L4 Cares makes the overwhelming look easy
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
“Kindness is easy” is a simple mantra that drives the dedicated crew at L4 Cares in a complex mission to help spread as much happiness as they can.
The primary mission is putting smiles on faces, focusing on veterans, the elderly, hospitalized children or just a helping hand to families in need.
“We really cater to certain segments of people,” said President Kendra Cofer. “So if you have a passion for supporting the military and veterans that’s a program. We have a program where we go visit the elderly in nursing homes. We visit kids at Dell Children’s Hospital every week, and then we have assistance to offer families in crisis.”
The organization is weeks away from celebrating its second anniversary and going strong.
“We’re celebrating our second year anniversary on March 1,” she said. “We have just had a lot of people interested and engaged in what we do.”
Last year’s Liberty Hill Day of Giving provided a platform for L4 Cares to spread the word and Cofer said it made a huge difference for the then-fledgling organization.
“From a financial standpoint, the Liberty Hill Day of Caring helped us, but more importantly we made a lot of good connections within the community,” she said. “We met church leaders, business leaders and we’ve been developing those relationships and partnerships. That was huge for us. Because we were such a new nonprofit a lot has happened since that time and we do credit that event and program for really just kickstarting us and giving us some momentum to do what we’re doing today.”
Though the mission may seem widespread and varied, choosing was based on thorough research on needs.
“We were intentional about our mission,” she said. “We looked out there and said, ‘Does the world need another nonprofit?’ because there were so many wonderful ones out there, and so we started to think where we could plug ourselves in maybe and our approach was to maybe focus on segments that kind of fell between the cracks.”
Assistance for veterans and their families can be as simple as a welcome home.
“We’ve always had a passion for the military so we wanted to focus on not just the soldiers, but on the families that have a loved one deployed,” Cofer said. “That was a segment we felt like we could bring happiness to and let others in the community know to care about them and understand their struggles.”
L4 Cares recently collected cards, letters and notes for 30 soldiers returning home from Syria.
“It was mind-boggling how many we got,” Cofer said. “It was Girl Scout troops, businesses and churches. There are all types of ways to get involved.”
Volunteering with L4 is as much about fun as it is work and the more volunteers, the more smiles they can bring.
“There are a lot of nonprofits out there that offer services but we just go in with our Elvis impersonators and we just go in and have fun and take their mind off their long days,” she said. “It is a ripple effect that can sustain you and help with the volunteers. There was a relatively new church that came up to us at the event last year, and his church group came and volunteered at one of our Christmas events at a nursing home in Georgetown and it was just really awesome to get people engaged like that.”
The organization offers no financial or monetary support, but encourages members of the community to nominate families or assistance when they identify a need.
“Helping people in crisis is just a big blanket statement,” Cofer said. “People come to us and tell us about other people in need, so it is by nomination only because we like to promote one of our biggest missions which is to be mindful of those around you.”
What L4 is becoming most well known for is the weekly trip to Dell Children’s Hospital where superheros and princesses work their way up and down halls taking patients away from their reality even if only for a short time.
“The thing at Dell Children’s was never on our radar until we met Cash Samarron in Liberty Hill,” she said. “Somebody connected with us and didn’t know if we could do anything, but Cash was at Dell and he just loved basketball. We got five players from the Austin Spurs team to go visit him, and that was the first time that I had gone and visited Dell Children’s Hospital.”
Before that visit was over, the idea of the weekly visits was born.
“During that visit one of the players asked Cash who his favorite superhero, and I left that day thinking how awesome it would be to get a group of superheros and princesses here,” Cofer said. “That wasn’t on our radar, but since then we have the program funded through this year. It’s my favorite day of the week,” she said. “It really lifts the kids’ spirits and makes their day.”
In the future for L4 Cares is more smiles for more people, but there are some new logistical issues to cope with as well.
In the last year the organization has enjoyed the good fortune of getting items donated from an Austin Walmart store, but that has created the need for storage and future transportation solutions.
“We got probably 500 to 600 packages of men’s, women’s and kids underwear and t-shirts, and later we got about five pallets of school supplies,” she said laughing about the surprises from week to week. “It’s been crazy and we’ve been happy with our donations week to week. Our wish list for this year is to get a truck or trailer where we can be mobile and organize that.”
Between the volunteers and continue growing donations, the sky’s the limit on what Cofer believes L4 can accomplish.
“When we raise funds like that we can spend more time on what we do, which is loving on people.”