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The Austin 20 - a circle of 20 surrounding 1 mission.

"The Austin 20 is a group of local individuals supporting organizations that find, protect and restore survivors of domestic minor sex trafficking through fundraising, volunteering and changing legislation.” On May 3rd, their one mission was to raise the funds to build the one of the first cottages for the first group of girls who will be staying at The Refuge Ranch.

 
All the photographs on this page were taken by Nimai.

All the photographs on this page were taken by Nimai.

How The Austin 20 Built a Cottage For The Refuge ranch in 90 Minutes

Twenty years from now, we will look back at what we've built and we will be able to recognize the pivotal moments where our vision turned into actual bricks, bricks into buildings, and buildings into a place of rest and restoration for child survivors of sex trafficking. Some moments though are instantly recognizable as jaw-dropping answers to our prayers.

On May 3, 2017, during a luncheon held in honor of The Refuge at the Austin Country Club, in a span of just 90 minutes, one of these moments occurred, due to the efforts of The Austin 20, an independent group that strives to be “a circle of 20 surrounding 1 mission.”

According to their newly-written mission statement on their yet-to-be-launched website, “The Austin 20 is a group of local individuals supporting organizations that find, protect and restore survivors of domestic minor sex trafficking through fundraising, volunteering and changing legislation.” On May 3rd, their one mission was to raise the funds to build one of the first cottages for the first group of girls who will be staying at The Refuge Ranch. 

Over a luncheon of petite sandwiches, mixed cheeses and fruit, The Austin 20 and their friends raised $160,000 in just 90 minutes (not including the more than 90 hours of prep time)!

John Clark, an oil executive from Houston and new member of The Refuge Board, spoke first to the crowd of 206 people. He talked about his family’s traumatic personal experiences with child sex traffickers. He wanted parents to know the dangers of social media apps on their children’s cell phones. He stressed that there comes a time when mere awareness isn’t enough to “put out the flames of this country club if it were on fire.” To paraphrase his passionate presentation: Awareness doesn’t provide for the victims who need help. We need to build places like The Refuge, so the victims can heal and grow to become survivors.

Then, Toni McKinley, Director of Therapeutic Services, took the stage and spoke from the heart. No one ate, no one even really blinked, as she recounted what it was like for her to be trafficked as a child. The Rebecca Bender Initiative (RBI) was among the first to popularize the heroic title, “Survivor Leader.” Toni, a graduate of RBI, showed the crowd what it meant to be a survivor leader -- and they jumped up to give her a sustained, standing ovation. 

Celebrity auctioneer, Heath Hale, then stepped up and the auction paddles started flying. Heath started his career straight out of high school by auctioning cars, but that staccato patter has evolved into a Matthew McConaughey-like charm through his vital work with the Andy Roddick Foundation and fundraising benefits for the Mack, Jack & McConaughey organization, among others. 

The first two paddles raised pledged a combined total of $20,000. Refuge staff members at the back of the house held their breaths as the overhead tally board surged and continued to rise for the (very entertaining) final half hour that raised a total of $160,000. Adding to the fun, a late anonymous donation of $10,000, a case of wine that went for another $10,000 and Lisa Oden Knapp wiedling glitter cannons. Lisa is a tireless champion for The Refuge. She is the catalyst who brought The Austin 20 together as she organized the luncheon down to the final details -- then showered everyone with glitter!

Thank you, Lisa! Thank you, Heath! Thank you, Kathy Senese and Auction Source! Thank you for your generous time and talent! And to The Austin 20 -- and all your friends -- Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping turn petite sandwiches and a plate of mixed cheeses and fruit into a place of rest and restoration for child survivors of sex trafficking!
 


 

Photo by Nimai.

Photo by Nimai.

Photo by Nimai.

Meet the austin 20

Front row, L-R: Stacy Garcia, Maribeth Jezek, Lisa Oden Knapp, Randee Hainline, Janyce Marcus. Second row, L-R:  Monica Hinkle, Carmen Sheffield, Christina Burke, Jennie Stewart, Donella Thorpe. Third row, L-R: Stacy Bockholt, Terri Frost, Kathleen Bucher, Kathy Senese, Peter Nicholas. Back row, L-R: Kelly Dodson, Denise Bell, Catherine Sansbury. Not pictured: Natasha Gray, Phaedra Rogers

Photo by Nimai.