The Good Life in Austin Texas

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The Rewards of Giving - Honored By The Austin, Texas Board Of Realtors

ABoR Press Release

Best of the Best Honored with Industry Awards

Russell LewisThe Austin Board of REALTORS® (ABoR) is pleased to announce the winners
of the 2008 industry awards. Members will be recognized in the following categories: REALTOR®of the Year; Affiliate of the Year; Rookie of the Year; Community Service; and Cultural Awareness.


Community Service: Russell Lewis, AvenueOne Properties


Russell Lewis has been an ABoR member for more than 15 years. In that time, he has donated his service to numerous volunteer organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, the Boy Scouts of America, the Blood Center of Central Texas, the Eanes School District and Mobile Loaves and Fishes.

I have to admit that this was a very gratifying surprise when I learned from the press release above that I had been honored and I was humbled by the experience. I am no saint; just ask the person I adore more than anyone in the world, my wife of 22 years or my children or my partners and associates at work. I have my "days" and often I am not the pinnacle of patience or reason and I tend to be rather intense when involved in negotiating (though I have improved immensely over the years.) People ask me, where I get the time and honestly, it does not take much One thing I have done with some regularity over the years is pitch in when asked or when I see a need. I know in advance when am going to participate in many of my endeavors and it's no more than a couple of hours at each project and maybe a couple of times a month. Since this is the Christmas season and a time of giving, I thought I would take the opportunity to show you some of the groups I enjoy helping and some of the people involved.

Jimmy Carter Work Project 2008

Habitat for Humanity - I have been actively involved with Habitat since my first project in 1996 and wrote a blog about this wonderful organization here:

 The Luxury of Actually Owning a Home - Giving back in Austin Texas and Beyond!

Troop 5 South Rim Big Bend Park

Troop 5-Boy Scouts of America - I have had the great pleasure of helping with my son's Scout Troop, as one of a number of Assistant Scout Masters since he was 11 years old until he achieved the rank of Eagle last year. This is a picture of a small group of us (the kids were 12) along with his second Scoutmaster and family friend, Tom Martinec, at the South Rim of Big Bend National Park. We were so proud that they had backpacked all of their gear on their first strenuous trek (especially at that young age). The young man in the green vest is my son! This troop has offered a lot of fun and learning and has been a great ride through the years taking him to the jungles of Costa Rica, the mountains and rivers of Canada, The Caribbean and to camps all over the USA. I even had the chance to go along on several myself!

 Who is Healthy Bear?

Eanes School District Volunteer Since 1994, I have served as a parent volunteer, parent reader, fund raiser, committee member and health education educator with many of the Eanes elementary schools, West Ridge Middle School, and Westlake high School. The picture is part of a costume that I still wear a couple of weeks every year and I will probably write a blog post about it when I can figure out a way to not appear too crazy for doing so...Stay tuned!

Feeding the homeless

Mobile Loaves & Fishes A charity group dedicated to feeding the homeless and bringing dignity to those in such poor circumstances. The group was started here in Austin Texas ten years ago by Alan Graham. Please read more about them on the blog I posted awhile back: No One Goes Hungry-Giving back - An Austin Texas Solution The picture at right is from a newspaper article a couple of years ago. A friends daughter went along to see what it's like to help out!

Donating Platelets

Central Texas Regional Blood & Tissue Center In 1994, I decided I wanted to try and get over an un-natural fear of needles that I had carried with me from childhood. It had gotten so bad that when my wife would bring home flu shots, I was beginning to frighten the children and wanted to be a better example. I can say that it took a long time for me to stop being squeamish about it all and now I am a regular "Platelet" donor. I just passed the 25 gallon mark in donations last year and I am pretty much over my fear of needles... Learn more about this excellent organization here:

http://www.bloodandtissue.org/

I was hesitant to write about this award because I did not want to "toot my own horn" but was reminded that this award would give me a means to bring these groups to the attention of others and maybe help generate more volunteers and donations.I hope it does because every time I show up to help in some way I get an huge sense of gratitude. Not only from helping out but knowing that whatever problems I may have or any resentments that I might want to harbor, it's all good. No really, trust me on this, we are all better off when we see the world from the vantage point of those in lesser circumstances. I am reminded every day how fortunate I am to be alive and doing well in spite of any self indulgent "wants disguised as needs". It's the season for giving and it's a gift you give to yourself!

 

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86 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • December 01 2008 10:48AM

4304 Balcones Open House Sunday, November 23rd 2-4PM

This Sunday, November 23rd, 2008 I will be holding open an exceptional home in the Balcones area; one of Austin's finest neighborhoods. The home has undergone an exquisite renovation by the incomparable Sereno Homes, one of Austin's premier builders. Incredible quality materials and workmanship are featured throughout this beautiful home! I will be on-site between 2pm and 4pm Sunday so please drop by for a tour of this beautiful property. If you have questions before next Sunday or to schedule a private showing, I can be reached at my mobile number listed below. Thanks, I look forward to seeing you there!

4304 Balcones Austin, Texas - Open House 11/23/2008

If you or anyone you know is anticipating purchasing or selling real estate in Central, West or Southwest Austin or the Westlake/Eanes Shool District area, I would be happy to assist them. I have nineteen years  success working with upscale buyers and sellers in Austin's Finest Neighborhoods.

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35 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • November 19 2008 06:18PM

MANGIA PIZZA (An Austin, Texas Original) SETS NEW GUINNESS WORLD RECORD!!!

Mangia Pizza

Rell Rice & Russell Lewis

This morning I had the pleasure of attending another fun and slightly "weird" Austin event involving local restaurant, Mangia Pizza's attempt to break the Guinness Book of Records, "Longest line of pizzas in the world". Along with my wife, Margaret and daughter Mattie we headed to Zilker Park to hopefully be a part of history. The event was held in conjunction with Meals on Wheels and More to celebrate the  20th anniversary of Mangia Pizza opening for business here in Austin, Texas. If successful, the company would break a world record and after the event, Meals on Wheels would deliver the pizzas to The Salvation Army to feed the homeless!                    

On Wednesday of this week, I received an email from one of my best pals in the world who is kind of a Big-Shot with the Mangia Pizza Organization, Rell Rice, yes, it'sRell as in well or bell.Captain B...A...Pizza Super HeroHe tells me that day is "Guinness Book of Records Day" and all over the world different groups and individuals are vying to break any number of Guinness records but Mangia is looking at in in particular. A group in Italy and another in London are planning to break the record of longest uninterrupted line of pizzas.

In typical "Texas Hold-Em Poker" style, Mangia scheduled their event three days later to take place on Saturday and possibly upset the recent winners! Later that day, word is out that Chicago Town Pizzas in Camden Lock, London, UK set the new record of 936 feet 7 inches so Mangia has a big challenge ahead!

Leslye Denton-Garcia lines up volunteers

Mangia Pizza coordinated this event with Meals on Wheels and More of Austin so that as soon as the contest was concluded, all of the surviving pizza's (those not dropped or blown away by the windy morning) were immediately re-boxed and delivered by the Meals on Wheels volunteers who are also on hand to help with the event and hopefully break the record! Everything went well in spite of all sorts of odd circumstances . Try and imagine setting up a chain of tables in the shape of a large abstract "M" covering them with over a thousand feet of paper, having all of the volunteers wash hands and put on plastic gloves for sanitation and distributing hundreds of  boxes of cheese and pepperoni pizzas down the line of tables to prepare for the start?!? Down the line of pizzas

At a signal from Rell Rice and our friend Leslye Denton-Garcia along with owners Mark Negro and Jeff Sayers, the volunteers distributed the pizzas down the row of table, opened and lined them up edge to edge and did their best to keep everything on order despite gusting winds that sent a few of the pies flying. Reserves were brought in to fill holes and the line slowly extended.

Danny Girton Jr., the Official Adjudicator for the Guinness Book of World Records carefully documented the measuring by an independent official using a single wheel device to measure the length of the pizza chain from beginning to end. Mr. Gurtin was the same official who was on hand to document the pizza line efforts in Italy and London earlier in the week, so you understand that although fun, Guinness World Records takes its business very seriously!

still more PizzasMargaret, Mattie, Betty and Beth Coffeepizzas traveling on!Margaret Lewis-Mattie Lewis-Ed Clements-Beth Coffee 1023 Feet -World Record!Pizzas in the wind!

As the officials slowly made their way down the tables carefully following the measurement team and confirming that each pizza was actually touching, the man would shout out, 700 feet, 750 feet, 800 feet... volunteers are hustling to fill in the gaps of pizzas blown off the line by gusting winds and steadily adding more to the line at the end. The man shouts, 800 feet, 850 feet...900 feet! A group comes running down the hill with another 30 pizzas to add to the line but will it be enough?? 950 feet, he shouts and a roar goes up from the volunteers as the record is broken but he moves on...1,000 feet and the crowd goes wild and sill he moves on until we finally hear 1,023 FEET! Everyone breaks in to applause and cheering up and down the long line of pizzas again proving that we do things big here in Texas.

Mark Negro/Mangia Pizza-Danny Girton Jr./Guinness World RecordsPizzas winding through the park

The crowd begins breaking down the tables, gathering up and re-boxing the pizzas and meets at the start for a group picture and a ceremony. More hot pizzas are delivered and slices are handed out to the crowd as we join a large group photo taken to commemorate the event! (My daughter tells us to stand near the Mangia Dinosaur so we can find ourselves in the crowd). City Councilman, Lee Leffingwell is on hand to read a proclamation from  Mayor Will Wynn of Austin, declaring that, in honor of breaking the world record and to celebrate 20 years of being a truly Austin original, November 15th will now be recognized as "Mangia Pizza Day" in Austin Texas!

Awards ceremony

By the way, I also want to give a shout out to my very good friend Rell Rice! We have had more fun together over the years than we could ever expect...and live to tell about it! Thanks Rell! And Happy 20th Anniversary Mangia Pizza! Here's to twenty more great years from an Austin Texas Original! I have to tell you that we are all truly living the good life in Austin, Texas!

UPDATE: Mangia Pizza has a great article about the Record breaking event and were kind enough to add a link to my blog on the website: Mangia Pizza Website Announcement

 

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75 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • November 17 2008 08:50AM

No One Goes Hungry–Giving back - An Austin Texas Solution

On the streetWhile standing at the corner of 6th and Lamar by Whole Foods, looking at the peach in my hand and waiting for the light to change, my daydreaming is interrupted by the shout of "GET A JOB!" Startled, I look up and see a man in a car glaring at the homeless person standing near me. The homeless person has a sign that says "Dreaming of Mexican Food". The peach in my hand seems heavy now and I walk over and give it to him. "Thanks man...God bless you" he says quietly. I tell him, "same to you" and mention that he should go to Wooldridge Park by the Downtown Austin Library around 6:00 and he can get a free meal from the Mobile Loaves & Fishes Truck.  He says he will check it out and thanks me again.

Tracy Rodenborn,Ruth Dore',Russell LewisThe light changes and as I walk across I see a young woman in one of those small new "Ultimate Driving Machines" as she leans from the window and shouts, "Hey, why are you helping that bum!"I stifle the urge to say something and put my hand in my pocket to keep from waving at her with one finger. I am amazed at that thinking but not surprised. There are many people who have the idea that they want to be able to succeed without any help from anyone and that is laudable but not realistic because we are not all given the same opportunities. There is nothing wrong with concept that we can all achieve anything through our own efforts. My problem is with those who so arrogantly advocate this in blogs, books, online and in conversation without ever understanding that many people have never had the same opportunities from the very beginning and at the same time, taking for granted what they have!

Don Haynes & Make Ready CrewTracy & Make Ready CrewWe have all heard of the "Puritan Work Ethic" and though admirable it is not always realistic or applicable. I was raised in an affluent family (though I was not aware of it as a child because people were not valued by their income or what they owned) and with the same hard work ideology. My father was a strong proponent of self reliability and working for a living but he also believed that people had a responsibility to take care of those less fortunate. This came from his Christian back ground that he practiced as well as preached (which is why I never won the hypocrisy argument with him).  He was in the grocery business in West Texas and I remember as a child accompanying him to the Salvation Army at Christmas to help hand out turkeys and bags of groceries to poor families in the community. As a child, I was uncomfortable at first but my Dad would remind me that we were doing something to make the lives of those who did without a little better. Even in the last years of his life he continued to donate money and volunteer with The Salvation Army, Meals on Wheels, The Adult Literacy Project and Habitat for Humanity. I will forever remember his words, "We live in a country that is so rich and so powerful, there is no reason anyone should ever go hungry. We have a moral obligation to share our blessings with the less fortunate".

Standing in lineWhat many people do not understand is who is actually "homeless". At least half of the people in line are too mentally ill to hold a job but at the same time are not a danger to anyone but themselves. They are out on the street due to the fact that over the last eight years, the previous government administration changed the guidelines of who should be "institutionalized" and turned many of these hapless people out in mindless "cost cutting" efforts. The hope that the "compassionate conservatives" would fill the void never materialized and in fact has caused a severe strain on the general public, law enforcement and social services and exacerbated the a terrible situation.

Another large group of homeless are the working poor who have some type of job but are living hand to mouth, out of their cars or in shelters while they try and get enough money together to move back up. Many of these people have children, and when you see a child in a food line, only the most self absorbed and insensitive could look down on them. Finally, there are the junkies and winos and it's so easy to judge unless you truly know the monster that is the destructive power of addiction. The fact also remains that there are so many people living hand to mouth, only a paycheck or two away from being on the street. The economic collapse will only aggravate this already horrible situation. You get my point; the vast majority of homeless people are not there because they are lazy, shiftless or no-count.Debbie Machicek serves lemonade

About nine years ago, I joined a group from AvenueOne Properties and began to volunteer with a new community outreach organization that began here in Austin, Texas called Mobile Loaves & Fishes. Mobile Loaves & Fishes , The brainchild of Alan Graham, with the mission to provide food, clothing, and dignity to our brothers and sisters in need.   They now accomplish this mission through the use of 12 catering trucks that go out onto the city streets of Austin, San Antonio, New Orleans, Providence, and Nashville every night of the week.  Now with almost 10,000 volunteers, it started with the hard work of a few volunteers and a single supply truck.

Liz Saieh Serving foodI have helped on the make ready crew preparing food and as a truck driver since I first joined in 2000 and in the last few years have worked with a small crew of friends to deliver meals once a month.We have a good time together Our favorite stop is Wooldridge Park by the Austin Downtown Library. My company and my fellow truck crew members save up toiletry items, clothing and other things that that are needed. The irony is not lost on us that we all save bath items from our vacations and often hand out soap and shampoo from the Four Seasons - Bora Bora and other Luxury Hotels from across the globe and I even gave out samples from Plaza-Atheneein Paris but soap is soap no matter the source.

There is an online sign up for the volunteers to "reserve" a location and for awhile it got a bit competitive. I was on the phone complaining to one of my fellow volunteers about the fact that someone beat us to the punch on "our stop" and my wife gently teased me by saying, "Well now...you are upset because someone else got YOUR homeless people???" I reluctantly laughed and had to agree that was more than absurd wasn't it? Although we DO still compete and manage to get the library stop as often as possible...

Steven and AJ feeding the peopleI want to thank everyone who has made our efforts possible; Ruth Dore', volunteer coordinator, who patiently herds all of the volunteers on a daily basis, Tracy Rodenborn and Don Haynesof St. Michaels Academy who along with students have prepared the food for the last 3 years. Tracy just had a beautiful baby girl named Catherine so this is a shout out to her! I also want to thank my fellow friends and truck crew; Stephen & Debbie Machicek, A.J. Lindow and Liz Saieh. (Scroll over the pictures to see who's who)! I always enjoy our time together and look forward to going out with y'all every month!

I am not trying to change anyone's mind but think about it, times are hard for everyone these days and it never hurts to show some compassion, especially when you see the truth from a different perspective! Look around and see where you can help out, you will receive more than you ever give!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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56 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • November 13 2008 05:38PM

Rob Roy Open House-6903 Pascal Court-Sunday November 16, 2008

This Sunday, November 16th, 2008 I will be holding open an exceptional home in the gated community of Rob Roy in the Westlake/Eanes School District area. The home was built by Hugh Radney, one of Austin's finest builders and his quality workmanship and attention to detail is apparent through out. Located on a cul-de-sac and backing to a lush valley, this home offers the best of everything in the Rob Roy neighborhood to discriminating buyers!  The new price  indicates a 100K Price Reduction which makes this a very good value for both the home and the neighborhood. I will be on-site between 2pm and 4pm Sunday and if for any reason, the guard at the gate is unavailable, I can be reached at my mobile number listed below to gain access. Thanks, I look forward to seeing you there!

6903 Pascal Court

If you or anyone you know is anticipating purchasing or selling real estate in Central, West or Southwest Austin or the Westlake/Eanes Shool District area, I would be happy to assist them. I have nineteen years  success working with upscale buyers and sellers in Austin's Finest Neighborhoods.

 

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29 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • November 13 2008 11:42AM

The Election is over...and we are still HERE!

The Statue of LibertyWell...the election is finally over and I can say unequivocally that I am very proud to be a citizen of this incredible experiment called Democracy. I am NOT a Red American or a Blue American but an American! Once again, we have proved that we are one of the few countries that can witness the peaceful exchange of power in spite of all the rhetoric, impassioned argument and yes even the mud-slinging. I have not spoken out much and this will be my only political post but I was very impressed by what I saw last night.

Watching John McCain speak, I was impressed by his complete calm and straight forward talk about the campaign and election.His no nonsense quelling of the initial boos during his speech was an indication of his will to take his defeat with dignity and class that has rarely been seen in recent years from ANY politician on either side of political thinking. He spoke about coming together as a nation and made it clear that he wasn't undermining Obama's chances to lead. He was so articulate regarding his praise and concession but most of all his insistence that as Americans, we WORK TOGETHER to overcome the challenges that face us ALL, "Senator Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. No doubt, many of those differences remain. These are difficult times for our country, and I pledge to him tonight that I will do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face,"I urge all Americans who supported me to join not only in congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and honest effort to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences." John McCain proved to our country and the world that he is a man of honor and self respect and that he values his love of our country and his service to our way of living above all else.

President Elect Obama's speech was more sober than I would have first imagined but as has been the case all along, his words, though eloquent, were grounded in the reality of the enormous hardships and challenges that we as a nation face together. "If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer. To those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president too. "This is our time to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can." I tend to be a skeptic at times but Obama seems to be just as much a patriot acs McCain. His statements are admirable sentiments and in the future we will learn if they can be turned into reality with the involvement of all of us as a nation.

Today is Wednesday, November 5th 2008 and it's great to be an American. I did not get everything I wanted out of this election (no one ever does) but I am proud to be a part of a political system that allows us to disagree (sometimes vehemently) and still move forward TOGETHER. It's now about 7:50am here in Texas and I am headed out for a morning run. After that, I am going to work because we have a lot to do ahead of us and it's time to get cracking. We will have to wait and see where this will take us all but again, I am still amazed at the way our great nation works and have to agree with the words of Tim Russert, "What a country!"

 

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93 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • November 05 2008 10:21AM

The Luxury of Actually Owning a Home - Giving back in Austin Texas and Beyond!

AFHS LOGOI remember sitting in church in 1996 and seeing a couple walk on to the pulpit wearing tool belts. Odd, yes and then they began talking about a group called "Habitat for Humanity". Francis and Lori Fey speaking at River Bend Church http://www.riverbend.com/  introduced me to the organization. Along with a few others, I met them after church and agreed to help out with the next River Bend/Habitat Build for the Norma Avalos Family.(One of many sponsored by River Bend)

Before entering real estate in 1989, I had a construction background of over sixteen years as an Apprentice, Journeyman Carpenter, Construction Foreman and Furniture Designer/Builder but never encountered anything quite like "Habitat for Humanity". I was a fan of Jimmy Carter and say what you will about his years as President, he has gone on to prove that he is a true humanitarian and does indeed practice what he preaches! What's great about a Habitat site is that every work day begins with a prayer, no one starts a fight and you only hear a few bad words. And I will admit that they usually are uttered by me. (Old habits are hard to break but I am improving). Since working on that home in 1996, I have worked on various builds, homes and projects as a Carpenter, Crew leader and House leader for  Austin Habitat for Humanity

Gulf Port Family BuildAs a Real Estate Broker, I work with buyers and sellers of upscale homes in the luxury market in Austin Texas. I enjoy my work immensely and make a good living. I do have to say that it's incredibly gratifying seeing a family that is "in-between" (not able to qualify for a regular mortgage but making too much to receive assistance) get the chance to own a home! I remember one year at a house dedication where all of the family was there except for one of the children who had just left for college. That's cool that a poor working class family could actually get child in to a school but what was mind boggling was the circumstance. The mom barely spoke English. Both she and her husband worked multiple jobs to raise the family and make sure the kids took school seriously. In fact, the son who left for college had a PERFECT ATTENDANCE RECORD for TWELVE YEARS. I was so impressed by that dedication and perseverance and by the fact that Habitat indeed represents the concept of: "A hand up, not a hand out!" Click on this link to learn more about Austin Habitat for Humanity

Habitat Volunteer CrewThis year I had the good fortune to travel to Gulfport Mississippi and participate in the annual Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project 2008 - The Gulf Coast to help with rebuilding nearly three years after Katrina. It was an unbelievable experience and with my friend, Pat Horne, I worked with volunteers from all over the country to restore homes that were that had been severely damaged. The homes had new roofs installed, were stripped to the studs, sheet rocked and textured. Our crew painted the interior (I will never again say that painters have it easy!), installed flooring and new doors, trimmed out all windows and door frames and installed new cabinetry.

What was incredibly gratifying was working with so many young AmeriCorps volunteers. Wonderfully gifted and hard working, most of them in college or headed for graduate school and with such a great attitude. (They even helped me overcome my prejudice about vegetarians and VEGANS!) If you ever have doubts about the next generation, you can stop worrying. There were several local volunteers who also took time off from work to help out and it was truly a communal effort. No matter where you are, there is probably a Habitat For Humanity affiliate nearby. Check them out when you have a chance and you should make the effort to "make some time". I promise that after showing up you will learn something about building, meet some new friends and leave with more than you can imagine in the way of experience, new understanding and a true sense of thankfulness.

Crew Picture with the Carter's

One of the things I had hoped to accomplish this year was to actually meet Jimmy Carter and maybe get a picture. Well, I finally got my  chance. The Carter's worked on one of the new builds and also attended the different functions that ended each work day. I was amazed at the boundless energy of both of them as they put in long hours each day and hope that I also have that kind of energy and drive when I am older. On the last day before everyone departed for home, the Carters showed up to have pictures taken with the different housing crews. I was pretty excited and managed to say hello and shake their hands. The picture was taken and when I received it later this summer...there I was, with my eyes completely shut...looking like Forrest Gump! Ah well...it just gives me a reason to show up again next year and if you have the opportunity, I hope you do too! I would like to thank my friends Pat Horne (House lead on too many homes to list), Donita Haden (long time Austin volunteer coordinator), Michael Willard (Austin Director of Habitat for Humanity) and all of the other volunteers with whom I have had the honor of working side by side with over the years to improve our community! 

For more information and to volunteer with a Habitat For Humanity affiliate or Habitat re-Store near you check out the International Habitat site at: Habitat For Humanity International

Remember, it's a hand up...not a hand out!

 

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58 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • November 01 2008 12:38PM

Halloween Voting Guidelines in Austin Texas!

Halloween PranksterI love living in Austin, Texas. The saying "Keep Austin Weird" is especially appropriate at Halloween and this year is no different.  With the election looming and early voters turning out in droves the local newspaper posted an article on the rules of voting in or out of costume and guidelines about campaigning near the poll sites!

Katie Humphrey of the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN wrote that "Ghosts and witches are welcome at polling places today." However, Texas election law prohibits electioneering - advocating for a particular candidate or party - within 100 feet of the exterior door of a polling place. Usually that means election judges are looking for campaign buttons, candidate T-shirts and signs. This year, thanks to Halloween landing on the final day of early voting, candidate look-alikes will be added to that list.

What makes this even funnier is the huge number of people dressed to look like Obama, McCain and the overwhelming favorite Sarah Palin. Now...if you are a natural look alike then it's okay but no costumed "current" political characters are allowed! Don't show up dressed as ANY person on the ballot from George Bush to minor local characters or even as Elephants or Donkeys! All ghosts, goblins and any other characters will have to remove a mask before voting too!

The turnout for early voting is expected to peak today at more than 50,000 people today so the chances of trick-or-treaters showing up at  the polls are more apparent than in the past! Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir is happy that there sis so much interest in voting this year and stated ""We would just as soon they wear their costumes in and vote on the way to the Halloween party"

Good Advice...now GO VOTE and Trick or Treat from Austin Texas!

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32 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • October 31 2008 03:30PM

Keep Austin Texas Weird -What's that all about? (LOCALISM FEATURED)

Keep Austin Weird 5K"Wait, what was that, I ask?  My son responds again, "its 107 degrees according to that thermometer at the starting line".  I moan and try to figure out WHY I have agreed to participate with him in the Keep Austin Weird 5K (and costume contest with each entrant issued a pair of "Elvis" sunglasses) at 6pm in the afternoon in the middle of a brutal Texas summer... The event is a benefit for the RunTex Carrozza Foundation, a nonprofit group that provides running shoes, coaching and race entry fees for people with low incomes. Paul Carrozza is also the owner of RunTex, the absolute coolest running store on the planet located here in Austin Texas!

Keep Austin Weird 5KWe start off together and my son says he wants to go on ahead and I quickly agree mumbling something to the effect that I will catch up later (oh sure...) After two miles I am sweating like a politician in church and just about to say to "heck with it" when who should come running towards me? My son who has doubled back and is laughing as he tells me he wanted to be sure I was okay. I can barely see from the sweat pouring into my eyes and I am gasping for air in the torrid heat but I manage to say, I'm good! I struggle to keep moving and try and not pass out while slipping into that spacey zone that comes before heat exhaustion!

I am thinking all the while that we only have a mile to go and if I can keep from barfing up a lung I just might make it! He then tells me to "smile" for the photographers by the roadside and I do laugh when he catches a scoop of Amy's Ice Cream tossed from the Water/Ice Cream Stop by volunteers to anyone who picked up a cup a few yards earlier! (I told you this was weird!)

Keep Austin Weird

Keep Austin Weird is an axiom chosen by a group that promotes small local businesses in Austin, Texas.The Austin Independent Business Alliance picked the phrase from a remark made by a librarian at Austin Community College in a phone call to a local radio station. Red Wassenich and his wife, Karen Pavelka, placed the slogan on bumper stickers, distributing them free to businesses in Austin. "Keep Austin Weird" was later trademarked by http://www.outhousedesigns.com/ and used to market T-shirts, hats, and mugs.

The slogan is a reference to the many small businesses, events, functions and personalities in Austin which give the city its unique cultural identity.  The Keep Austin Weird website describes itself as a "collaborative fission of coordinated individualism" and it gets somewhat weirder from there, learn more at: http://www.keepaustinweird.com/ . The whole concept is really just a celebration of all the things that that make Austin so unique and enjoyable. Austin Mayor Will Wynn supports the foundation and the group focusing on supporting local business! I read this quote by him recently, "The city is so weird, he joked, that his parents bought a house in Round Rock. But what exactly makes Austin weird? Wynn said it is the high quality of life in a growing city that feels small. "We don't feel nearly as large . . . because we have a unique quality of life," Wynn said. And I could not agree more, every day brings some new and interesting weirdness!

Weird 5K finish lineWe finally cross the finish line behind a crowd that includes two girls rowing in a cardboard canoe, people running in various costumes, a scuba diver and a collection of Dr. Seuss characters. A short time later, after we manage to cool off and refuel with a few quarts of ice water, some Amy's Ice Cream and a half dozen slices of Mangia Pizza, we wander over to the Free stage to watch some great local music.

Keep Austin Weird Tie-DyeKeep Austin Weird is really about the rich diversity & eclectic ideas of our community and the melting pot nature of all the things that TRULY make Austin such a wonderful place to live. I love Austin and have lived here a long time and I even enjoy the fact that the Weird "slogan" sometimes irritates those who do not fully understand the meaning.  Of course, there are always party poopers in every crowd but in Austin they are vastly outnumbered!

 

 

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82 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • October 24 2008 01:58PM

Trust - The Critical Factor in Referral Business

Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.  Booker T. Washington

Whom do YOU trust?I am incredibly fortunate that approximately 70% of my business this year will arrive through personal referrals from friends, family, past clients and agents with whom I have done business in the past. This number varies over the years, higher some years and lower others but is always a reliable and consistent source of business. My referral business is built on one primary factor; TRUST. "Referrals are the highest form of compliment I can receive from a past client" - I see this written on the backs of business cards, beneath signatures, and repeated endlessly at closings. For me, this is not just an empty platitude, it must be backed up with reliability, professionalism and real service! I have a very good track record going back many years that has been built on a relationship of reliance. If I say I am going to do something I do it!

When I first joined ActiveRain last summer, one of my goals was to establish contact and build relationships for referrals across the country. This turned out to be one of the most amazing aspects about the community. In the past I have had to rely on various networks, catalogues and brochures to find someone and this proved to be a difficult proposition. I would look over various descriptions, profiles etc. and finally find someone to call. At that point, I would have a brief conversation and if everything seemed okay, pass along the information. With this scant amount of discussion I was passing along the trust of someone who trusted me. I have very high standards for my clients and want the referred agent to treat my clients in the same manner as I would.

Webster's Online Dictionary defines trust as: 1 a: assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something b: one in which confidence is placed

The key is learning about people and getting to know them over time through the communication provided here at ActiveRain. First impressions are important but here we have the inimitable opportunity to read others posts along with comments that reveal us more openly and deeply and at a visceral level that cannot be hidden. I will admit that I have seen comments, posts and behavior that is unappealing to me personally but I can assure you I am not judging anyone, I realize that there are some people out there for whom professionally and to some degree, personally, I am not a good fit which is just fine.

On the other hand, since joining Active Rain, I have had the great fortune of establishing some phenomenal relationships with brokers, agents, lenders, stagers, marketing gurus, artists and the general public that I absolutely value. The best part of the site, for me is the ability to genuinely get to know someone over time through the discourse offered and the communication between the members. One of the first people I met in person was Jason Crouch. I read a number of his posts and thought I would just call him up and ask him about the site and get to know him. We had an absolutely enjoyable time and I can tell you from personal experience he is as interesting and bright as you would imagine while at the same time devoid of any ego or attitude that all of us sometimes witness in this business. He was open and helpful and we have since become friends as we have gotten to know each other over time. Our companies and areas of business focus are different (geographically more than anything) and so recently, when I received a very good lead that was not in my particular area of expertise (or any of my associates) I immediately thought of Jason. AND WHY NOT, it's better to send good business to someone I trust so that we can all benefit (the client in particular) rather than just leaving them to call the next number they find in a phone book, the newspaper, online or from a yard sign.

I can tell you unequivocally that I have met at least two dozen people here (so far) whom I would not hesitate sending business all across the country because of the relationships I have established and nurtured here. Now that I think of it, I am going to write a post and mention everyone I am talking about (Y'all already know who you are)because my experience here has been the most exciting new thing to enter my world as a real estate broker in years!

               Thanks to ActiveRain and I look forward to meeting more of you in the future!

 

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103 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • October 16 2008 09:50AM