Austinites committed to making the city a better place in 2013.
By Steve Uhler, Photos by Rudy Arocha
From the Publisher
The Giving Man Pledge. I’ve talked about it. I’ve written about it. I wear my wristband every day as a reminder that 2012 has been a great year. As I’m writing this, I realize that this time last year, the Giving Man Pledge did not exist. In fact, it was a short time before we went to press for the Winter issue that Roy Spence posed the idea to us, saying, “Why not make 2012 the Year of the Giving Man?” and he went on to explain the concept.
We thought it was a great idea, especially because the concept is not just for men; it is for women too. So we challenged our readers to make a pledge and make a difference. Quite simply, the Giving Man Pledge is our way of asking everyone to do something to make Austin a better place for all of us. The Giving Man Pledge didn’t require anything specific or measureable, it did not have to be anything big and it did not have to involve a lot of money or time. It could be as simple as a kind word, a smile at a stranger on the street or a donation of time or resource to your community.
We just asked our readers, staff and supporters to make a pledge to do something. During this year, I was introduced to some incredible people who made pledges, and the one thing all the people I spoke to had in common was happiness. Giving feels good, so if you enjoy giving back to your community, you are in the company of some generous and happy Austinites.
If you have not taken the Giving Man Pledge yet, give it a go. I think you will be surprised by how good it feels when you see the joy on someone’s face just because you did something nice. I plan to continue to support the great city of Austin, and I’m lucky to have a broad reach through AW Media. This year, I will double my hours serving and supporting others in our community. That is my Giving Man Pledge for 2013. We hope you will be inspired by the giving men included in this article, and encourage you to make your pledge. Here’s to a giving 2013 and to making Austin the best it can be for all of us!
The woman in the meal line at the Caritas Community Kitchen barely glances up at the affable volunteer offering her a plateful of hot and healthy food. But when their eyes momentarily meet, she squints in vague recognition.
“You’re that guy, right?” she asks tentatively. “The one on TV?”
In a timid voice, she starts quietly singing the distinctive four-note jingle she’s heard a million times throughout the years: “ABC Pest & Lawn.”
For Bobby Jenkins, it’s a familiar scene. A generation of Texans grew up seeing his face on TV, newspapers and billboards throughout town. But few expect to see him handing out free meals in a food kitchen.
“It’s a nice little bonding moment,” he acknowledges with a shy smile. “I’ve been around for a while, so it does happen. The cool part is the appreciation, when they say, ‘Thanks for being here. Thanks for helping out.’ It’s a great feeling.”
One of the few philanthropists who actually walks the walk by doing hands-on volunteer grunt work, Jenkins is often recognized by the strangers he helps. He first achieved minor celebrity status as a fashionably crew-cut 10-year-old, appearing in local newspaper ads for his father’s San Antonio-based ABC Pest Control business in the early 1960s.
He continued working and appearing in ads, often with his two younger brothers, throughout his teens and young adulthood. After their father retired in the early ’80s, the three siblings took the reigns, dividing respective geographic territories, with older brothers Raleigh and Dennis overseeing the Houston and Dallas regions. Jenkins inherited the Austin slice of the pie, taking over the satellite office. Together, the three partners developed a unique business template.
“We’re all ABC, we’re all brothers, but we don’t share financial resources,” Jenkins says. “We share ideas. There’s a lot of synergy between us. It’s a unique structure.” As the company grew, so did its collective expertise and mission. “We evolved in to lawn services, and then heating and air, plumbing, electrical, tree trimming, pool service and, most recently, security systems,” Jenkins says.
The official name is now the more all-encompassing ABC Home & Commercial Services. Jenkins first became acquainted with Caritas and its work through a friend several years ago.
“She asked me to tour the facility, way back,” he recalls. “She was a board member and asked me to take a look at the operation and possibly support it from a financial standpoint.”
Impressed with Caritas and its work, Jenkins found himself increasingly active in the organization, contributing food, donating money, working the kitchen. He went on to serve on the Caritas board from 2006 to 2012, and acted as chairman in 2011. Jenkins encourages his staff and employees at ABC to join in his service efforts.
“It’s a tremendous volunteer opportunity,” he notes. “We’ve used it as a company team-building experience. We’ll take 10 or 12 managers down there and we’ll all prepare the food, serve the meals and clean up afterward. We serve about 350 hot meals a day. I’ve told other business folks that if you really want to do something meaningful that’s a real bonding opportunity and something that really touches your heart, this is a great experience.”
In addition to working the kitchen, Jenkins has been actively involved with Caritas’ various other programs, raising funds with company raffles and volunteering at various Caritas-related events, including the annual ThunderCloud Turkey Trot, a particular favorite.
“To me, it’s quintessential Austin: ThunderCloud, Turkey Trot, Thanksgiving. It’s an absolute fit allaround. ThunderCloud’s been an incredible giver to Caritas,” Jenkins enthuses.
Perhaps Jenkins’ ultimate volunteer effort occurred in 2009. “I did a bike ride as a fundraiser for Caritas with my two brothers. We rode our bicycles from Austin to Calvary, Canada. It was a 2,300-mile ride and it took us five weeks. I raised $75,000 for Caritas, and I also hope I raised awareness. I had a lot of support from our customers and vendors and friends. It was an incredibly cool experience.”
Still boyish-looking at 54, Jenkins’ commitment to Caritas and its ongoing mission remains unwavering. “I’m a big believer that business engagement in the community is good on multiple levels. Obviously, when you’re giving back to the community, it’s good for the community. It’s also a tremendous value proposition for the business,” Jenkins says. “That’s one of the things that we think about a lot here at ABC. I submit that engaged employees are happier, longer-lasting, more productive employees. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Caritas Of Austin
Derived from the Latin word for “charity,” Caritas Austin is a locally based nonprofit organization providing services for 20,000 homeless, working poor and documented refugees in Travis County. Founded in 1964 by Father Richard McCabe to help connect people experiencing poverty and homelessness, Caritas had an initial budget of $30,000 that was supported by the Catholic Diocese of Austin, and it was run by volunteers and a part-time staff. Today, Caritas has a full-time staff of 60 providing housing, food, employment, education and refugee-resettlement services. Caritas welcomes donations and volunteers for its many service programs, including its community kitchen, food pantry, deliveries and more. Visit caritasofaustin.org to learn more. To volunteer, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Caritas of Austin 611 Neches St. Austin, TX, 512.479.4610
Bobby Jenkins’ Giving Man Pledge 2013
“I pledge to work at and help support Caritas of Austin in as many ways as I possibly can, serving in the kitchen, doing a food drive and raising money.”
Bryan Hardeman is a big believer in the concept of extended family. As the owner of the Continental Automotive Group, Hardeman oversees a veritable Austin-based automotive dynasty, including numerous dealerships, a parts distributorship, a full-service insurance agency and a marketing firm. Many of his employees have worked 30 or more years for him.
“The most important people to me in my life are my family of employees; they’re No. 1,” he says. “Then my blood family, then the community that we serve because my customers are what keep us going.”
His three children are longtime employees. So it’s no surprise that Hardeman does not differentiate between work, family and community. To him, they’re all one and the same. As the son of a politician, the importance of connecting with community was instilled in Hardeman at an early age.
“My father was in the state Senate and he represented a big district out in West Texas,” he relates. “So we were here in Austin almost as much as I was in school out there.”
Traveling with his dad offered the growing boy a crash course in understanding the importance of civic responsibility. After graduating from the University of Texas in 1973, Hardeman landed a job in a downtown Austin bank, but soon divined that a lifetime of managing other people’s money was not a very appealing prospect.
“I worked there for about four years. I knew I didn’t want that job to be my final resting place. Banks have rules, and rules and I don’t get along very well,” he says, laughing.
Fortunately, the disgruntled banker’s life trajectory was about to change. One day, a prospective buyer for a business of import car franchises called Continental Cars walked in seeking a loan.
“He brought the deal to the bank,” Hardeman recalls, “but the bank president turned down the loan. ‘Naw,’ he said. ‘Nobody’s going to buy them foreign cars.’ So I went to the bank president and said, ‘Look, I got to tell you, I would’ve voted for that deal. I’d like to have permission from you to sit down with the people who are selling the business and see if I can put together a deal. ’ He said, ‘If you do, you’re going to have to resign.’”
Hardeman took a leap of faith. After countless roadblocks and setbacks, the industrious young entrepreneur eventually secured the financing, and in 1978, at age 29, found himself the youngest authorized Mercedes-Benz dealer in the country, a record he holds to this day. When he began the business, Hardeman’s monthly take-home pay was a modest $540. In those lean times, his devotion to public service had to take a back seat to the pragmatic day-to-day demands of survival.
“There wasn’t a lot of extra money to give away back in those days,” he says. “If I made a charity donation or political contribution of $25, that was stretching it.”
Thirty-four years and several company expansions later, Hardeman is in a better position to support the causes and programs close to his heart. And there are many. Throughout the years, he has been a generous supporter of a staggering number of charitable, educational and nonprofit organizations, including the Austin Symphony, American Heart Association, Austin Pets Alive!, and his alma mater, UT. But he holds a special place for children’s health organizations: Austin Children’s Shelter, Center For Child Protection, Dell Children’s Medical Center and others. Hardeman is especially devoted to the March of Dimes.
“The reason is that my twin daughters were born seven weeks premature,” he explains. “They were in the hospital for almost three months before they were allowed to go home. When I was growing up, I’d walk with my mother in the neighborhood collecting dimes, and we’d send them in to the March of Dimes in these little booklets. We raised money that way. I always remembered that, and when my little girls were born, they were kind of poster children for the local chapter. So that’s a big thing in my family.”
While reluctant to take credit, in the 34 years since he took over CAG, Hardeman has distributed more than $6 million to causes he supports. Still fit and youthful at 63, he has no plans to stop.
“As long as my legs will get me in here and my brain’s still working, I have zero plans to retire,” he says, adding that he sees no reason to skimp on his charitable efforts. “Over the next five years, I plan to double my amount of giving.”
Sounds like a tall order. But ask any member of Bryan Hardeman’s extended family and they’ll tell you: Never bet against a man who saw a future in foreign cars
Austin March Of Dimes
Founded in 1938 by President Franklin Roosevelt to combat polio, the organization was originally called the National Foundation of Infantile Paralysis. The name March of Dimes was coined by popular entertainer Eddie Cantor as homage to the then-popular newsreels, March of Time, and eventually became its official moniker. Following the development of the polio vaccine by Jonas Salk in the 1950s, the organization expanded its mission.
“Today, the March of Dimes funds research on children with birth defects, and also pays bills for families who can’t afford it,” Hardeman says.
March of Dimes has numerous events and fundraisers throughout the year. To volunteer or make a donation, visit marchofdimes.com. You can also write the March of Dimes national office at 1275 Mamaroneck Ave., White Plains, NY, or call 914.997.4488. To contact the Texas Chapter, call 713.623.2020. March of Dimes Austin Branch 11044 Research Blvd., suite A210 Austin, TX 78759 512.477.3221
Bryan Hardeman’s Giving Man Pledge 2013
“Over the next five years, I plan to double my amount of giving to various charities like the March of Dimes. The same amount, $6 million, but over a period of five years, as opposed to 34.”
It’s a little after 10:30 a.m. in the now-quiet broadcast booth at Mix 94.7, and Jeffrey Hager and Sandy McIlree— better known as JB & Sandy—are unwinding after another typically hectic morning show of on-air banter, jokes, celebrity gossip and marathon commercial clusters. The two look like a composite comedy team ordered up from central casting, the Mutt and Jeff of morning radio. JB: tall, rangy and tousle-haired with a slight adenoidal hint of Norm McDonald in his voice; Sandy: compact, gregarious and boasting an imposingly contoured cranium, from atop which every last follicle of hair has beaten a hasty retreat.
During the course of a professional partnership that’s lasted longer than many marriages, the duo has not only survived in a fiercely competitive marketplace, but has become embraced as an Austin institution. The JB & Sandy Morning Show has been keeping Capital City commuters and stay-at-home moms tuned in for more than 16 years. As longtime on-air ambassadors of Austin, the two broadcast veterans promote countless charity events year-round. But their biggest annual blowout is their own phenomenally popular Bikes For Kids program.
Launched in 1996, JB & Sandy’s Bikes For Kids sprang from a desire to create a holiday campaign benefiting disadvantaged kids throughout Austin. “We wanted to focus on what kids want, not what they need,” McIlree explains. “Every kid needs new underwear, but that’s not what they want. They want a bike! A bike represents fun, freedom, adventure.”
In that first year, the program’s goal was modest: Raise enough money to distribute 94 new bikes to kids at Christmas. Now, 16 years and thousands of bikes later, the annual giveaway has become a popular holiday tradition in a city known for its eclectic altruism. JB & Sandy’s Bikes For Kids program may not generate the deep-pocket corporate sponsorships of higher profile national charities, but, as they’re quick to point out, every small contribution helps.
“A lot of our donations are $5 or $10 at a time,” McIlree says. “Like parents who’ve made it kind of a family tradition, donating every year and teaching their kids about giving. Or the kid with the piggy bank who shows up and makes the donation. Just do the math; a lot of those add up.”
On giveaway day each year just before Christmas, JB, Sandy and a small army of volunteers gather all the families and shiny new bikes together for a bicycle bacchanalia.
“We give them away all at once. There’s something amazing about seeing all the bikes together at one location,” Hager says. “And then they’re all gone in about two hours.”
The campaign is active all year long with such grassroots events as an annual golf tournament, neighborhood raffles and pancake breakfasts.
“We get scared to do classy, high-end things,” Hager says, smiling. “All-you-can-eat pancakes are more our speed.”
Despite their levity—this is, after all, morning-drive radio—both men are keenly cognizant of their responsibilities to the community that embraces them.
“If you have this platform we have, you should do something positive with it,” McIlree says. “I mean, fart jokes are fun but, you know, you should use it to do something beneficial for your community, where you live and work and socialize and shop and hang out. You ought to give something back. That’s what’s great about radio.”
“Yeah,” Hager interjects. “When was the last time that Pandora did anything for Austin?”
Amidst all the shiny chrome and celebratory seasonal vibes, there are occasional reflective moments.
“A couple of years ago, we were giving some bikes to this woman,” McIlree recalls. “Suddenly, she started crying. And she said, ‘I don’t know if you guys remember me, but I stopped by and made a donation to Bikes For Kids last year while you were out in Steiner Ranch. I was living there and everything was great. Then my husband ran off and left us with nothing.’ ”
“She’d had a neck injury at work and couldn’t work anymore,” Hager adds. “She’d donated every year before that. She had nothing to give her kids for the holiday, and she came as a recipient. She said, ‘I never thought I’d be here. I had it all. I never thought I’d have to worry about money.’ When we took the bikes to her car, she broke down.”
On the other hand, points out Hager, “There’s a lot of people who come back to donate years later who got bikes maybe five or six years ago, and they’re like, ‘Oh my god, that made our year when you gave our kids those bikes!’ And when things turned around, they came back to donate.” He smiles with quiet pride and says, “That’s Austin.”
JB & Sandy’s Bikes for Kids
Funded by listener donations and supplemented by various local businesses and nonprofit organizations, Bikes For Kids has grown to become one of Austin’s most popular ongoing charitable campaigns. To date, the program has donated more than 16,000 new bikes, running the gamut from tricycles to BMX-style, hybrids, single-speeds, multigears and mountain bikes, and each giveaway includes a lock and protective helmet. Listeners can donate money and, during the pre-holiday push, nominate deserving families. Visit mix947.com to nominate a family and make a donation. Listen to the JB & Sandy Morning Show for updates and news.
JB & Sandy’s Giving Man Pledge 2013
“Our Giving Man Pledge is to continue to expand our Bikes For Kids program, and connect to and support other people’s programs. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in your own cause,” JB Hager says. “But there’s a lot of other worthwhile programs out there. It’s easy to get so absorbed in your own project that you don’t often lend a hand to others, particularly new ones.”