The Freedom Schools are Coming!

Welcome Table, Incorporated (St. James’ non-profit) is proud to announce that our Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® site will begin operations this June at Oak Springs Elementary School. The site will operate from June 16th through July 25th.

CDF Freedom Schools are designed to interrupt the ‘cradle to prison pipeline’ by encouraging young scholars to develop a love of reading. Many of our children, especially in East Austin, are trapped in an educational system that leads them to drop out of school and then choose a life path that includes criminal behavior, which could end with a prison term…or worse. Literacy is the gateway to learning; learning helps us change our circumstances. We must learn to read, and then we can read to learn.

The Freedom Schools movement is centered around an Integrated Reading Curriculum (IRC) that has been in use for 20 years in cities across the nation. College-aged Servant Leader Interns facilitate the IRC, providing reading enrichment that will help prevent the ‘summer slide.’

Welcome Table, Inc believes in promoting holistic development, we have a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) component during the afternoon. On Fridays, the scholars will be taken on field trips that focus on expanding their understanding of the world around them.

For an overview of how the program looks, please take six (6) minutes to watch the video at:

This summer, we will focus our efforts on changing the perspectives of 50 children who have just completed grade levels Kindergarten through 5th. We have ten (10) spots available for children from St. James’ and ten (10) spots for children from the wider Austin area. Thirty (30) spots are reserved for children who currently attend Oak Springs Elementary. We would love your young scholar to participate.

If you do not have a young person to enroll, there are other ways to be involved:

  • Serve as a volunteer during free periods
  • Donate airline miles from United or American airlines to assist with travel for Servant Leader Interns and staff to attend the June training at Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee
  • Tell your friends and neighbors about Freedom Schools…ask them to consider making a tax-deductible monetary donation at
  • Tell us about people and organizations who support early childhood education and enrichment

For more information, please contact Gina Houston at [email protected] or Mila Jackson at [email protected] …or just grab us after a service.

We are very excited to offer this program in Austin for the first time. We look forward to changing the lives of our young people and showing them that theycan make a difference – in Themselves, in their Families, in their Communities, in this Nation, and in the World.

Powerful Tools for Caregivers

powerful tools for caregivers logoAn exceptional series of 6 classes that addresses the challenges faced by those who provide unpaid care for an elder or an adult with a chronic illness. Participants will learn and practice a variety of communication skills that result in better self-care and improved caregiving.

Click here to take the caregiver quiz!

Led by trained facilitators • Proven effective at reducing stress
Dynamic and fun small group format
FREE • No cost for participation

MONDAYS • 6:30-8:30 PM
April 7 – May 12
St.James’ Episcopal Church
1941 Webberville Road • Austin TX

To register and for more information about
Powerful Tools for Caregivers please call 512-698-2550.

Thanksgiving Food Drive

Thanks to all the members of St. James’ Episcopal, Austin, who took food baskets to their work to collect food for our Holiday Food Drive.  We collected 15 baskets full of wonderful food for families at St. James’ Episcopal School.  Twenty five bags of food were packed and given to families from our school so they could have a Thanksgiving feast.  Each family received an HEB card to buy a turkey or ham for their family meal.  It will be a happy Thanksgiving for these families this year.



Some members of St. James’ Church asked if we could have a similar food drive for the Christmas season.  So we will have baskets in the Narthex again this Sunday and on December 8.  We will donate the food to families of our neighbors who attend Neighbor 2 Neighbor on December 17.  So please return the basket full of food to church by December 15.



Welcome Table Hosts Angels Sing Fundraiser

Today, Welcome Table, Inc. announced its special screening of Angels Sing at the Alamo Drafthouse as a fundraiser in support of WTI’s programs in east Austin.  Seating is limited – purchase tickets in advance here.

angels sing 2


Angels Sing is a heartfelt story about the importance of family ties, overcoming tragedy and the undeniable magic of Christmas. This film, beloved by movie goers of all ages, stars Harry Connick Jr., Connie Britton, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Lyle Lovett and more! Net proceeds from this screening support Welcome Table Inc.


  • Saturday, November 2, 2013
  • 7:00 PM
  • Alamo Drafthouse, Slaughter Lane
  • Purchase Tickets here– seating limited

Welcome Table Inc. Launches Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School in Austin

Welcome Table, Inc. supports the Austin community’s deep concern for our children and their academic performance.

Our sponsorship of a Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools®, the first of its kind in Austin, reflects this care.

The program encourages each Scholar to love reading and realize that they can become contributing, caring members in their communities. If you are excited about this innovative opportunity, we urge you to consider an in-kind contribution and/or financial support for one or more Scholars in the amount of $1,400.  This amount enables a scholar to participate in the program next summer.

Watch this video to learn more about the program:

cdf video

Fifty Austin children ages five through twelve will be enrolled in the program and will spend six weeks focusing on literacy, legacy, and leadership. The award-winning curriculum will be implemented with a 10:1 ratio of Scholars to college-age Servant Leader Intern who will be trained by CDF.

Gina Houston champions this initiative.  Her commitment to launching this program in Austin is a result of having met with the senior leadership of Children’s Defense Fund and having actively participated in a simulation of a day using the curriculum.

Under the direction of Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, CDF Freedom Schools® was inspired by the servant leadership approach of the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Schools Project and was launched at CDF in 1995. Five key components of the program are behind its success in inspiring young Scholars and their parents:

  • High quality literacy enrichment
  • Parent and family involvement
  • Social action and civic engagement
  • Intergenerational leadership development
  • Physical health, mental health and nutrition

The program’s Integrated Reading Curriculum uses best-practice teaching strategies to help young Scholars develop a love for reading, improve positive attitudes toward learning, and create a desire to make a personal difference in their families and in the community. Nearly 10,000 Scholars at 135 sites in 81 cities and 27 states are currently participating in the CDF Freedom Schools® experience.

More information about Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools®, including the results of a five-year longitudinal evaluation sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, can be found on CDF’s web site.

To be able to launch the CDF Freedom Schools® program, we will need the commitment and resources of those with a passion for children, literacy and social justice. The program is free to the Scholars who attend, but expenses must be paid for with community dollars. The cost of the six-week program is approximately $70,000, or $1,400 per child. I am asking you to make a commitment to sponsor one or more Scholars, in any way that is feasible.

If you have questions please feel free to contact Gina at  [email protected].

Welcome Table Inc. Receives Grant

The Welcome Table Inc., an non profit that provides assistance to families in east Austin, TX, received an $8,000 grant at the end of May, 2013.neighbor2neighbor

The Lola Wright Foundation granted these funds to the Welcome Table to allocate:

  • $4,000 to purchase HEB gift cards for our Neighbor 2 Neighbor program.  Welcome Table’s will distribute these cards to east Austin residents to purchase groceries, gas, and pharmacy goods.
  • $4,000 to improve Welcome Table’s Community Garden.  This money can be used to increase the number of community garden beds from 4 to 8, and might purchase a refrigerator to store produce in as well. welcome table-4

The Lola Wright Foundation is an Austin-based entity that often donates to local brick & mortar projects such as our community garden.

Welcome Table cannot currently help all the neighborhood residents who request its help.  Gift cards are available and our every-other-week Neighbor 2 Neighbor sessions – the cards are allocated on a lottery basis. The Lola Wright grant will allow Welcome Table to increase by 50% the numbers of families that it can reach this year.


The funds will be used on gift cards and the community garden before November 30, 2013.




The East Austin Wellness Center hosted its first Zumbathon on June 1!

Participants from our east Austin neighborhood as well as our parish exercised, ate healthy snacks and enjoyed themselves together.


Zumba is a danced-based exercise full of Latin rhythms.  Luz Santi, CPR AED, was our licensed instructor and led us in a fun-filled celebration of good health.


Luz demonstrated interval training sessions where fast and slow rhythms are combined to tone and sculpt the body while burning fat.


Here’s what some of the participants had to say:

  • “Zumbathon was a lot of fun.  I hope we do it on a regular basis!”  – Sue R
  • “Can’t wait for the next Zumba experience!” – Lora L
  • “Zumbathon is absolutely fabulous!” – Pam B


Do you want to join the next Zumbathon?  Click here to sign up for our email list and be informed of the next date!

Spaghetti Supper for St. James’ School Families

Last Thursday, May 23, 2013, the church hosted a spaghetti supper for families from St. James’ Episcopal School.  Over 50 parents and children from the school enjoyed a party in Founders Hall.  The spaghetti was donated by Welcome Table Inc.  Other volunteers brought side dishes and desserts.  The food was prepared by volunteers from the congregation including our reliable hospitality team.  School board members and staff also helped make this a wonderful event.  Reverend Lisa, of St. James Episcopal Church, welcomed the St. James’ School families and gave tours of the church.  The children were able to show their parents where they have chapel every Tuesday.  The highlight of the night was the children singing “This Little Light of Mine.”  Events like this bring our church family and our school family closer together.  Thanks to everyone who participated.