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Laura Helle: Closing a chapter with many ‘thank yous’

As my chapter at Vision 2020 closes, I owe thanks to some of you.

Thank you to the family who was in the middle of a birthday party when I knocked on their door with a Gig Austin survey. Thank you for inviting me in and sharing your cake with me.

Thank you to the high school students who worked with me as interns and told me what it was like to grow up in Austin in Spanish-speaking homes.

Thank you to the new moms who came to Vision 2020 committee meetings and let me hold your sweet smelling babies.

Thank you to the neighbors who shoveled my walk, mowed my lawn and smiled at me.

Thank you to the police officer who helped me evacuate when the house next door was filling the sky with pillars of flame and smoke one early February morning.

Thank you to the individuals who quietly, gently made a point of connecting with me and supporting me when I was going through loss and grief in my family. Thank you also to the individuals who let me go about my business and work without a lot of drama and questions.

Thank you to the leaders who sat and muddled through seemingly impossible problems with me for hours and hours. Thank you for believing, as I do, that we can do better.

Thank you to people who courageously asked me tough questions. Please continue to speak up and call on our leadership to see things from a new perspective.

Thank you to the entrepreneurs and small business owners who not only risk their assets to open and operate a business, but also give a ridiculous amount of time and energy to the work. Because of your choices, I have a lot of conveniences and our economy is healthy and growing.

Thanks also to one certain entrepreneur who opened a business 124 years ago in Austin. Your actions shaped our community in ways that are hard to fathom.

Thank you to the brave souls who agreed to jump in a frozen lake with me. Thanks also to those who ponied up a donation because they were too chicken to take the plunge.

Thank you to all the people who forgave my mistakes. Thank you to all the people who saved my bacon in ways large and small.

Most of all, thank you to dreamers in Austin.

Thanks to the dreamers who restored the Paramount Theater. The dreamers who launched the ArtWorks Festival and the ArtWorks Center. The dreamers who built the Hormel Institute and keep expanding it. The dreamers who built the Mountain Bike Trail. The dreamers who build Habitat for Humanity homes. The dreamers who started Paint the Town Pink. The dreamers who built the Austin Public Library.

Thanks to the dreamers who are working to make our education system stronger; to make individuals healthier; to prevent bullying; to clean up the Cedar River; to teach English to our neighbors; to cure disease; to attract tourists; to enrich others with music, art, drama, storytelling; to welcome new comers; to end discrimination; to conserve energy; to preserve history; to feed and shelter those in need. Some of you have dedicated your careers to these dreams; others give of your time as volunteers. All of you are needed and appreciated.

Thanks to the dreamers who were inspired by other communities and created Vision 2020. Your creativity, dedication and hard work provided me with an incredible experience and set Austin on a journey to become a better community.

A journey that everyone is invited to go on together.