The Good Life in Austin Texas


Unexpected Gifts, Giving Back During the Holidays

Angels Afoot in AustinI went to church with my wife at Thanksgiving and on the way out came across the Angels Afoot display in the main foyer just beneath the Prodigal Son Mural. Angels Afoot is a program that helps gather and distribute presents for underprivileged children or who are in foster care and will have nothing during the holiday season. I have volunteered with the group before as a delivery person and was deeply moved because my delivery was to a place that shelters children who have had to be removed from homes for their own safety. The counselors I met were so grateful for the help because they really had no other way of contributing as far as presents. I still am amazed at this sad state of affairs but it's good that we have agencies to step in and do a very difficult but necessary job. It's always makes me think of helping out when it is not expected because more often than not there really is no hope for some folks.

Several large Christmas trees are set up by the desk with hundreds of "tags" indicating the wish list of a child the gender and age. It's very simple, you just look over the tags and pick out a couple that you would like to donate and take them to the sign up desk. We were just browsing and then really got into the spirit. I found tags for two boys, one age 8 who just wanted Pirate stuff (just my kind of kid) and another age 14 who wanted movies passes (another perfect match). My wife found two girls who wanted scrapbooking items and as she and my daughter are avid scrappers that fit the bill. Later at home our daughter surprised us and showed up with four more tags so we decided to go out that afternoon and pick up ALL of our items.

I don't know about you but I have not been to a Toys R Us in ages and it was daunting as well as fascinating and also a lot of fun. I had the hardest time finding Pirate stuff in between wandering around and looking at all the cool toys. I have to admit I played with more than a few! My wife, daughter and I basically looked at all the possibilities and tried to pick the best items we thought would be perfect. It was pretty funny as we discussed the different aspects of each toy considered. Hula Hoops, Pirate ships with or without extra cannons, puzzles, Barbies, Transformer voice altering helmets? I will say that we did go over budget without it being completely obvious. At home all the presents were wrapped along with two huge boxes of scrapping materials from the mammoth warehouse collection that my wife and daughter have assembled over the years. The next Sunday, we brought our presents wrapped and bowed to the church foyer for delivery to the different children all over Austin.

I know this is only a small thing but I think that during the holidays we are encouraged to think of others who are not as well off in our communities. This year more than ever, there are so many in need. Millions have lost their homes in foreclosure and many more will in the future. The unemployment rate is at 10% and we still have thousands of troops overseas whose families worry daily about their well being. Now I am not some sort of bleeding heart but those of us who have prospered do owe it to our communities to try and help in some small way. I did not do as well as I wanted to in my business this year but I don't have anything to gripe's all gravy and who am I to whine? While writing this post I have had constant interruptions from UPS and FedEx employees delivering a stream of goodies and it's obvious that we are truly living the good life in Austin, Texas. If you have read my blog in the past you know I am an ardent supporter of several charitable organizations here in Austin including, Austin Habitat for Humanity , Mobile Loaves & Fishes , Austin Blood & Tissue Center and Salvation Army Austin . No matter where you live, just look around and you will have no problem finding something to do! Don't just think about something!

If you think you cannot afford to help in some small way then you will never really have enough...will you? Helping Others is a Gift You Give to Yourself!


Russell M. LewisPage copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape 

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62 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • December 18 2009 10:56PM


Dear Russell,

Kudos to you and yours for helping those in need.



Posted by Betina Foreman-Serving Lake Travis, Lake Austin and the greater Austin area! ((512)771-6318 Prospect Real Estate Solutions, LLC) 11 months ago

I hope your actions inspire others to be so generous.



Posted by Betina Foreman-Serving Lake Travis, Lake Austin and the greater Austin area! ((512)771-6318 Prospect Real Estate Solutions, LLC) 11 months ago

Well said, Russell, and super encouragement to look out into our own backyards! And who knows? You might just get something in return, too!

Posted by Deena Cottingham, Home Stager & Photographer (GreenApple Staging & Images, Calgary Staging & Photography) 11 months ago

Good for you, Russell!  We delivered the gifts to the families that we adopted this year.....Gary dressed in his Santa outfit and the rest of us with helper Santa hats on our heads.  The best was at one house as we were leaving a school bus went by and a kid yelled out the window "Hey, Santa!" and as Gary raised his hand to wave at him the precious darling shouted "#$% &$#!!!".

Posted by Francie Little (AvenueOne Properties, Inc.) 11 months ago

You hit the nail right on the head Russell.  Heritage Title employees break into teams during the Holidays and each team adopts a family through the Christmas Bureau.  I just spent part of the day yesterday delivering all our wrapped presents and Holiday food to the family that my team picked.    God gave us his son on Christmas, in giving to others we celebrate that gift.   Its my absolute favorite part of Christmas.... well that and your home made salsa!  ;-)

Posted by Elsa Decker (Heritage Title Company of Austin) 11 months ago


You are truly inspiring. I would love to get involved in the many charities you assist. You are a great person with a great heart for others, GOOD karma comes to GOOD people! Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to you :-))

Posted by Lindsay Allen 11 months ago

Russell...I know that you, your wife and daughter had a great time shopping for the gifts.  But, most of all the great feeling of giving....the best ever.

Posted by Rebecca Gaujot Lewisburg WV Realtor (Coldwell Banker Stuart & Watts Real Estate) 11 months ago

Hi Russell,

I love the Angels Afoot program! I take our grandaughters to help us pick out gifts. They have fun looking for the right thing! Since we have a similar program at our office they have fun picking out lots of gifts! You are right it can be a gift of time that works just as well. Giving is a gift you give to yourself. Thanks Russell for a great post!

Posted by Dorie Dillard: Canyon Creek & NW Austin Living (Coldwell Banker United) 11 months ago

Even though I seem to be somewhat hardened on the exterior, My heart melts for children that are hungry and in need of clothes.  I could not imagine what it would be like to see my children crying and shrinking from hunger.. So turn those pockets inside out and give of your time as well to spread the true meaning of Christmas..

Merry Christmas


Posted by Buster 11 months ago

You are really a great guy. I don't tell you enough. (And I'll deny telling you this time.) Thanks for helping the children. And all of us.

Bring on the salsa!!

Posted by Dana Dean 11 months ago

Russell - we are going to take something down for Toys for Tots. Their donations are down a lot - and it's a lot this year and their requests are much higher than before. We'll do what we can to help. :) ~Rita

Posted by Kenna Real Estate 11 months ago

Russell, you never stop to amaze me the way you are so much like your father.Very kind and generous. Keep up the good work.


Posted by Bobby Hondula 11 months ago


Betina Thank you and kudos to you for helping out too and for prodding me to start posting again!

Deena  I appreciate your comment and it really is a local thing (just like our business) and your right we all get something in return for being generous!

Francie I have to tell you that I laughed at the kid on the bus story and I am betting he get’s switches and ashes for dissing Santa! Thanks for giving back to our city!

Elsa That is so cool that you and the folks at Heritage Title here in Austin  take the time to actually make the effort to help others when so many companies just offer lip service! Thanks for stopping by and I just heard that there was some salsa on the way to your office!

Lindsay Thank you my friend, I appreciate that as well as everything you do at our office! You (and ally) are truly very special and I am so glad we work together!

Rebecca We all had a great time and I probably spent as much time playing as i did searching for the toys!

Dorie Wow that is great that your office also participates in Angels Afoot, it’s a truly remarkable program and the gift really is in the giving!

Buster Gruff now and then? Maybe...but i know you are a person who gives back to the community and helps many individuals on a daily basis!

Dana Hey girl, you are making me blush and I promise not to mention it again! And I know for sure some of that Santa Salsa will be at your door before Christmas eve!


Posted by Russell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI (AvenueOne Properties, Austin Texas Real Estate) 11 months ago

Do you hear that sound Russell?

It's the sound of allpause coming from the Raleigh area for this post.

Well said my friend.

Very inspiring.

Posted by Craig Rutman Raleigh/ Cary/ Apex area Realtor (Home Buyer and Seller Specialist) 11 months ago

I wish more people were like you Russell!  Hopefully they'll be inspired, I know I am.  Now onto the store to buy a gift for the 11 year old who wants a live baby doll!

Posted by Leslye 11 months ago

Hi Russell!!  We at Prominent also did a similar thing.  We received the names of several children with CPS and each of us adopted one for christmas.  It was very intriguing to sho pfor toys instead of "adult" presents.  So much stuff to choose from....brought me back to the days when I was a kid and wanted EVERYTHING!  My sister's school she teaches at in Galveston is a less fortunate group of children, and the hospital down there also donated gifts to every single student!  Now, that's pretty amazing! Keep up the good work!!

Posted by Jennifer Chide (Prominent Title) 11 months ago

Russell I can just imagine you romping around the toy store trying out everything that looks like fun. You really do have a wide open view of the world. I know that you can be a very intense negotiator in your business but you also have a generous side that is apparent to everyone you help in our city! Thanks for giving back!

Posted by Scott Harvey (AvenueOne Properties) 11 months ago

Russell - You have a heart of gold and I hope this post inspires many others to follow in your footsteps in doing whatever they can to help out those less fortunate this year.  Any deed big or small can make such a difference in the lives of a child or a family in need.

Posted by Donna Bigda, REALTOR®, e-PRO Branford Connecticut Homes and Condos (RE/MAX Alliance) 11 months ago

You'll be a real hero to those kids, even though they'll never know you.  It's a great feeling to be able to brighten someone else's day.  Merry Christmas to you!

Posted by Georgina M. Hunter R(S) e-Pro Maui Real Estate Sales (Jim Sanders Realty Inc. - Maui) 11 months ago

 hi Russell, awesome & inspiring. No such thing as a "small thing" when it comes to kindness.

Posted by marti garaughty (The Art of Marketing YOU) 11 months ago

Russell, these angel tag programs all around the country sure do brighten lives even if WE are the ones that end up in the toy store. Kudos to you for your participation.

Posted by Gary Woltal - Assoc. Broker REALTOR® SFR Dallas Ft. Worth (Keller Williams Realty) 11 months ago

Hi Russell-That is awesome that you do all that.  I did the Worldhelpbox at church for the kids which is great and I have done the shoebox kids as well as the angel tree which is just like your program. We are doing locally the Salvation Army, The Daily Bread and an organization for about 30 homeless men of which 12 are vets. It is a wonderful feeling. Hope your Christmas is wonderful. <SMILE>

Posted by Sharon Lee (Sharon Lee's Virtual Assistance) 11 months ago

You are a good doobie, Russell Lewis.  I'm proud to know you.

Posted by Paul Slaybaugh, Scottsdale AZ Real Estate (Realty Executives) 11 months ago

Russell... what Paul said.

Seriously, this is such a nice program.  Our church sponsored kids too and I adopted one boy and got toys, jeans, sweat pants and some stuff on his wish list.  I felt it was the least I could do.  I used to organize an adopt a family in the neighborhood and we would get food and toys for an entire family.  Like you, Russell, I truly believe we can only be happy when we help others.

Posted by Susan Mangigian, West Chester PA Realtor RE/MAX Preferred, ABR (RE/MAX Preferred, West Chester, PA, RS152252A) 11 months ago

Well...hello to Paul and Susan and everyone else, I am just heading out the door with my daughter to check out the weirdness of the 37th Street Lights display and a couple of other spots but will return tomorrow to reply to all of the comments! Thank you all for dropping by!

Posted by Russell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI (AvenueOne Properties, Austin Texas Real Estate) 11 months ago

As long as i've been reading your posts I always come to the same conclusion at the are a caring kind soul and no doubt many have you in their heart for all you've done.

Posted by Celeste "SALLY" Cheeseman HAWAII Real Estate & Relocations (Century 21 Liberty Homes) 11 months ago

Well aren't you something and I LOVE it! One week you are making all of us laugh our tails off and the next you remind us to remember others! I hope you have a great Christmas and I will see you next week!

Posted by Allysoun Musslewhite (AvenueOne Properties, Inc.) 11 months ago

Thank you for reminding me to give generously this Christmas season. God bless you and your family! Merry Cristmas!

Posted by Barbara Le Pine (S & W Real Estate, Newport, Oregon) 11 months ago

Russell - what a neat program and how wonderful that you responded as you did.You have truly captured the spirit of the season. Have a wonderful holiday!


Posted by Jeff Dowler ~ Carlsbad Real Estate ~ 760-840-1360 (RE/MAX Moonlight Beach (CA DRE Lic. # 01490977)) 11 months ago

Featured @ Club Chaos

Posted by C Tann-Starr ( REMAX People Realty) 11 months ago

Carolyn  AND Marti Wow, thanks featuring this post in Club Chaos  and The Art of Marketing You! 

I am off to do some Christmas shopping and will return later to reply to all of the comments and thanks again for stopping  by!

Sally I appreciate the compliment and have to tell you that as one of the first people I met here, you and our group Positive Attitude for the Weary Soul really inspired me to post about the work I enjoy doing my community and thanks again for featuring this post!


Allysoun Thank you, I try to ad a bit of humor to my serious business side and at the same time give back because I really am grateful for everything i have been so fortunate to receive!


Barbara You are welcome and i hope you have a wonderful holiday season!


Jeff Thanks, I appreciate your comment and wish you and yours the best of the season too!!


Carolyn WOW...Thanks again for featuring this post!

Posted by Russell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI (AvenueOne Properties, Austin Texas Real Estate) 11 months ago

Hi Russell....I haven't read all the comments...but I will...

Your church looks just beautiful

Your blog post is beautiful and inspiring

Your family is beautiful and amazing...God Bless you all and Merry Christmas

You have a blessed life because you are a blessing to others......................................

Posted by June Lewis Realtor® Northwood Realty New Castle,Pa Lawrence Co 7247304571 (Northwood Realty Services) 11 months ago

Russell Rocks!

Posted by Patty 11 months ago

We just got in from shopping for presents and are exhausted. You are right we have so much and can easily afford to give back to those less fortunate. I am headed to donate to the Blue Santa campaign right after I submit this comment! Thanks!

Posted by Lynne 11 months ago

Rita I am glad to hear that you all are chipping in too. These days the economy has affected so many people that donations are down so it exacerbates the problem for those who are already suffering. 


Bobby Thank you, that is about the best compliment I could ever receive!


Craig Thank YOU my friend, I appreciate the kudos!


Leslye Thanks and I know you always enjoy giving back too!


Jennifer That is great news and I like seeing local businesses like your encourage others to give back to the community together! As you know through your sister’s first hand experience, there are folks in need everywhere!

Scott You are right, I was literally like a kid in a candy store and it is a complete switch from my sometimes stern business persona!


Donna I do not think it was something I was born with but learned by example from my Father and i agree that even little deeds can make a big difference, especially in the life of a child!


Georgina I like that and a friend used to tell me it’s like planting a tree to give shade to others we will never know or see!


Marti Thank you so much my friend, like you I believe every little bit can help and THANK YOU for featuring this post in The Art of Marketing You. I am flattered!


Gary That’s half the fun...we get to go to the toy store!

Sharon I have read in your blog about your work locally with the vets and love the fact that you do so much with the other charitable groups in your community! GREAT JOB!

Paul Thank you, I sometimes kid around and say that i am repaying my karmic debt but the fact is I enjoy giving back!


Susan I knew you would have the same sharing attitude as it comes through when i read about your work with Meals on Wheels and the other great groups you help on a regular basis in your part of the world. Thanks again for stopping by!

Posted by Russell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI (AvenueOne Properties, Austin Texas Real Estate) 11 months ago


What a neat program that is and good for you for getting involved in it.

Posted by Terry Chenier (Homelife Glenayre Realty) 11 months ago

What a wonderful way to celebrate Christmas!

Posted by Rosina Woolston (RE/MAX at Jennersville) 11 months ago

June You are so kind and I do have a very blessed life and am very fortunate (even though I sometimes think I don’t) Thanks so much for dropping by. I need to visit your blog later today!


Patty Thanks so know, Patty ROCKS too!


Lynne I know it’s hectic this time of year but thanks for remembering others too! have a good weekend!


Terry Thanks, it turns out that this program is all over the country in various locations, Best to you this season!


Rosina Giving back is one of the gifts we give ourselves through the year. Thanks for stopping by!

Posted by Russell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI (AvenueOne Properties, Austin Texas Real Estate) 11 months ago

I'm cracking up imagining you in the toy store! What a blast! I haven't been in toy store in a couple hundred years... Hoola Hoops? OMGosh! Good for you and your family to join in the spirit of giving....


Posted by Debi Boucher - "Realtor Showcase" Real Estate Photography/Virtual Tours ( Real Estate Showcase Photography) 11 months ago

Your blog is awesome and always makes me smile.  Thanks for ALL you do ALL year round.  You really are one of the neatest people I know and I'm not just saying that to get on your salsa list.  Haaa ha.  





Posted by Sarah 11 months ago

Russell - I was in charge of a similar program for our church called "Angel Tree".  I ended up spending a lot of time getting to know the kids from the area we served (in government housing).  Sounds like this is a solid outreach to kids in need.  

Posted by Jason Crouch, Broker - Austin Texas Real Estate (512-796-7653) (Austin Texas Homes, LLC) 11 months ago

WE had so much fun at the toy store and I know out kids are going have a great Christmas. As you say, "at least in some small way" :-)

Posted by Mattie Lewis (AvenueOne Properties) 11 months ago

Howdy there Russel

That sure is a mighty fine thing, you and your fiamily did. My friend! More folks need to help others that for one reason or another, are not doing so will.

My lady and I every year, get the names of two familys to help at Thanksgiving a Christmas.

P.S. I don't usual do this, but I posted a blog post today, that you just may want to take a look at. It about something, that could very well make whats going on with the Real Estate Market right now, look like a walk in the park.

Merry Christmas to you and your family, my friend!

Baker Home Energy Audit/Commercial Properties Inspections Blog Signature

Posted by Discover and Explore New Hampshire with Dale Baker (Baker Home Energy Audit & Commercial Properties Inspections ) 11 months ago

Kids that dont have much want such simple things. Mine want I pod touches and blackberry's. Great work you are doing here (but we both know we get more out of giving this)

Posted by Laura Jefferson (Acquire Real Estate) 11 months ago

What a wonderful thing you and your family did.  Kendra and I adopted a little girl who is currently at CPS..I think it's wise to show the young people what it feels like to help other people not as fortunate as she is.  Merry Christmas Russell.. :)

Posted by Anonymous 11 months ago

Russell-I loved reading your story and I think it is wonderful that you are teaching your daughter how important it is to give back.  I believe Jennifer Chide mentioned above that all of us here at Prominent Title each choose a child that is in foster care here in Austin to buy presents for.  We all had so much fun bring the gifts up to the office and showing them off and thinking how surprised they will be when they receive them.  After all, giving is really what Christmas is all about.  Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Posted by Jennifer Carlisle (Prominent Title) 11 months ago

Russell- you have a big, kind heart!  Merry Christmas!

Posted by Martha Small (AvenueOne Properties, Inc. ) 11 months ago

Debi We really did have a great time and I cannot believe it but Hula-Hoops have made a comeback!

Sarah Thanks and you are making me blush and you know you are on the permanent Salsa list!

Jason I think that is so cool that your church also participates in this excellent program. From the comments posted here, it looks like it's available all across the nation!

Mattie I agree and half the fun was doing this with you!

Dale Howdy my friend, I like hearing that you and your lady make the effort to help out on an individual basis. It's always good to share with those less fortunate.

BTW I read your excellent post and it's seems like a good idea but the problem is with the execution and it's probably not going to be handled all that well. I left a rather long comment on your blog and thanks for the heads up!

Laura You are absolutely right, kids are happy with the simplest things, at least until they get older. And yes, the joy really is in the giving! Thanks so much for stopping by!

Karen Hey you forgot to login and also leave your name but I know it's you! I am so glad you are also teaching Kendra the spirit of sharing with others. Merry Christmas to all of you!

Jennifer Thanks you! I am really glad to see all of my friends at your company doing so much good work in the community! merry Christmas to you and yours too!

Martha I really appreciate that and thanks for stopping by!

Posted by Russell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI (AvenueOne Properties, Austin Texas Real Estate) 11 months ago

Merry Christmas Russell!  I loved the story and the gift buying experience at ToysRUs - that store is where I spent quite a bit of time this year.  I know the children will so appreciate your gifts, and hope that each and everyone of them will have a better new year, my heart goes out to them.

Posted by Mary Douglas, REALTOR ®, Red Feather Lakes, Colorado (United Country Ponderosa Realty) 11 months ago


It seems like the needs and requests this year are greater than ever.  My best wishes to all who are in need this year.

Every year I've taken my son to get a tag from a giving tree.  We especially look for a boy about his age.  This year there were so many needs that we ended up doing different things.  I think I'll look for the tree again next year.

Posted by Jill Schmidt, serving Denver & Littleton area (Greenwood Village, Centennial, Highlands Ranch, Aurora ) 11 months ago

Hey! I came back to tell you that a bunch of people at the office also jumped on the bandwagon and have been donating to different families and charities here in Austin. It is so cool working at an office that really does give back to our community!

Posted by Allysoun Musslewhite (AvenueOne Properties, Inc.) 11 months ago

You couldn't be more right, it is better to give this time of year than receive.  I am going to go a bit on a tangent but it seems like a bunch of deaths happen this time of year so it doesn't hurt to visit hospitals/hospices and reach out to families who have their hearts breaking due to family illnesses and deaths.  It's a time investment but well worth it!

Posted by Renee Burrows - Las Vegas Real Estate (702-580-1783) (The Force Realty -Realtor>Estate>Probate>REO>Short Sale) 11 months ago

What a memorable way to celebrate the season by helping others. You always me laugh and you and your family are just good people!

Posted by Michelle 11 months ago

Russell - I think we should all think of others less fortunate than ourselves, and offer to help where we can. Today my daughter and I made dinner for a family where the parents have a debilitating disease. It made me feel wonderful to help.

Posted by Sharon Paxson Newport Beach Real Estate (Prudential California Realty, DRE License 01501912) 11 months ago

I wanted to stop by and wish you a very Merry Christmas to you and your whole family. I hope Santa is good too you and yours.

Posted by Laura Jefferson (Acquire Real Estate) 11 months ago

Hi Russell, I stopped back in to tel you I enjoyed this so much I sent it along to some of my clients! Thanks again for a reminder about giving during the holidays!

Posted by Scott Harvey (AvenueOne Properties) 11 months ago

Isn't that what the holidays are all about?   Thinking of others instead of ourselves.  I commend you on your  giving spirit!

Posted by Dawn A Fabiszak, CRS, GRI, SFR, CNE Servicing Arapahoe County over 17 yrs (Keller Williams Real Estate ( Denver metro area, Colorado) 11 months ago

Hi Russell. Long time my friend, this is so you and it is a priveleage knowing you. Call before the New Year and let's have lunch!

Posted by Tommy 11 months ago

Giving to others is the best gift of all.  The feeling of joy that takes over the body and soul when we give when we do it from the heart.

Keep up the good work

Posted by Virginia Tatseos (Stage-Show-Sell) 11 months ago

What a wonderful thing to give of yourself.  If more people would just do a little the world would be a much better place for children

Posted by Andrea Kappre, New Jersey Realtor | New Jersey MLS | Homes for Sale in NJ (Century 21 Hughes-Riggs Real Estate Company) 11 months ago


Loved this one..good for you and your family..we have programs like this at our church.


Posted by Marie 11 months ago

I decided to take the holiday message into the New Year and am volunteering at the local Food Bank once a month for a few hours. I figure a few hours helping someone else is worth taking the time away from real estate. I look at it as an opprtunity to refocus and remind myself what is important in life.

Posted by Christa Ross (RE/MAX Select Realty - REALTOR and Green Homes Specialist) 11 months ago


What does the graphic say?