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Austin Gives Big

Four Seasons Austin Gives Awards luncheon celebrates and inspires local philanthropy

The mood at the Four Seasons Tuesday morning was excited and perhaps a little distracted. The crowd gathered in the ballroom for the Second Annual Gives Awards Luncheon was made up of hundreds of do-gooders who seemed both excited that their and their peers’ work was being recognized and a little anxious to get back to their tireless work, doing good.

Nevertheless, they settled in for what proved to be an informative and entertaining ceremony, expertly moved along by KEYE-TV pros Judy Maggio and Walt Maciborski, who kicked things off by introducing Mayor Lee Leffingwell to give the welcome.

Never one to shy away from a good vocabulary word, Leffingwell was in fine form, making sure to mention the commitment to “tonsorial excellence” that he shares with keynote speaker John Paul DeJoria, the Austin business leader and philanthropist who co-founded John Paul Mitchell Hair Systems.

“Giving back and wanting nothing in return is the greatest high you’ll ever have.” — John Paul DeJoria 

Leffingwell made note of several examples of the way Austin “wears its heart on its sleeve,” showing compassion and turning out to help during such catastrophes as the 2011 Bastrop fires and the recent Onion Creek floods.

Austin Gives Chair and ABC Home and Commercial President Dan Jenkins continued the theme and elaborated on the ways in which Austin Gives, inspired by similar programs in Minneapolis and other cities, is creating a “culture of giving” in Austin.

A short film describing the considerable breadth of DeJoria’s philanthropy (he’s a member of Warren Buffett’s Giving Club, among many other things); it also featured an interview by Barbara Walters herself, who toasted its subject with a tequila shot courtesy of Patrón Spirits, another of DeJoria’s brands, in closing.

DeJoria in the flesh followed with the keynote, telling his history and its connection to philanthropy, speaking to his philosophy of giving and sharing that “giving back and wanting nothing in return is the greatest high you’ll ever have.”

Austin Gives Luncheon Chair Carolyn Schwarz then took the stage to announce the no-doubt inspired winning companies, which were chosen for the extent and nature of their philanthropy of the past year.

eBay won in the Bold Giver category (250+ employees) for its highly organized employee philanthropy teams and generous giving and matching; the Big Heart category (50-250 employees) went to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (Texas); and the Charitable Champion (under 50 employees) was Zuma Office supply, which, amazingly, gives 50 percent of its profits to charity and has had zero employee turnover.

After a touching acceptance speech from Zuma Office Supply's Greg Pierce and some quick thank-yous, the ballroom emptied quickly, with luncheon-goers anxious, no doubt, to go back to their hard work doing good things.

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