LifeWorks unveils the Sooch Foundation Youth & Family Resource Center

The LifeWorks family witnessed a spirited gathering of supporters last week at the Grand Opening Celebrations of the new Sooch Foundation Youth & Family Resource Center and the Laying the Groundwork Luncheon.

The new center, located at 835 N. Pleasant Valley Rd., increases LifeWorks service capacity by 25 percent and houses departments in youth development, counseling, and education/workforce.

At the Laying the Groundwork Luncheon which took place last Tuesday, LifeWorks Executive Director Susan McDowell spoke about the the driving focus behind the development of the new center and of the challenges faced by many of our clients.

“The longer I do this, the more I’m convinced that one of the greatest obstacles faced by LifeWorks youth is that they often get saddled early in life with these arbitrary labels.” McDowell said. “They are a ‘teen mom’ or a ‘runaway’ or a ‘foster care kid’ and these labels have the effect of keeping people from looking at them in terms of their potential and, instead, as some kind of problem they’re about to be to society… At LifeWorks, we refuse to take our eyes off the potential.”

Capital One Bank served as Presenting Sponsor at the Laying the Groundwork Luncheon. Mike Perrine, Commercial Banking Executive at Capital One shared his predictions for the new center while speaking to the hundreds of attendees.

“We believe that a thriving LifeWorks is a game changer in the neighborhood in East Austin.” Perrine said. “With the affordable housing development to occur, with Austin Community College across the street, we really feel that the community here will benefit greatly in a tangible way from the completion of the center.”

An on-site, 45 unit affordable housing complex called the “The Works,” is expected to be fully completed within the next 18 months. Both the Sooch Resource Center and The Works will be located right next door to the Austin Community College Eastview Campus.

More than $454,000 was raised at our Laying the Groundwork Luncheon; far exceeding the goal of $300,000.

The resource center has been fully operational since January, but the grand opening was held last Wednesday to coincide with the luncheon.

Sooch Foundation Associate Director Caroline Newman spoke of the organization’s partnership with LifeWorks in turning the dream of the center into a reality. The Austin based foundation works with various organizations and nonprofits in facilitating educational projects around the city.

“When Sooch Foundation first entered into this partnership in 2008, we knew, for so many reasons, this was the perfect, absolute best alignment with our mission which is to provide education opportunities here in the Austin community,” Newman said.

Newman referred to the new center as a “hub for literacy” in describing the educational services provided onsite. Key service partners housed in the center include Capital Idea and the Literacy Coalition of Central Texas.

“We foresee some amazing collaborations that will happen here that will have some incalculable benefits to our community in the future.” Newman said. “So, we just can’t wait to see what the future holds right here at the site.”

LifeWorks client Leslie H. spoke at both the luncheon and at the grand opening. Leslie spent most of her youth in foster care and has found much success through the programs at LifeWorks.

“LifeWorks never called me ‘that CPS kid.’” Leslie said. “As a matter of fact, they have shaped me into the woman I am today. They pushed me to pursue the joys I seek every day such as acting, photography, learning, laughing and viewing life with an open mind and an open heart. This program gave me a life I never imagined and a future I never dreamed of.”

Leslie plans on attending the University of Texas at Austin to study photojournalism and foreign language. She hopes to one day work for National Geographic reporting on major catastrophes around the globe.

“Someone once said, ‘To the world, you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world,” Leslie added, “So I say to LifeWorks, ‘Thank you for being my world.’”

The Sooch Foundation Youth and Family Resource Center was made possible through the leadership of Capital Campaign co-chairs Bonnie Mills and Jim Sauer and the generosity of many supporters, including the Sooch Foundation, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, the Topfer Family Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation, City of Austin Neighborhood Housing and Community Development, Bonnie K. Mills, Anonymous, and the Meadows Foundation. Special thanks also go to Miro Rivera Architects, American Campus Communities, Capital One Bank and Spaw Glass.

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