Students gather around hot cocoa, local charities

Raga Justin

Even on a warm Austin Monday night, dozens of students flocked to the to Student Activity Center ballroom for steaming cups of hot chocolate and to learn about local charities.

Hot Chocolate for Charities was hosted by the Liberal Arts Council to promote awareness of 18 Austin-based nonprofit charities, said Courtney House, a member of the event’s outreach team.

House, a government senior, said the project was inspired in part by Hurricane Harvey and other ongoing problems that afflict communities.

“We wanted to help local communities and realized that big corporations usually don’t do the best in tackling issues like that,” House said. “So, we decided to emphasize local nonprofits that we can help out. This lets you know that these charities exist, and shines a light on local organizations and what they do for Austin.”

Minis and Friends is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that takes ponies to special education classrooms, nursing homes and other similar facilities. Staffed by 30 volunteers, including UT students, the charity occasionally visits classes on campus and recently brought two ponies to the plaza during midterms for “de-stressing,” creative director Julia Dworshack said.

“I think it’s hard to know about us when you’re in school and with schedules and classes,” Dworshack said. “But if it’s right here in front of them they’re like, ‘I had no idea this existed.’ And it’s a lot of fun, people get hooked on it.”

Psychology junior Jacqueline Guevara was walking around Speedway when she heard people advertising Hot Chocolate for Charities.

“I’m not really that much of a hot chocolate drinker, but I wanted to see what the charities were all about,” Guevara said. What she saw was impressive, Guevara said, and she is now considering applying for a nonprofit that aids refugees in adapting to American society.

“I’m looking into going into nonprofits, so I wanted to see what goes into that sort of thing,” Guevara said. “These people are really selfless and dedicated to what they do. It’s really impressive.”

In a following panel on the importance of nonprofit work, geography professor Erick Akins recalled helping write a winning $900,000 grant application for a charity.

“To get the award is the most rewarding thing you work for in nonprofit,” Akins said. “You’ve got money coming in, that means more delivery of services. It’s a high, a real high, not that generic stuff they sell.”