For ten years now, Lifeworks Austin’s White Party has been a major event for the organization. This year, Lifeworks wants you to #PartyWithPurpose.

Lifeworks first introduced the White Party in 2005 with a small (but fabulous) affair at Green Pastures featuring cocktails and desserts. Over the years, the event has evolved – quickly outgrowing Green Pastures and relocating to The Long Center, and attracting more and more generous sponsors, donors and participating vendors. Each year, the event comes to mean more to the people and programs at Lifeworks.

The White Party is a grand celebration, an opportunity to rub elbows with the social and philanthropic elite of Austin. From the stunning fashions to the energizing music and dancing to the gourmet food and drinks, the White Party is truly an event to be remembered. And keep in mind, when you #PartyWithPurpose at the White Party, you help make programs like these possible.

Grab your friends, get your tickets and start looking for that stunning white outfit – The White Party is almost here. Help us spread the word on Facebook, and find us on Twitter #WhitePartyATX or #PartyWithPurpose.





Healthy food is important component of self-sufficiency

Every Monday afternoon LifeWorks staff pick up between 60 and 300 pounds of food that would otherwise be headed for a landfill. We stock up the freezer at LifeWorks East site, right next door to The Works affordable housing community, and all week long, clients who struggle with food insecurity have access to nutritious (and tasty!) meals and snacks.

This food rescue mission is made possible by Keep Austin Fed – a local volunteer based nonprofit – and My Fit Foods – whose 12 stores in the Austin-area provide healthy, natural and clean meals that are also delicious!

You might be surprised to learn that more than one in five Texans is food insecure and has difficulty meeting basic nutritional needs. At LifeWorks, many of our clients exiting foster care or transitioning out of homelessness have been in dozens of foster care placements – and the issue of food insecurity is compounded by a lack of wellness and nutritional education.

Lack of healthy food causes or exacerbates a variety of common health issues for youth and young adults, like:

  • hypertension
  • type 2 diabetes
  • stress
  • asthma
  • obesity
  • malnutrition
  • respiratory tract infections
  • viruses and diseases
  • “Street Sickness” or constant malaise.

In addition to our partnership with Keep Austin Fed and My Fit Foods, LifeWorks provides nutritional education to pregnant and parenting teens, one-on-one nutritional and wellness support, including cooking lessons, healthy recipes and educational handouts, and weekly yoga and cross fit classes.

At LifeWorks, we are committed to a comprehensive approach to help our youth and families achieve self-reliance. Join our email list to learn more about how LifeWorks empowers self-sufficiency.

Harvest Moon Festival Supports LifeWorks Workforce Development Program

LifeWorks Presents: Harvest Moon Festival, September 25

LifeWorks Harvest Moon Festival benefits the Workforce Development Program – helping young adults like Melissa and Alex find their path to self-sufficiency.

When Melissa graduated from a local Austin university in 2011, she thought she had found her path to self-sufficiency. Her graduation felt like the start of a new chapter, and with her degree and skills, she quickly landed a job.

But over the next few months, Melissa stopped feeling like herself. She kept up at her job at first, but then she couldn’t keep track of the time and started showing up late. She was afraid to leave her home so she stopped going to work and was soon fired. Without any form of support, she also lost her apartment. Melissa grappled with serious mental health issues and was living on the streets. Despite her college degree and significant job skills, her working life was disrupted by crisis.

While Melissa’s situation is especially difficult, her story is not so different from the problems many of LifeWorks’ clients face. Most young adults exiting foster care or transitioning out of homelessness are eager to find a job to move their lives forward, yet instability and constant crisis hamper their ability to become and remain employed.

While many workforce programs are focused on job skills for school-aged youth or career-changing adults, the young people that LifeWorks serves are often left out of the equation. Some already have strong skills but, like Melissa, need help with other issues. Other youth need job training and help with social and emotional challenges that prevent them from being successful in the workplace.

Like many of the young adults we work with every day, Alex has endured very difficult circumstances: abuse, neglect, abandonment, and violence. She had spent most of her life in residential treatment centers without ever knowing a single adult on which she could depend. Although she wanted to find employment, she had difficulty working with others, especially people in authority.

Alex enrolled in LifeWorks Workforce Development program. It includes an innovative and important socio-emotional training module to help young people who have experienced trauma connect with adults and develop a sense of personal accountability. Social issues are often the highest barrier to youth’s employability. For Alex, engaging with the Workforce staff was the first time in many years that she felt an adult believed in her and gave her a chance to succeed.

After her initial progress with engaging in trusting relationships, Alex was able to form strong bonds with a local church community that helped her find stable housing. She moved on to the skills training component of the Workforce Development program, was linked with a job, and has been steadily employed.

Melissa is making incredible progress and is taking care of her mental health. She finished the Workforce program and has had several interviews with some of Austin’s most prestigious tech firms. She hopes to move into stable housing soon.

Support LifeWorks Workforce Development Program by attending our Harvest Moon Festival, featuring Reckless Kelly and the Crooks.

23 years of service

After 23 years of service to LifeWorks and the youth and young adults of Austin, we wish to congratulate Steve Bewsey on his retirement.

When Steve Bewsey was invited to the White House to be honored by President Obama in 2012, he sent a letter to officials that contained two pictures. One of them was Steve in a Hawaiian shirt and beach shorts, the other was of him in a Santa outfit. Steve’s letter asked, “Which do you prefer?”

Steve_pool 213x213The White House opted for the beach shorts, but in Austin, Steve is best known as Santa’s doppelganger.

Steve has always had a different approach to helping young people. “Steve always tells me to let the kids work their problems out for themselves. Don’t try to work it out for them. All you have to do is support them,” said Scurry Miller.

What makes Steve one of the best at working with kids is his confidence in the kids while still having a good sense of humor and staying relaxed. Steve says the hardest part of his job has been getting people to calm down and letting them know that just because a young person is in foster care does not mean that there is something wrong with them.

Steve doesn’t think of himself as changing young people. He said that the biggest myth is that kids need to be changed. The kids come to Lifeworks because they want to get through their problems and he views his role as someone who’s there to support them.

As Steve often says: “The kid isn’t the problem; the problem is the problem.”

“The greatest thing about Steve is that he holds no judgment whatsoever. He treats everyone with respect and dignity,” said Wendy Varnell.

In Steve’s 23 years at LifeWorks he has: been a foster parent to 52 kids; raised $300,000 for Lifeworks; and been a devoted counselor to multitudes of young people. Now, after 30+ years of working, he will be joining his wife, Mary Lou, who Steve says is the most important part of his life, in North Padre Island. Happy retirement, Steve!

Defying the statistics

Quiana's story

Quiana spent a happy childhood in New Orleans, where her biggest dream was “what every little girl wants…to be a princess.” That was before Hurricane Katrina destroyed her home and family and left her reeling with trauma that kept her bouncing between Texas relatives, treatment centers, and the foster care system for years. Finally, homeless and alone in Austin, she found LifeWorks’ Transitional Living Program.

We see every youth who comes to LifeWorks through the lens of their accomplishments and potential, but we do not underestimate the challenges they face to succeed in school. Between 40% and 63% of foster youth do not complete high school, and – according to a University of Chicago study – only 6% of foster youth earn a 2 or 4 year college degree by the age of 24.

Our youth can succeed if we invest in their potential. Quiana graduated from Eastside Memorial High School with three scholarships. She now attends Austin Community College and lives at The Works – LifeWorks’ affordable housing community – where she edits the resident newsletter, is a strong voice on the Tenants Council, and has held an internship with the Partnership for Children. “I never lost hope. I get a lot of that from my Grandmother. Education was everything to her. With her, it was never if you are going to school. It was always when you are going to school. Most of my family didn’t make it to college.”

Quiana is defying the statistics. “It is hard! I love school, love being a part of a small community. It wasn’t like that at first, though. I didn’t know anyone and felt like a loser. Then I got involved with Student Life. Every day I’m helping someone.”

LifeWorks is a fearless advocate for youth – like Quiana – who are finding their paths to self-sufficiency. With your financial support, we can invest in a future of self-reliance and hope.

Quiana plans to enter a four-year college to become a counselor. “On the other side of it, I understand what kids like me have been through. They don’t want someone to look at them with sympathy; they want someone to understand them, and I want to be that person. Now that I’m older and wiser, I want to be more than a princess!”

Join us in empowering self-sufficiency by making a donation today.

How to Build Raised Garden Beds

dell after

Today we had the great pleasure of hosting several amazing volunteers from Dell who came out to our Emergency Shelter to build raised garden beds for our clients. Why garden beds? Our clients requested it so that they can grow veggies, herbs and flowers.

When you don’t have your own kitchen, it means a lot to have access to healthy, great tasting food. And if you talk to our clients – like the Dell volunteers did as they worked together at the Shelter – they’ll tell you that that’s exactly what LifeWorks provides. Many of our clients living at the Shelter have been in dozens of foster care placements, and nutrition and wellness education isn’t always a part of their lives. Our new vegetable gardens will not only provide delicious, fresh ingredients for the kitchen, but a great opportunity for clients to learn more about nutrition and wellness.

Our Dell volunteers worked long and hard through a hot morning today, but this is definitely a project you can do at home. Check out the instructions below to build your own raised garden beds.


  • Landscaping timbers
  • Landscaping cloth
  • Rebar stakes
  • 6 inch spike spiral nails
  • Screws
  • Gravel
  • Soil
  • Mulch


  • Table or miter saw
  • Drill with ½ inch auger bit
  • Hammer
  • Utility knife or scissors

Continue reading

The importance of cold weather shelters

According to the National Runaway Switchboard, there are approximately 1.3 million homeless youth living unsupervised on the streets on any given night. This has been a cold, wet winter in Austin, and our Emergency Shelter cannot meet the needs of every youth in crisis.

So what happens to the homeless youth that have no place to go when it’s rainy and/or the temperatures drop below freezing? They seek out a shelter that provides immediate, although temporary, protection from the elements. For youth under the age of 23, that place is LifeWorks.

By the end of the week we will have provided 20 shelters, serving 400 youth. This year’s demand is more than double the last 3 years combined and we are still expecting more cold days ahead! We do this in partnership with Micah 6 (a network of faith communities within the University of Texas area).

We give them not only safe shelter, but a meal, access to support services and make accommodations for their animal companions – something most other shelters will not do.

How does a young person end up on the streets?  LifeWorks was one of 12 organizations nationwide chosen for a recent research project that has provided a greater understanding of Austin’s homeless youth:

  • 83% report suffering verbal, physical or sexual abuse as children;
  • 44% were in foster care;
  • The average time spent homeless was 23.8 months;
  • 72% of youth said that they slept outside during that time (21% in a public restroom); and
  • 75% want to find a way out of homelessness.

These are not just statistics; they are youth who we pass on the streets every day. LifeWorks is a fearless advocate for youth and families seeking their path to self-sufficiency.  We must help youth off the street.  If they do not know where they will sleep or where their next meal will come from, then there is very little chance they can commit to a job or their education.

While we provide a full continuum of services and housing, the public funding the programs receive do not come close to covering the cost of doing them well.  LifeWorks is dedicated to measurable results for our youth and community AND we need your help.

Your donation not only helps to keep these vital resources available to the youth that are in need; but it makes the difference between a shelter that is merely open and one that can make an impact in the self-sufficiency of our youth.

To learn more about LifeWorks or to make a donation, please visit,