gets together with her friends every couple of months to do arts and crafts, and she decided she wanted to use her talents to help others. She and her friends decided to begin selling their crafts to raise money to donate to local charities. For their first donation, they chose The Salvation Army.

Destinee decided she wanted to help homeless children for her first donation. With the help of her grandmother, she searched the internet to see how she could do this. Together they found The Salvation Army Austin’s #InvisibleAustin website and campaign. They read about the growing number of women and children in our city experiencing homelessness. Destinee knew she wanted to support this important cause.


Destinee and her friends gathered their crafts and sold them outside of Brookshire Brothers in Rockdale, Texas, 60 miles east of Austin. They raised and donated a total of $410!

Destinee came with her grandmother and great-grandmother to the Austin Shelter for Women and Children to give her donation – a box full of cash! She toured the facility and had a chance to see how her generous gift was helping others.

newspaper clipping

We are so thankful to Destinee and to her family and her friends. It warms our hearts to see children helping other children. Destinee’s act of kindness is inspiring, and we are blessed to be the first charity Destinee and her friends are supporting. We look forward to many more inspiring acts of kindness in the New Year.


Thank You


The Salvation Army Austin manages many programs along with two shelters to serve families in need in our community. None of this would be possible without the generosity and support of our donors, sponsors and volunteers. We are so grateful and thank you for all you do to help us continue servicing our community.

This year we hosted our second annual Rock the Red Kettle ATX concert. Much went into the planning and preparation for this concert which was headlined by Cory Morrow and his friends. This successful night was possible because of their support and support from our sponsors Legacy Mutual Mortgage, Carson Vaughn, GarzaBury, Riverside Resources, Andrew Priest, Erik Maund, Charles Maund Toyota and many, many more. We had a great response from volunteers who braved the cold with us. The Texas Spirits helped with setup for the concert. The Texas Cowboys came dressed and brought Smokey the Cannon. The staff from AMLI luxury apartments and The Junior League helped with our silent auction.

AMLI staff volunteering at the silent auction

AMLI staff volunteering at the silent auction

Cory Morrow’s help continued as he invited local musicians to come out and rock our red kettles. To our delight, there was a huge response. McCallum High School orchestra and Ring 4 Him came out to play and the 6th grade girls at Hyde Park school came out to sing. Walt and Tina Wilkins sang tunes at the Lakeline Mall while Jarrod Johnson, Drew Fish and Horseshoes and Hand Grenades rocked our kettle at The Domain. We had a big line up of artists at our Barton Creek Mall kettle featuring Dave Fenley, James Soto Band, Fletch Wiley, Los Vaqueros and so many more.

Ring 4 Him

Ring 4 Him

Ben Kazda local bartender at The Dig Pub took it upon himself to designate a night where he and his fellow staff would donate their tips on a particular night to provide gifts for the teen in shelter. The Dig Pub also donated 15% of its sales to the cause as well.  Last Monday, they raised a total of $6,786.17 in one night! We are thankful to Ben and the staff at Dig Pub. They recognize that our Angel Tree program provides children up to the age of 12, who are in need, with Christmas gifts. They wanted to make sure the teens had a special Christmas as well. We thank you for thinking of others and for support our teens in shelter.

Ben Kazda

Ben Kazda

Our Angel Tree program provides toys to thousands of children in need in our community, who would otherwise not have a special Christmas. Our hearts were filled with joy to see so many volunteers help at the Christmas Cheer Warehouse and to see many donations pour in for the children. We are thankful to Majic 95.5 who hosted a radio-thon Friday, December 11th to support the Angel Tree program and any forgotten angels. The program is possible because of the gift and monetary donations made by thousands of people throughout our community.


Little Guys Movers donated their time to pick up and transport toy donations to our warehouse.

This year Bastrop County experienced wildfires. Our Williamson County Emergency Disaster Service (EDS) canteen and volunteers were deployed. Our volunteers provided meals and hydration to firefighters and first responders. Our Williamson County volunteers not only donated their time, but donated their gas money as well. Most drove from Georgetown to Bastrop each day to help. Without much of a break, they came out to our Shoe-In at Celebration Church and helped fit children in need with a new pair of socks and shoes. Earlier in the year Texas experienced catastrophic floods and our volunteers were there to help. One of our volunteers gave a pair of shoes to a young woman who lost everything in the floods. Our EDS canteen and team is run 100% by volunteers. Our hearts are filled with gratitude to know people like our EDS volunteers who truly care about others.


Williamson County EDS volunteers service at Bastrop fires.

We witnessed many more acts of generosity from the people in our community and we would like to thank you all for everything you have done to help us serve the families and individuals in our community who are suffering. Because of your support, we are able to help them see a brighter tomorrow. Thank you again and God bless.

Ben Kazda

Local Bartender Donates Tips to Provide Christmas Gifts for Teens in Shelter

Ben Kazda is a bartender at Dig Pub and founder and owner of Hold Up vintage clothing. He, along with Dig Pub owners, fellow waiters and staff donated all of their tips on Monday to buy gift cards for teens living at the Austin Shelter for Women and Children.

Ben has been doing this for several years. He decided one year to donate all of his tips one evening.

Last year this effort raised $5,200 so that the shelters could get gift cards to the teens’ favorite stores like Aeropostale, Game Stop and Old Navy. It was very cool for the teens, who have an especially hard time living in shelter. Last night, Ben and The Dig Pub raised $6,786.17!

Dig Pub also donated 15% of all sales on Monday to the cause. The Salvation Army Angel Tree Program provides gifts for children 12 and under. Ben is making sure those over 12 have gifts as well.

Ben Kazda shared, “I have been doing this for quite a few years now. It started when I realized that I personally could help one person, or I could multiply my efforts by giving all my patrons a chance to help out. Last year was the biggest year I have ever had – raising $5,200. This year with the help of other bartenders and waitresses joining me in my efforts, my goal is to raise more than we raised last year for these teenagers who would otherwise not receive Christmas gifts.”

“It is so great when people in the community can really zero in on a way they can make an impact.  This was a definite need for our shelter, and Ben’s work over the last few years has transformed the holidays for these teens.” – Stacy Schwarz, Assistant Social Services Director for The Salvation Army Austin.

Ben knows that for the teens living in Salvation Army shelters, it is especially hard. They want to be normal and have gifts like other kids their age. A gift card to their favorite store gives them the opportunity to buy something they like during a very difficult time for them and their family. Ben is a true Austinite who wants to give back to his community and make a difference. Ben was also our volunteer-of-the-month in 2014.

We are so thankful to Ben and Dig Pub for their generosity to the teens in our community.

Dig Pub is located in Cedar Park. You can visit their website or find them on Facebook.


Cory Morrow on stage at Rock the Red Kettle ATX concert

Rock the Red Kettle ATX

See Rock the Red Kettle ATX 2016 Here

Cory Morrow on stage at Rock the Red Kettle ATX concert

Cory Morrow on stage at Rock the Red Kettle ATX concert

November 22, 2015, The Salvation Army Austin hosted its second annual Rock the Red Kettle ATX concert, presented by KOKE FM. Country superstar Cory Morrow performed with several of his headlining friends: Pat Green, Jack Ingram, Drew Womack and Walt and Tina Wilkins. This was one of Cory’s biggest activities to date in leading a fundraising initiative for The Salvation Army Austin Area Command and it was a huge success.


Scroll to the bottom of the page to find yourself in our complete photo gallery from the concert.

Concert proceeds go directly to helping the growing number of local women and children experiencing homelessness who seek emergency services and planning assistance from The Salvation Army, ultimately moving them beyond their immediate crises, to self-sufficiency.

Understanding that the organization provides assistance in many ways is what inspired Morrow to partner with The Salvation Army.

“Their mission mirrors what I believe,” said Morrow. “They meet immediate needs, but then go beyond that, sometimes interacting with families for more than a year to help with finances, job searches and addiction counseling. I want more people to be aware of the depth of The Salvation Army’s services, and how their clients thrive in society after receiving their care.”

That idea, and a glimpse of the organization’s ubiquitous red donation kettles, led him to the local “Rock the Red Kettle ATX” concept, modeled after the national Rock the Red Kettle concert benefiting The Salvation Army USA.

The venue, Life Austin Amphitheatre was the perfect setting for the concert. Every seat had a great view of the stage. VIPs had the opportunity to take pictures, visit with the artists and eat great BBQ donated by Doug Shayne Traylor. Our platinum, gold and silver sponsors watched the concert from their beautifully decorated tables, right in front of the stage. Silent auction items ranged from World Series baseball memorabilia to a ride in a WWII airplane to a diamond and emerald bracelet from Avant Garde Jewelers. Live auction items included an Austin City Limits road sign which was autographed by all the artists, a ski trip in Canada, and the opportunity to purchase a bed or crib for the new women and children’s shelter being built thanks to our capital campaign.

Although the weather was cold that night, it didn’t stop these true country music fans from showing their support. Free hot cocoa, blankets and heaters kept the concert goers warm. Food trucks from Hat Creek Burgers, My Granny’s Kitchen and Rosarito provided a variety of tasty food.


So many wonderful volunteers from our community came to help. The UT Texas Cowboys came in uniform and brought Smokey the Canon. AMLI Covered Bridge luxury apartment staff and The Junior League bared the cold with us at the silent auction. The UT Texas Spirits brought their cheerful spirit and helped with set up.

Throughout the night, guests took photos with the #InvisibleAustin cutout showing their support. #InvisibleAustin and the capital campaign have helped shine a light on the growing crisis of family homelessness in Austin. The new women and children’s shelter is just one of the many projects included in our capital campaign fundraising and will help thousands of women and children move from crisis to self-sufficiency.


The Rock the Red Kettle ATX concert was truly a night to remember and we are so thankful to the artists, Life Austin Church, our sponsors and the volunteers for making this a successful event. We’d like to give a special thank you to all of our sponsors, including our platinum sponsor Legacy Mutual Mortgage. See the list of these special sponsors below or click here for the full program: RTRK ATX concert program

We look forward to having you all join us again next year!




Photo Gallery

Please let us know if you want a printable version of any of these photos. Send an email to Thanks to Licarione Photography and Ashley Schlosser of Live out Loud PR for these beautiful images.