Spotlight: Giving for Living

Posted October 28, 2015

Spotlight: Giving for Living

You know when you meet someone who is so excited about something, that you can’t help but be excited too? Janet and Ann are two of those people, and as co-chairs of Giving for Living they are excited!

You may already know about the Garage & Estate Sale. You may already know that last year we netted over $600k at the Sale, that we have 21 departments, etc.
But what you may not know is that in the midst of this major fundraiser for The Settlement Home for Children, we also have a community outreach program that serves more than just the Garage Sale attendees.

Giving for Living was started several years ago as one of those “I have an idea; I’m not sure the details, but I’d like to try it” things. Since then, it has turned into a program that benefits the greater Austin community, and the impact stories it has will bring tears to your eyes.
As the co-chairs of Giving for Living, or GFL for short, Ann and Janet are the champions for the program. They are the folks who call agencies, explain the program, and offer vouchers for their clients.  They spend hours stamping numbers on printed vouchers. Even though the sale is fast-approaching and we have record-numbers of vouchers going out this year, Janet and Ann were not too busy to sit down and share their passion for the program.

Through partner agencies around town, The Settlement Home provides GFL vouchers to families who have some sort of need, be it financial, medical, etc. These vouchers, generally one per family member, entitle the shopper to purchase $25 worth of merchandise at the Garage & Estate Sale at no cost to the shopper. Now, this is not free merchandise just being given away.  The Settlement Home has generous donors who underwrite the cost of the merchandise through the vouchers. 

Janet and Ann’s enthusiasm for the program is infectious. They are so in sync and know the stories the other is going to tell. They can easily tell you story after story about the impact GFL has had on the lives of Austin community members.

“I remember this woman came to the clothing department and she was getting all kinds of things and she was so happy because it was getting ready to turn cold and she lived out on the streets,” Ann remembers.

“She looked at me and said ‘I want you to know why we come back year after year and get clothes. It’s because our stuff is stolen from us when we’re on the streets and we can’t keep these things because people take them from us.’ She wanted me to know that that’s why. She didn’t want to seem like she was freeloading and that they were using it well.”
When Janet and Ann tell stories like this, their pride at being part of such a tremendously giving program is evident.

“Oh gosh, it just makes you swell inside,” Janet says.” It’s the most wonderful feeling.”
Janet recalls another happy Giving for Living shopper story from a Garage Sale past.
“One year, a young woman and her husband came up with their toddler. They started picking up just a few things in the Toy Department. She came over and she asked ‘Have I gotten too much?’ and showed her voucher. I said ‘Oh, I’m sure you don’t’, and I counted and she was way under. I told her she could get a lot more with it. She finally filled up her cart, and then she got tears in her eyes and she said ‘we’ll have Christmas after all,’ It was just wonderful.”

Ann and Janet share their gratitude at being able to help so many people from different backgrounds- some that are economically disadvantaged, others who are homeless, some who have medical conditions causing hardship, others who have been affected by local floods or fires.

One man stood right outside the clothing department checking all his pockets over and over and looking frantic. Ann remembers walking up to him, handing him a voucher, and asking if he had lost it. He teared up with relief as he told her that he had won it at The Arc and was worried he wouldn’t be able to get warm clothes for the winter. She remembers taking him around to the different departments and getting him a jacket, socks, and boots, and his reaction to it all.

“[Giving for Living] really affects the people around you, and that person, because he couldn’t believe that he got to CHOOSE those things himself. Instead of being HANDED a blanket or HANDED a pair of shoes. He got to buy what he wanted. The dignity in that; we’re used to it, and he was not.”

The joy of Giving for Living continues, long after the last box has been sold at the Garage Sale, just ask Janet and Ann.

Last year, Giving for Living participants redeemed over $9,000 in vouchers. This year, the 40th anniversary of the Garage & Estate Sale, we’re hoping for even more to be redeemed. We are certainly on target to meet that goal, and have a Club full of women and volunteers who are doing their part to make that happen.

“I think if you look at our history, from the way that we grew from a daycare for the wives of soldiers in World War 1, to what we are now,” Janet says.

“When you look at the number of people that the women in The Settlement Club have changed lives for and what goes on here for the children, I think it’s the best thing I work for.”

“I would say, I have really never met a finer group of women,” Ann agrees.
“Everybody is here for the right reasons, which is for the children and what can they do. Nobody sits around drinking tea. It’s hands on, hard work.”

For more information on Giving for Living, or the Garage & Estate Sale, visit