#GivingTuesday: A Time to Reap the Harvest

Tis the season to help those at the crossroads.

Michael Lofton, Founder, and President of the African-American Youth Harvest Foundation expressed this thought when asked about the 2020 GivingTuesday campaign that offers the general public an opportunity to donate to a wide range of local non-profit organizations.

And according to Bini Coleman, the Foundation’s Chief Operations Officer, it is always their season to help others. “He and his wife are just givers to their core.”

However, as many organizations are discovering, a holiday season in the middle of a global pandemic is not just business as usual. Many families are dealing with lost income, increased health issues, loss of family members, and the stress that comes with the uncertainty of how long all this will last.

These funds are important in that they allow us maximum flexibility to determine how they might best be used…

To highlight just how much of an impact the pandemic has had on local families, Coleman noted that a recent survey of a local school revealed that 73% of the student households reported having lost a job or having paid hours reduced as a result of the COVID-19 shutdowns. There are entire communities made up largely of front line workers in the hardest-hit service industry.

Coleman pointed out that the significance of the GivingTuesday donations is how they differ from typical grant funds. “These funds are important in that they allow us maximum flexibility to determine how they might best be used and are not as cumbersome as grant money. We can use them in ways that are generally restricted by grant provisions, such as direct cash assistance.”

Often, when a family comes to the Harvest Foundation to access a particular service, it is later determined that other pressing needs exist, such as food clothing, or emergency utility assistance. Grant funds are great for their emerging initiatives around Early Childhood Development and Healthcare for men of color. However, the desire to take a holistic approach to the needs of the community makes access to an unrestricted pool of money essential.

We’re a small team determined to do big things!

African American Youth Harvest Foundation President Michael Lofton

Lofton lamented that in just a few day’s time he had spoken with over 50 people who had neither food for the holidays, nor the gas required to wait in long drive-thru lines to pick up donated food. The foundation has received more than 300 more applications for this year’s toy drive compared to last year, and that increased need is showing up in every initiative, such as the Turkey Dinner giveaway, the clothing drive, and passes to the Trail of Lights. The need is great, but Coleman insists that their goal is to continually seek ways to meet it. “We’re a small team determined to do big things!”

The I Live Here, I Give Here non-profit has collaborated with a worldwide movement to help address the growing financial needs of the non-profit community. “This is a critical time for our community to once again step up and embrace generosity in all of its forms- through sustaining donations, acts of kindness, giving of time and talent, and more,” said Courtney Manuel, I live Here, I Give Here’s CEO.

Six Square is also participating in the #GivingTuesday campaign and will use its funds to preserve historic Black spaces located in Austin’s Black Cultural District, cultivate artistic expression and serve as a catalyst for social and economic development. The organization’s name was inspired by the literal six square mile boundary Blacks in Austin were forced to live in as part of the city’s “1928 plan.”

Six Square hosts historic tours upon request, procures art exhibits and was at the forefront of restoring a mural that had been removed by a new business at the corner of 12th and Chicon Streets. Doing this work in the middle of what Interim Executive Director, Pamela Benson Owens calls “the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and racism” requires creativity and grit. Understanding that the impact is as much psychological as economic, Six Square’s Black Minds Matter aims to provide a balm for the community in the form of mental health support.

Now, as the only cultural arts district in the city, Six Square’s vision is to shape its future by anchoring it as a Black and cultural center and improve the economic landscape of those it serves.

A partial list of Austin-area African American non-profits participating in #GivingTuesday include:


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