Thursday, May 14, 2009

St. John Disaster Relief Coalition Formed

Established to benefit those affected by the Westheimer Apartment Complex Fire on May 4, 2009

Coordinates the needs of families affected by this disaster (and intent is to maintain "coalition" at the ready for any future events needing response.)

Donations being funneled through Iglesia Centro Ebenezer at 7000 Cameron Rd.

Coordinating partners: Webb Family Resource Center, Iglesia Centro Ebenezer, Iglesia El Shaddai, Austin Stone Community Church, Austin Bridge Builders Alliance (ABBA) and St. John Neighborhood Association.

For latest information on needs and status:


Phone: (512) 795-4646


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Regency Apartment Fire Efforts

Wednesday, May 06, 2009
St John Fire Relief Needs - Update - May 6, 2009
Be sure and check the Make Disciples blog for the most up to date list of needs. Also, follow Justin Lopez and Steven Bush on Twitter (@justinlopez @stevenbush) for updates.

Below is a list of current items that are needed to help our St. John Neighbors get back on their feet. Many of these families have lost everything by the fire, and are practically starting over. We could use your help in coming up with these items. Every little bit helps, and it will be greatly appreciated by everyone affected by this tragedy. FYI: BOLDED Items are high on the priority listKITCHENperishablesnon-perishablesbaby foodeating utensilscooking utensilstablechairspots & pansbaking dishescups, mugs, and glassesplates & bowlskitchen towelsspices
BEDROOMSbed linensbedsnightstandsdressershangers

LIVING ROOMlampsdeskstablessofaschairscoffee tables

HYGIENE / BATHROOM NEEDS toothbrushestoothpasteshampoo & conditionersoapdeodoranttoilet paper

FOODFruits & vegetablesmicrowaveable foodnon-perishables

CLOTHES - we have a large supply of second hand-clothing here at Ebenezer. If you feel led to donate clothing here is a list of BRAND NEW things that are needed.Large Underwear Large PantiesLarge BrasUnderwear - all sizes/agesSocks - all sizes/agesInfant Clothes (0-12mths)

Please bring all donations to Iglesia Ebenezer, 7000 Cameron Rd. Austin TX 78752Wed: 8:00am - 10:30pmThur: 9:00am - 8:00pmFriday: 9:00am - 8:00pmAny questions regarding the relief effort, donations, volunteering, & anything else related to helping our St. John Neighbors can be sent to

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Important-St. John Housing Meeting This Saturday

THIS SATURDAY! Important meeting about Affordable Housing and Formation of a Community Development Corporation for St. John, 10:30 am to Noon, Conference Room A in the St. John Community Center

Dear St. John Neighborhood Association Members and Friends,

Last Spring, students at the LBJ Public Policy program at UT helped us hold a forum on Affordable Housing for St. John. At that meeting, we learned about things other neighborhoods have done in east Austin to keep their communities affordable for all residents. Since that time time, we have been learning more and pursuing opportunities in this area as a neighborhood association.

At the last neighborhood association meeting, we voted to proceed with the formation of a Community Development Corporation (CDC) for the St. John neighborhood. This will be a non-profit organization that will work to help provide more affordable housing, both rental and ownership, in our community. Several other east Austin neighborhoods in Austin have CDC's that have been able, over a period of years, successfully keep some level of affordable housing in their community.

The reason for us to do this now is that the City of Austin has offered help in remodeling a house that is city-owned but presently unoccupied in our community. They would like to help us transform this house into an affordable property and get it back into the community's hands. However, for this to happen, we must have a non-profit CDC to receive the property and remodeling assistance.

This Saturday morning, we will have a meeting open to the whole community from 10:30 am to noon to learn more about the CDC. We also will be discussing the formation of two boards: one the working board for the non-profit and one a larger advisory board. Both boards are open to anyone in the community who has an interest in keeping St. John affordable to all residents.
For those who can't come to the meeting this Saturday, there will be more opportunities to learn about the CDC and how to participate on one of the boards. We will have information at the next joint St. Jonn/Coronado Hills neighborhood planning meeting on March 31 and at the April St. John Neighborhood Association meeting on April 7. At the April 7 meeting, we will select people to serve on both boards for the upcoming year.

Please let others who might be interested know about this opportunity to help our community. Also, feel free to write or call with any questions.

Thanks! I hope to see you Saturday.

Allen Weeks
St. John Neighborhood Association President
What: Meeting about Affordable Housing and Formation of a Community Development Corporation for St. John
When: 10:30 am to noon, Saturday, March 21
Where: Conference Room A, St. John Community Center
Questions?: Call 653-4935

Friday, March 13, 2009

Rally for Reagan and Pearce - Next Monday!!

Rally for Reagan and Pearce this Monday at the State Capitol. Gather at 12:45 pm on the south steps of the Capitol.

Dear friends,

I want you to try to imagine the community in St. John without a high school. Reagan is closed. Kids are having to catch long rides to another high school. This is the situation one Houston community found itself in last year as their high school of 2,400 kids was closed. Though they were one of the best schools in the state for low-income kids, they missed one of 39 academic measures on the TAKS test. This is the situation two communities in Dallas will find themselves in if their schools are closed, and perhaps three more communities in Dallas next year. And our neighbors across 290 face the loss of Pearce Middle School THIS YEAR!

St. John and these communities have a lot in common. They are all low-income and diverse.

Call me crazy, but I thought our goal was to provide the best education we can for all kids. But for some reason, some kids are thought not good enough to have a school in their community.
Two years ago, when the state was talking about closing down Webb, they said that kids could easily go to Pearce and Dobie middle schools. They're not very far. So we timed how long it would take for a St. John kid to get to Pearce, which is only a few miles away by car. It took 90 minutes by bus. 90 minutes! On top of this, both Dobie and Pearce were also having difficulties at the time. Somehow, it didn't seem to be about the kids.

It's time for this to stop. Stop telling kids and parents that they're not good enough to have a school. And it's time to start . . . start giving kids the best school possible.

A group of us have been working since October on getting the law that says low-performing schools must close overturned. Working together, we have seen House Bill 1238 filed by Rep. Dawnna Dukes. This bill would say no to closure and yes to the kind of school improvement that 48 other states practice (only Colorado also closes schools).

On Monday, we will rally at the State Capitol with the Texas State Teachers Association and other groups. We want legislators know that we say NO to closure and YES to quality schools for ALL KIDS.

Join us at 12:45 on the south Capitol steps for the 1 pm rally. We'll speak out, hear speeches, and then spread through the Capitol to visit with legislators. The next day, they will be holding a hearing on this and other education issues, so our timing is important.

Bring your friends, tell your neighbors, give Reagan and Pearce kids a ride! This is our time to Stand Up!

Allen Weeks

(P.S.: If you have time, we will also be visiting legislators from 9 am to noon. Meet at First United Methodist Church-Family Life Center at 12th and LaVaca for orientation, just west of the Capitol)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Community Forum on Schools Next Monday!

Dear St. John Friends,

This coming Monday, there is a very important meeting concerning the future of our community. As you know, a 2006 state law mandates that the state begin closing down schools that do not make it over the TAKS test hurdles. Even the guy who designed the whole system, Sandy Kress, says that the system does not work for low-income, diverse schools like Reagan and Pearce. Because of their demographics, they have 39 different areas they must pass in. Kress calls it a minefield. Step on one and you're out.

We are working hard along with others to get this unfair system fixed. Reagan and Pearce, along with other schools, can be great but not if they're closed down. The meeting Monday will be with Rep. Dukes and others, who will discuss ways to get the system fixed. We need you to come out and support change for our kids!

We already have a bill in the legislature (HB1238) that would get rid of mandatory school closure and replace it with a system that brings improvement. It is a going to be a tough fight to get this changed, and that is why we need YOU!

Come out Monday, March 9 from 11:30 am to 1 pm at the Dell Children's Hospital (Pat Hayes Conference Center) and support Reagan, Pearce and the other 20 schools in Texas that are threatened.

Let's not lose another school! If you can come, RSVP to

Spread the word!
Allen Weeks
St. John Neighborhood Assn. President

What: Fixing Our School Accountability System: A Community Forum for Legislative Change
When: Monday, March 9. 11:30 am to 1:00 pm. A light lunch will be served.
Where: Dell Children's Medical Center (Pat Hayes Education and Conference Center)
Sponsor: Save Texas Schools, a coalition of community, churches, businesses and schools focused on making sure ALL children have the tools they need to succeed in the 21st century economy.
RSVP/Questions: E-Mail or call 653-4935.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

St. John Neighborhood Information

Please send any updates or communiques to be considered for posting on this Blog to


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

St. John Neighborhood Assoc Mtg - 03-03-09

Notes from today's meeting of the association:

Attendees: (need list)

Welcome and Invocation by Pastor Hendricks

Community Reports:
* Ms. Taylor gave the senior report. A couple of seniors lost a close loved one. One son and one husband. The folks are doing "ok" as the group and their network/churches comfort and support them. She gave the seniors a report our on last Saturday's planning meeting where she encouraged them to participate in future meetings/discussions.

* Paola made a couple of brief announcements for library about upcoming events including a movie nite. Folks should check with library on schedule and upcoming events.

* Mike Roberts reported that another clean up is coming in April. Details and organization to follow. The recent clean up was a great success, although there is one spot at Wheatley and Bennett where alot of overflow has occurred and dumping has continued. Allen Weeks indicated that city has been asked to bring another dumpster.

Other key dates:
* March 9 Community Forum on Education at Dell Children's hospital - change the law update/discussion
* March 10 Webb MS Health Night
* March 10 Pickle Math Night
* March 11 "We Are One Big Melting Pot" night at Reagan HS
* March 16 Rally at State Capitol for Pearce and Reagan
* March 16-20 Spring Break Camp for Kids at Ebenezer Church (near Westheimer)

Report on Neighborhood Planning:
Brief discussion on take-aways of meeting. Agreement that a single meeting for all community is best approach versus having separate meetings for subsets of the neighborhood. We all need to encourage attendance by all at the updates. Encouragement that "west of I35" St. John and the historical heritage of the neighborhood should be key parts of the planning process. Some of the areas of highlights and focus are expected to be Safety (including fear and intimidation), Crime, Security, and general appearance of neighborhood.

Possible Community Development Corporation:
Larkin Tackett presented a follow up from the Housing Summit held several months ago that included other information and data from the UT grad students that did the study and made earlier presentations to the neighborhood. Coming off of this with goals to preserve to the neighborhood's history/character, provide opportunity for affordable/low income housing, and facilitate family stability. Neighborhood Housing Services has played in role to some extent in this area, however, their financial position has placed them in a situation where they realistically can not continue and serve this need. Therefore, a suggestion of considering the establishment of a non-profit Community Development Corporation (CDC) for St. John. There is a close in opportunity to that may be able to be taken advantage of on a property that the city now owns on 7212 Providence Ave. that they may be interested in an organization like that renovating and turning into affordable housing. An advantage of the a development corporation is that it is a non-profit and could slow other developers from coming into the neighborhood buying up property and inflating property values, taxes, etc...

Allen Weeks pointed out that the Association by-laws would need to be amended to describe the interaction between the Association and potential CDC.

There was consensus that it sounds like an opportunity St. John should explore. A motion was made by Marion Morris that next steps be taken to form a CDC, including ensuring there is a broader base information/communication plan to the neighborhood before anything is established. Ms. Taylor seconded and verbal vote take with no opposition. We agreed that a neighborhood check point would be scheduled for March 21.

No other new business was presented. Meeting was adjourned.