Katherine Layton is in her third year at the University of Texas in Austin, and she is the founder of a new non-profit organization called Gifts From US. Earlier this month, I met Layton at a community event where she was speaking. As a Rodeo Austin scholar, she was speaking to this year’s scholarship recipients, donors and volunteers—sharing with them her personal story and offering words of wisdom and encouragement.
I knew a little bit about Layton prior to the event. I’d learned about her efforts to help families in Central Texas whose homes had been destroyed by the wildfires. Discovering what she could do for others after a disaster led her to create her organization, Gifts From Us.
When I got the opportunity to interview Layton, I was asking her questions for my weekly column in which I write about charity. But, in the back of my mind, I knew she was a “Girl Who Is Changing The World.”
In fact, the day I heard about Layton was the same day that the Love Infinitely Project shared a statistic about volunteering. According to Love Infinitely, adults who began volunteering as youth are twice as likely to volunteer as those who did not when younger. Still fresh on my mind along with the assumption that someone had taught her the importance of volunteering, I asked Layton if she had grown up volunteering in her community.
“My mother taught me that there are so many people out there that are less fortunate than I am, and I just need to help people,” says Layton. “You never know when life is going to have you down, and you need someone to pick you up.”
Layton recalled her father’s passing. Two days before her twelfth birthday, her father passed away. Her family endured struggle and hardship afterwards, but she says she continued to volunteer in her community. Despite her sadness and loss, she knew she still had something to give.
When the Central Texas wildfires broke out last year, Layton feared her family would lose their house. It would be days before she and her family would learn the fate of their home. In the meantime, she started collecting clothing and other necessities for families. Fortunately, the wildfires missed her current house but burned the house she grew up in that was still filled with her passed father’s memorabilia and memories.
When disaster hit her hometown, she realized she could make a difference in her community and around the world. In June, Gifts From US held a garage sale with 100 percent of proceeds benefiting the tornado victims in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Currently, the organization is accepting donations for the families affected by the Colorado fires.
The mission of Gifts From US is to help people get back on their feet when they are at their lowest point. Nothing hurts more than losing everything, and the organization strives to give back what they once had–or at least relatively close to it. Layton hopes that Gifts From US will someday be able to also help those outside of the U.S. The “US” in the non-profit’s name stands for United States, and she’s willing to take her services wherever she is needed.
Learn more about Gifts From US: http://www.giftsfromus.org/about-us.html
Like them on FB: https://www.facebook.com/GFUSdisasterrelief
Follow them on Twitter: http://twitter.com/GiftsfromUS
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