Meet Our Team!

Vanessa and I are thrilled today to announce the formation of our new Board of Directors! This group of leaders will join us in guiding the Austin Allies organization as we continue to grow and foster volunteer opportunities throughout our community! Daniel, Margaret, Monica, and Emily each bring unique experiences and expertise to our group, and with their aid and guidance, the Allies will be able to increase our outreach; offer more programming, activities, and drives; strengthen our connections to the diverse population of Austin; and most importantly improve our abilities to better serve those who need our support. 

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Erika Nowlin, Executive Director

Erika is a native Austinite and former preschool and elementary school teacher. She earned a BA in Psychology from UT Austin and received her teaching certification through Region XIII. Austin Allies is her brainchild - born from a need to counteract the increasing negativity she was seeing in the world, and to teach her kids empathy, understanding, and compassion for everyone in their community. She wanted to find a way to make volunteering easier for families by creating events and activities with local organizations who needed support. Erika lives in Southwest Austin with her husband and their two daughters.

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Vanessa Lowe, Associate Director

Vanessa Lowe has worked in urban education and literacy for almost 20 years. She started her career in education at the Department of Education in Washington, DC before moving into the classroom. She has taught high school English language arts in Austin and Houston, Texas and Brooklyn, New York. She currently works as a curriculum designer and teacher of teachers working specifically with educators who work in underserved communities. She has trained and taught teachers in New York City, New Orleans, and San Antonio. She is the mother to 11-year-old twin boys and lives with her family in southwest Austin.

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Daniel Diffen, VP of Communications

Daniel, another native Austinite, is a writer and stay-at-home father of two. A retired high school Spanish teacher with a BA from The University of Texas and an MA from Texas State, Daniel enjoys getting to work with his own kids and children of all ages and educating them on the value of giving back to our community. He especially loves cooking at the Ronald McDonald House and connecting new families to the opportunities that the Austin Allies can provide!

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Margaret Kercher, Board Member

Margaret is a criminal defense attorney who mainly works in Travis County and a mom of three active kids. As members of Austin Allies, she and her family had the opportunity to help others as a family.  Instead of just telling children what our values are, Austin Allies allows parents to "walk the walk" and bring their children along on the journey to help our neighbors .

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Monica de Leon, Board Member

Monica de Leon is a Senior Manager in of the office of Strategy and Operations for Cisco’s United States Public Sector business. In her role, Monica provides program management leadership, focusing on State Government, Local Government, and Education, as well as its US Federal business. A graduate of Texas A&M University, she has been a Seedling Mentor since 2016 and is a Girl Scout Troop leader for her two young daughters’ troops.

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Emily Evans, Board Member

Emily is a Special Education Teaching Assistant at Kiker Elementary in Southwest Austin. A lifelong Texan, she earned her BA and MBA from Texas A&M. Emily moved to Austin in 1999, where she lives with her husband and 3 daughters.

Keep an eye on Facebook and watch for our e-mail calendars for even more chances to give back, and please tell your friends and neighbors about the Allies! As Valentine's Day draws near, we hope that you will join us as we continue to Act, Learn, Lead, Inspire, Educate, and Serve in our fair city.



Why volunteer? A Kids' Perspective

My name is Ellie Nowlin, and I helped my mom put together a fantabulistical organization called Austin Allies. I really love volunteering with Allies. It makes me feel good to know what I’m doing is making people’s life better. I like thinking that I helped found a volunteer organization, and I volunteer almost every week!

My favorite place to volunteer is Saint Louise House. I’ve always been an interior designer at heart, so I love putting that dream to work to help somebody. We cleaned the house up, moved furniture in, and voila! We just made a house for someone!

That feeling you get is so good and it comes in so many different ways: when they announce the numbers at the Food Bank, when you admire your dinner display at Ronald McDonald House, and when you see all the smiling kids reading their brand-new books at Buford or the Housing Authority. It also comes when you see nicely sorted stacks of donated books at BookSpring, when you see your enormous diaper mountains at the Diaper Bank, and sending away bra island on trucks to Support the Girls.  I also love our Book Club, which meets every month as well! I really enjoyed making Placemats and Bookmarks at the Texas Book Fest and egg shakers at ACL.

I think the best part of Allies is realizing you can have a good time and be accommodating. Working with Austin Allies isn’t just like another carnival fundraiser. You can make a bookmark, or cook a lunch or dinner;  it’s fun… and you’re helping someone! You can help people in so many ways, and Allies is the best way to do it!!!

Ellie, age 11

Allies junior co-founder and volunteer

2018: Year in Review

Wow, 2018 was certainly a busy year for Austin Allies! I spent an entire afternoon going through photos, posts, and calendars from the past year and I am both amazed and humbled at how much we were able to accomplish together! With all of your help, Austin Allies:

• Prepared, cooked, and served 9 meals at Ronald McDonald House

• Hosted 12 Book Clubs at BookPeople and welcomed visits from Mayor Adler, author Kat Kronenberg, and Maya Smart

• Sorted and packed up almost 40,000 lbs of food for Central Texas Food Bank

• Attended ACL’s Austin Kiddie Limits where we talked with hundreds of families and put together more than 650 musical egg shakers which were then delivered to 7 local music programs

• Manned the Hand to Hold/Austin Marathon water station

• Donated school supplies, pajamas, stocking goodies, and apartment items to Saint Louise House in addition to putting together an apartment for a family that SLH serves

• Chaired the Children’s Activity Tent for the Texas Book Festival

• Collected, sorted, and packed up school supplies for Partnerships for Children

• Collected school supplies for Communities in Schools

• Distributed hundreds of books to children served by BookSpring

• Wrapped literally thousands of diapers for Austin Diaper Bank

• Participated in two different “It’s My Park Days” with Austin Parks Foundation

• Decorated bookmarks, collected books, packed backpacks, and staffed two Pack Drive booths for Carrying Hope

• Collected items for a mom and her two boys escaping domestic violence, as well as yoga and art supplies for Joyful Inspiration

• Delivered more than 10 bags full of birthday gifts and cards for the kids living at Helping Hand Home

• Put together 50 Valentine goodie bags for the children at SAFE

• Handed out 4,000 bottles of water to marchers and supplied snacks and drinks for the speakers at March For Our Lives

• Participated in Austin Public Library’s Dia de los Niños, AISD’s Summer Reading Splash and city-wide PTA event, Circle C’s Food Trailer Night, and Mills Elementary’s first Citizenship Day

• Hosted 4 Family Fun Nights where we collected school supplies, birthday gifts for foster children, socks for Triumphant Warrior, and items for Allison Elementary’s playground transformation

• Staffed Austin Diaper Bank’s booth at the Round Rock Express game

• Washed and ironed 100+ tiny graduation gowns for Avance

• Renovated Allison Elementary’s Kindergarten playground

• Held a book drive where we collected over 2000(!) books for BookSpring

• Put together and delivered bags of food and cleaning supplies to 66 families supported by Amaanah Refugee Services

• Handed out books to hundreds of kids with AISD Library Media Service’s Buford the Book Bus

• Delivered books and crafted with kids with BookSpring and the Housing Authority of Austin

• Worked in the garden with Urban Roots

• Prepped summer camp materials for GirlStart

• Collected, washed, and sorted bras for Support the Girls

• Cleaned Barton Springs Pool

• Hosted activities for our littlest Allies where we participated in activities to support Austin Creative Reuse, Support the Girls, Caritas, and Silver Santa

• Sent 2 SUVs FULL of items to families who were being detained at the Texas border

• Wrapped holiday gifts at BookPeople

• Decorated hundreds of meal bags and cards for Meals on Wheels

• Packed and handed out Care Kits for seniors and veterans served by Silver Santa

• Played BINGO with seniors at Autumn Leaves Memory Care

• Collected hundreds of hygiene kits for ECHO to hand out to those experiencing homelessness in Austin

That list just completely takes my breath away. We have been able to do so much good and support so many organizations and people in Austin and we couldn’t do it without y’all. We are forever thankful to all of you for your generous and loving hearts and look forward to an even better 2019.

Thank you, Allies!

Erika Nowlin

Director, Austin Allies


Two years ago, we formed Austin Allies in order to demonstrate to our children what it means to be kind, caring, and giving. It remains as important to us today as it was that very first day to be able to model these types of behaviors for our kids and to teach them that this world - that our world and our community - only works when people lend a hand and take care of one another.

Now, over 700 days and 300 volunteers later, we would like to take this season of Thanksgiving to once again tell each and every person who has offered up their time, goods, or money, from the bottom of our hearts THANK YOU. As we said when we set out to form Austin Allies, none of this can succeed if we don’t get help from all of you. And now, because of all of your generosity, love, and support, we can celebrate our second anniversary with our sights set on an even better and more productive future for our organization!

We’ll have some exciting announcements over the next few days and months about Allies, but know that our commitment to providing kids and their grown-ups fun opportunities to volunteer and donate will never waver! We have seen firsthand over the past two years that kids love helping and giving back to their community, so whether it’s our teens serving up a salad at the Ronald McDonald house, our littles sorting diapers at the Austin Diaper Bank, or any of the other incredible volunteer opportunities in-between, Austin Allies remains committed to our city and its people now and hopefully for a long time to come!


Erika, Vanessa, and the Austin Allies Team