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 AustinDevelopment@uss.salvationarmy.org, or call 512-605-1410.

For photos of the luncheon, click HERE.