Changing the World One Life at a Time: Barbara Jordan Celebration 2012

Written by Barbara Jordan Planning Committee Member, Martha Degrasse.

Trinity Center changes lives, but not always in the way you might expect. It is a unique resource for Austin’s downtown homeless population, and many of the people who come to Trinity Center find the help and encouragement they need to get a job, an apartment, or a fresh start.  “When I first started coming to the Trinity Center, I was only coming because someone said I could get assistance with a variety of things,” a well-dressed young woman told a crowd of about 150 people at Trinity Center’s annual fundraiser.  “After being there several times I began to want to come even more because this place is such a warm, loving and caring place. My children and I were welcomed with open arms each and every time I came I felt right at home…. The people here influenced me to strive for the best as well as motivate me to reach for the top despite my issues.”

That motivation to reach for the top extends to the growing number of supporters and volunteers at Trinity Center ( “Trinity Center changes the lives of both the server and the served,” says Executive Director Irit Umani, speaking at the center’s annual fundraiser. The fundraiser honors Trinity Center’s original benefactor, the late Senator Barbara Jordan. “Trinity Center remains true to its mission to see everyone in Austin as part of our community, and to reach out to others as our neighbors,” said event chair Robin Shepherd. “Love for our neighbors and our community is something shared by all of our volunteers and guests, and it is this love that brings us together in celebration as we remember Barbara Jordan.”

This year other heroes were remembered as well. Some of the people whose lives were most deeply touched by Trinity Center passed on during 2011, so when supporters came together this year there was sadness as well as joy in the room. Jan Hughes and Mary Eubanks were among the founders of Trinity Center. The Reverend Pat Hazel and Bob Keith were deeply dedicated volunteers who are missed by all at Trinity Center.

Nan Hazel spoke eloquently about her late husband’s dedication the weekly Sunday services at Trinity Center.  “Everyone in that room knew that he cared,” she said.  “He took that service seriously.  He worked on those sermons.  He would write them down. He would think about them.  And then being Pat Hazel he would show up and then just open his arms and talk. And people loved him. And when we got through we knew we had been to church. We knew we had had an experience. “

Many guests at the event probably also felt they had had an experience, after hearing the inspirational stories of the formerly homeless neighbors who are moving ahead now and seeing a moving video entitled “We are Trinity Center.” Generous event sponsors this year included Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody, Hotze-Runkle, George & Brothers LLP, Beachley Law, Benton Enterprises and McDonald’s, Adelbert’s Brewery and Spivey & Grigg. In thanking the sponsors, Trinity’s Executive Director Irit Umani shared her love for her job, and surprised some in the audience by saying that the food and clothing offered at Trinity may not be the most important part of her work. “I think that the programs and services that we offer are not even the most important part of what we do, though we do offer good and much needed services,” she said. “Rather by respecting all and by loving the people that we serve, our neighbors, we make a difference. Because respect and love move people and inspire all participants. We are ALL being served at Trinity Center.”