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our 2022 Big Give recap

Amy Starling Rampy

Each year on the last Friday in September, TBGers in all offices head outside. We call it The Big Give, and it’s a day dedicated to investing in our communities. This year was our 7th annual Big Give and the 35th anniversary of our firm’s founding.

In celebration of our anniversary, the focus of our firmwide volunteer day was on the lasting impact we have made in the community. Each office revisited a prior year’s Big Give project to see what has changed and to build on our lasting impact.

It’s always a gorgeous day at Community First! Village and our Austin team was super excited to be back at the ever-expanding community. What started off as a food truck ministry has grown to a 51-acre master planned community that provides affordable housing, community, and work opportunities for those coming out of chronic homelessness. From tiny homes to a farmer’s market to an art studio, Community! First boasts a beautiful and diverse neighborhood.

Our Austin team started the day at The Front Porch, a 3D printed house that serves as a welcome center. The team checked in with volunteer coordinator, Austen Ramsey, learned about what they would be doing from Sarah Flaherty and met neighbor liaisons, Kate and Kristy. The group gathered tools and headed over to the new multipurpose building called The Living Room, the first indoor space dedicated to the neighbors as a community center. Neighbors will enjoy a TV room, games area, classrooms and a coffee bar. The day’s project was transforming the area outside the Living Room.

The crew worked at record speed to prepare the rocky soil for planting. Swinging pickaxes with aplomb, they built two dry creek beds to assist with site drainage and planted over 150 plants.

Community First! Village has doubled in size in the last few years. During a break, the group toured of Phase 1 and 2 (100 acres) and met even more neighbors. With future expansion already in the works, Community First! Village could one day house as many as 40% of Austinite’s experiencing homelessness. Thank you, Kelly Campbell, for coordinating such a fun and meaningful day for our Austin team and Rachel Kline for making it all happen.

Along with fantastic photos, our Houston team left with treasured memories from their day with the Galveston Bay Foundation (also celebrating their 35th anniversary!) After a short boat ride into Galveston Bay just east of Dickinson, TX, the team safely made it to the island. They celebrated with a Texas sized project of planting over 1,000 native trees grown by GBF on the newly constructed, 4.4-acre bird sanctuary island (paid for by the Deep-Water Horizon oil spill settlement).

The Galveston Bay Foundation focuses on conservation efforts through five different programs: education, advocacy, restoration, conservation and protection. The bay area has no shortage of daily battles: pollution, oil spills, injured wildlife — all things the Galveston Bay Foundation is passionate about resolving. The bird sanctuary island provides native birds a place to thrive and increases the tree population in the bay.

The Galveston Bay Foundation was so grateful for our crew of 30 that showed up promptly and ready to work. They provided two boats, captains, additional staff, tools, and instruction for the event. With everyone working together, it took about 3 hours to plant all the trees.

The team stretched their sore muscles with a tour of the GBF’s facility and restored native salt marsh, led by Emily Ford, Volunteer Engagement Manager. A highlight of the entire day was meeting Pair, a rescued Diamondback Terrapin (a species of turtle.) Thank you, Susan Cita, for coordinating this event, and Dianora Sanchez for handling logistics.

San Antonio
Our tiny but mighty San Antonio crew facilitated a design charrette with parent volunteers and teachers at Castle Hill Elementary. The San Antonio school is where our very own Austin Hicks went to elementary school. Although, thanks to the Parent Teacher Organizations’ commitment to landscape beautification, it probably looks quite a bit different now. Over the years, they have added raised garden beds, a stormwater garden, and paths lined with edible fruits and butterfly attracting species. This year, the design plans focused on further expansion.

After a discovery session, the team generated a Summary/Next Steps document with frequently heard comments based on feedback. The plan also addressed how to make the best use out of the PTO’s available funds. Some of these recommendations include a pathway connecting a teacher’s entrance to the parking lot, installing an irrigation system, additional seating for students, and a presentation amphitheater with a painted mural backdrop.

Thank you to Andy Rowell for coordinating a meaningful day for our San Antonio team.

The Dallas office was very excited to partner again with CitySquare for a refresh of their courtyard space (originally renovated at The Big Give in 2018) and redesign of the corner entrance to the Opportunity Center.

CitySquare is a broad organization that seeks to meet the needs of those living in poverty through four key areas: hunger, health, housing and hope. The Opportunity Center is a home base for the work they are doing. It is here that you can find the food pantry and workforce training department.

Enthusiasm was high in the morning as the team wielded tillers and augers, but when a second truckload of gravel was delivered in the afternoon everyone was wondering if they may have bitten off more than they could chew. The Benadryl some had to take because of grass allergies certainly wasn’t helping matters, but the team reached deep for a second wind, and it paid off! Everyone was extremely happy and proud of the end result.

Many thanks to Vanessa Ngo for establishing our partnership with Complete Landsculpture and securing all material donations, Nick Kearney for coordination and to Hannah Zeeb for handling logistics and keeping the team hydrated and fed.

Everyone had a beautiful day working together, strengthening relationships with each other and our project partners and creating real change in our communities.