Erika Nowlin

As Interviewed by Daniel Larson, March 21, 2019

Erika Nowlin: In Her Own Words

My name is Erika Nowlin. I used to be a teacher -- I had been a teacher for years -- but then I started staying home with my girls. And then about two years ago [I] started a non-profit called the Austin Allies and we put together volunteering opportunities for kids and their families to go out and work in the community together.

A lot of it came from my kids, they were looking for ways that they wanted to get out and help people, and it was really hard to find volunteering that kids could go do. So I decided that I would start calling some different places [to see how we could help out].

There was a quote, from Mister Rogers that I kept coming back to, that said: “When something bad is happening, look for the helpers. You’ll always find the helpers” -- and so that one always made me want to be one of the helpers.

It feels overwhelming a lot of times because, even when you’re going in and helping a certain group, you realize that you’re just doing a little bit. So, it’s helping but there’s still so much work, and there’s so many other people out there that need help, so it’s definitely intimidating. I definitely didn’t do it by myself. It is a community coming together to really do a lot of stuff together.

We’ve redid an entire apartment for a refugee family who was moving to Austin for the first time. Every time we go into an organization, we definitely learn a lot from them, as far as the best ways to approach things, how to get in there, so we’ve learned from all of them. It’s been great. There’s so much need out there, and it can kind of feel like, no matter how much you do there’s always so much more that can be done or needs to be done.

We raised $3,500 for this family [aforementioned refugee family moving to Austin] and through Amana [another service group] -- they went out and bought furniture and food for the fridge and new clothes for the kids, and then we spent an entire Saturday in their apartment. The kids were sleeping on the floor, the mom and dad were sleeping on an air mattress with a hole in it. By the time we left the apartment was clean, and we just kinda gave them a little bit of a step up. And so being in their apartment and realizing this was an actual family, to really see the difference we were making, and then we got to meet the family at the end. And I think that really made me realize that there are other people on the end of what we’re doing.

Once you’re in there, you realize that, we’re all humans and we’re all out there to do good for each other and help each other -- so just go do it [community service]. Do it with your family, do it with a friend, and find something that really speaks to you. Whatever it might be, do it, because I think that especially when it’s something like this [like] volunteering or helping people, there’s always a need and there’s always going to be people who are willing to come and help you on the journey.

So, it’s scary, and it’s tiring, but it’s really rewarding, and I love it. I love what I’m doing right now.