Find out How These Austinites Are Making a Positive Impact on the City

By Deborah Hamilton-Lynne. Photography by Inti St. Claire | December 15, 2017 | People Feature

Meet five Austin families, couples, and individuals dedicated to making this city the best it can be.


This passionate pair is dedicated to helping victims of domestic abuse find empowerment and success.


Gary and Courtney Santana, shown at the Hotel Ella, help victims of abuse through their Survive2Thrive Foundation.

“Passion, compassion and style.” These are the words Courtney Santana has chosen to define herself, and they extend to Gary Santana, her partner in life and philanthropy. In addition to serving as CEO of her foundation, Survive2Thrive (, Courtney is a well-known singer, actress and public speaker. The Santanas are passionate about family and service, including their mission to move survivors of domestic violence from victimization to empowerment and independence. Compassion comes from Courtney’s experience as a survivor of domestic violence. Fleeing an abusive husband, Courtney and her young children landed at Austin’s SafePlace. As she learned about gaps in services for survivors, she became determined to make a difference. In 2011, she founded Survive2Thrive. Gary now serves as director of operations and programming. As for style, one look at this couple, who pull out all the stops for the many events they attend, says it all. Gary, in fact, often wears a purple bow tie as part of his Purple Bow Tie initiative for men who have been affected by domestic violence. The Santanas are launching two important initiatives: First is Sanctuary, an app that will list resources, such as nearby shelters, that are immediately available for abuse victims. The other is her book Off Kilter, released in late October, which will be the first in a series of books exploring the many sides of domestic violence and recovery.


During Hurricane Harvey, an entire city followed his philanthropic lead.


Mayor Steve Adler at his home base, Austin City Hall

In early September, Hurricane Harvey brought out the best in Austinites, who over the course of a few weeks came together to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars and help their fellow Texans recover from the state’s worst natural disaster in memory. Leading the charge was Mayor Steve Adler, whose call for help, donations and volunteers was heard and received. Just hours after the release of a video in which the mayor showed how to put together a Hurricane Harvey Welcome Kit for evacuees, Austinites hit the stores, clearing shelves of blankets, pillows and toothbrushes as they followed his lead. For more than 20 years, Adler has worked with and chaired many of Austin’s civic and nonprofi t boards, including the Long Center, Ballet Austin, The Texas Tribune and Girls Empowerment Network. “Before I got to the mayor’s offi ce, I thought government met the needs in the community and that nonprofi ts fi lled in the gaps,” Adler recalls. “Now that I’m in the mayor’s offi ce, I have discovered that it’s exactly the opposite. Nothing has given me a greater appreciation of the contributions philanthropists make and the help that charities provide. Th ey are the ones who do the necessary work in this community.”


Austin’s busiest couple launches another exciting initiative in support of their Nobelity Project.


Christy and Turk Pipkin at the Hotel Ella, where they will kick off the Nobelity Project’s Book of Every Other Month Club with a launch party Nov. 28

When writer, actor and comedian Turk Pipkin set out to interview nine Nobel laureates for a documentary in 2006, he and his wife, Christy, set in motion Th e Nobelity Project (, a global nonprofi t as far reaching as Kenya, where it has built 30 schools, and as close to home as Bastrop, where it has replanted more than a million trees lost to the 2011 wildfi res—not to mention all it has done for schoolchildren in Austin. Christy serves as executive director overseeing outreach, development and the business side, while Turk, who still acts in shows such as The Leftovers, is the nonprofi t’s creative director, writing and directing fi lms to support their mission of “bridging gaps in education to improve the quality of learning and create connection to the world we all share.” In addition to preparing for their big annual fundraiser, the celebrity-studded Feed the Peace gala Feb. 11 at the Four Seasons, Turk is launching a massive endeavor in time for holiday gifts: Nobelity’s Book of Every Other Month Club. Over a year, subscribers will receive six new books by Pipkin (his Tao of Willie was a bestseller), including novels, a bilingual children’s book and a book of poetry, with a portion of the proceeds going toward building another library in Kenya. It launches with a party at the Hotel Ella Nov. 28, also known as Giving Tuesday.


The fierce founder of Juice Consulting helps local musicians find their footing.


Heather Wagner Reed, pictured here at Impact Hub, supports favorite local musicans like Suzanna Choffel (right) not just as a publicist, but also through her work with nonprofits such as Black Fret.

Fans of the recent releases of Austin musicians such as Suzanna Choffel, Nakia, Emily Bell and Gina Chavez have Heather Wagner Reed to thank. The funky yet sophisticated publicist knows what it takes to make it as a musician in the self-proclaimed live music capital of the world. After five years as the senior product manager handling day-to-day management and global marketing coordination for Beyoncé, Reed founded Juice Consulting in 2007 to help musicians and other creatives who are talented and passionate about their work but can’t seem to get the recognition they need. Moving into her second decade in Austin working with the “visionaries, entrepreneurs and creatives who have a unique story to tell,” Reed is striving to make connections and be a driving force among those who want to maximize their impact in the philanthropic community. Reed has helped define the message and the mission of Black Fret (, a membership group of local music patrons who, in return for their annual fee, have access to private concerts throughout the year. Black Fret has provided $500,000 in grants to 56 bands and musicians to help support their livelihoods and projects. The fourth annual Black Fret Ball at the Paramount Theatre Dec. 9 will support 20 local bands from a list of 2017 grant nominees, including Whiskey Shivers, Akina Adderley, Carolyn Wonderland, Sarah Sharp and Warren Hood.


Their family foundation helped set the standard for strategic, generous giving.


Lynn Meredith— with daughter Kate Andrade, son Will, husband Tom and her grandchildren—helped found the Thinkery children’s museum.

Since moving to Austin 25 years ago, Lynn and Tom Meredith have been part of the fabric of the city. Tom served as chief financial offi cer of Dell from 1992 to 2001 before co-founding Meritage Capital, while Lynn was an active member of the Junior League and other civic and nonprofi t groups. Raising their four children, they consistently shared and taught their family values based on the belief that every person should have the opportunity to pursue a productive and healthy life. In 1998, the Merediths established and endowed the MFI Foundation, which has given $21 million to support projects that make a long-term impact on education, health care, the arts and the environment. In 2006, son Will joined in the work of the foundation, spearheading the MLK Transit Oriented District, a project on the East Side that combines housing, offi ce, nonprofi t and retail space, and public areas. He is also helping Th e Contemporary Austin develop a master plan for the historic Laguna Gloria property. Each of the Meredith children and their spouses are actively involved in the grant process. Lynn also helped found Th inkery (, the reimagined Austin children’s museum, while Tom has been a guiding force behind the Waller Creek Conservancy (, the nonprofi t creating a trail of urban parks. Says Tom: “I consider Waller Creek a jewel—it has been largely ignored and abused for many decades. WCC is washing away the dust of everyday life in order for our entire community to enjoy its beauty.”

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