Notes & Noticias: Doing Good in Our Community

Dear Friends,

In progressive places like Austin it seems like there is always so much going on. This week’s Notes and Noticias highlights some of the great efforts to fight poverty right here in our community that merit your attention.

From microlending to educational opportunities to efforts to start kids on healthy habits when they’re young, there’s a lot of good work going on here in Austin that I’m pleased to highlight this week.

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Grameen America Brings Microfinance to Austin

This week, Austin took a big step forward in the fight to end poverty here in America. Grameen America announced that they will open a microlending branch in Austin, thanks to a $5 million donation from Whole Planet Foundation, the charitable arm of Whole Foods.

I’m excited to announce that Grameen America has decided to locate within House District 51.

The majority of the individuals they serve tend to come from neighborhoods close to the branch, so most of the women they will serve in 2014 will be residents of my district.

Grameen America is a nonprofit micro finance organization founded by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus. They offer microloans, training and support to transform communities, create jobs and fight poverty in the United States. Since opening in January 2008, Grameen America has disbursed over $130 million in microloans to more than 21,000 women.

Microlending is simple, and life-changing: individuals receive loan small amounts to start or expand their small businesses.

Often, these businesses are really, really small — examples include women who want to start operating a sandwich cart or expand their in-home bakery. Microloans offer low-income women the opportunity to gain financial independence through investment in their businesses, which must meet certain standards to receive the loans. Many of these women are otherwise unable to gain access to business funding, and micro-loans require no collateral or credit history.

Grameen America is on the front lines of fighting poverty in the developing world — and here in America. I’m excited to welcome them to Austin.

Marathon High Teaches Kids About Health Lifestyles

There are some speedy kids in Austin — and thanks to the Marathon High program, they’re learning how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, choose good nutrition, set goals, and develop leadership skills.

Marathon High is a free, five-month training program for high school students who don’t otherwise participate in school sports programs. The kids run three days a week, and learn about organic foods, sustainable agriculture, and how to live a long, healthy life.

The program creates serious runners — I ran the Austin marathon with these kids in 2011, and they beat me!

As a supporter of local, healthy food, I’m excited that this program exists to help disadvantaged youths start healthy habits when they’re young.

Watch a great video on these inspiring kids here.

St. Edward’s University Supports Migrant Education

House District 51 is the proud home of St. Edward’s University, which recently launched a fundraising drive with a goal of $100 million by 2017.

The drive was kicked off by a generous donation of $1.1 million from Luci Baines Johnson and Ian Turpin to create an endowment for students from migrant farmworker families to study abroad, conduct independent research, present at academic conferences, and participate equally in activities that promote high achievement.

Johnson’s generous contribution to St. Edward’s College Assistance Migrant Project (CAMP) echoes her father President Lyndon B. Johnson’s famous commitment to end poverty in America, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. CAMP is the longest-running migrant education program in the country.

I’m glad to see this program and St. Edward’s continue to flourish.

Early Voting Ends Friday!

Tomorrow is the last day to vote early in the 2014 Democratic primary. Election Day is next Tuesday, March 4th. Click here for polling locations.

In this year’s primary, I endorse a vote for the following candidates:

◦ Governor: Wendy Davis
◦ Lt. Governor: Leticia Van de Putte
◦ Agriculture Commissioner: Hugh Fitzsimons
◦ County Judge: Andy Brown
◦ County Commissioner, Pct. 2: Brigid Shea
◦ County Commissioner, Pct. 4: Margaret Gómez

Voters are required to show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot. Visit for an approved list. I hope you will join me in making it to the polls and voting in the Democratic Primary.

Last but certainly not least, I was buoyed by the federal court decision that found the Texas ban on marriage equality unconstitutional. Congratulations to all of the activists, community members, and leaders who worked so hard to make this day possible.