February 4th, 2023 was an evening to remember! We gathered at the JW Marriott to host Moontower Ball, Notley’s annual gala event to celebrate social impact in Austin. The time had finally arrived to connect, celebrate and to award notable changemakers from across the city.
The toasts began during a lively cocktail reception featuring live paintings from artist Beth Consetta Rubel, melodies from a roving saxophonist, and aura photography.
We were once again welcomed into the Ballroom by catchy tunes from DJ Mel, notoriously recognized as “Obama’s DJ”. The tables settled with guests from across Austin, who care about the community and work to improve the city every single day. These changemakers connected with each other, sharing hugs, handshakes and laughs until the program began.
After a welcome from our Emcee Rashanna Moss and Notley Founder Lisa Graham, we were honored to hear from keynote speaker Amanda Nguyen, founder of Rise, a 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, and a 2022 TIME Woman of the Year.
Amanda shared her personal moments of struggle, vulnerability and triumph navigating the drafting and ultimate unanimous passing of both the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights through the United States Congress and the Survivors’ Resolution through the United Nations General Assembly. Her experiences as a sexual assault survivor, a political trailblazer, a social justice advocate and an Astronaut candidate inspired the crowd to continue their own work with courage, curiosity and integrity.
Afterward came time to present the 2023 Changemaker Awards. This year, we had the pleasure of awarding the following seven hardworking individuals and their teams:
Innovative Startup: Civitech
Building the technology infrastructure that helps Democratic political candidates win, progressive social causes succeed, and local governments better serve their community to create a fairer, more equitable democracy. Civitech recently raised $10 million in Series A funding in Q1 2022 to value the company at $50 million.
Affordability Champion: Nora Linares-Moeller
Driven to action by the 2013 “Keep Austin Affordable” Housing Bond campaign, Nora began consulting with HousingWorks, a nonprofit organization that aims to increase the supply of affordable housing in Austin by providing research, education, advocacy and thoughtful, workable affordable housing policy recommendations. After consulting for several years, Nora was appointed full-time Executive Director of HousingWorks in April 2018.
Rising Changemaker: Nico Ramsey
An active philanthropist in Austin, Nico has worked with Central Texas nonprofits that focused on breaking the cycle of poverty, providing access to affordable health care, and administering safe animal adoption and rehabilitation services, as well as organizations with strategic goals in diversity, equity and inclusion. Nico also serves on the Board of Governors for the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, The Human Rights Campaign and on the executive board of ZACH Theater. He is also affiliated through committee work with the City of Austin’s Corporate Engagement Council, United Way for Greater Austin and Leadership Austin.
Innovative Nonprofit: Code2College
Founded in 2016, Code2College is on a mission to dramatically increase the number of minority and low-income high school students who enter and excel in STEM undergraduate majors and careers. To date, Code2College has folded into the tapestry of schools in over 20 cities across the nation and impacted nearly 2,000 students. The organization has partnered with leading companies, including Atlassian, H-E-B, Indeed, National Instruments and many others, to place high school technical interns in a variety of teams including software engineering, software development, information technology, DevOps, and more.
Racial Justice Champion: Denise Hernandez
The first openly gay Latina Judge to serve County Court at Law #6 in Travis County, Denise has dedicated her career as a lawyer and advocate to serving the community, fighting for equity and inclusion, and building solutions for our most pressing social issues. Judge Hernández also oversees Project Engage, a court-led diversion program for emerging young adults. Project Engage utilizes a holistic community-centered approach to provide specialized support, intervention, and guidance to program participants.
Innovative For Profit: Found
Dedicated to improving people’s overall wellbeing by making evidence-based weight loss accessible & affordable for all. Found emerged from stealth mode with $32 million in Series A funding in Q3 2021 and quickly followed up with another $100 million in Series B funding in Q4 2021 to value the company at $600 million.
Community Champion: Mike Nellis
Chief Executive Officer of Austin Community Foundation (ACF), a catalyst for generosity in Austin bringing together philanthropists, dollars and ideas to build a better Austin today and tomorrow. Guided by their 5-year strategic plan in 2020, their work and leadership is focused on closing the opportunity gap through advancing economic security and affordable housing. Most recently, ACF has worked collaboratively to create the Hispanic Impact Fund to support the economic security and advancement of Hispanic Central Texans, which has donated more than $1 million, and recently launched The Black Fund to unleash the power of Black-led organizations and uplift solutions to benefit the Black community in Central Texas.
To conclude an impactful evening the crowd danced on over to a seventies-themed after party, complete with a high-energy 8-piece party band, reflective disco-ball dancers and a wonderfully sweet cotton candy station. More than enough to keep the party going all night long!
Another Moontower Ball is complete, and we could not be more grateful for all who had hands in the making of this event.
Thank you to each Changemaker award recipient for your contributions to our community. We’re glad to have played this tiny part in recognizing your enormous efforts.
The expanse we allow for ideas is the expanse we attain in our success. Thank you to all who helped us create that expanse last week, and a special thanks to the following sponsors for your contributions:
Award Sponsors: Justworks, Sailpoint, Traverse Legal, Bonterra, J.P. Morgan, Kickstand Communications, IronClad Consulting Services
Cocktail Party Sponsor: Tito’s Handmade Vodka
Valet Sponsor: Maxwell Locke & Ritter
Gleam Sponsors: Everguide Health, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Regions Bank, Austin Woman Magazine
Glimmer Sponsors: MFI Foundation, Baylor Scott & White, Centex Technologies, Deloitte, PNC Bank, Mutual Mobile, Vela Wood, BuildGroup, Tech Girl, Lewis Investments, The Bank of Austin, Marjorie Clifton and David Lack, Kyle and Meagan Hency, Alquist Private Wealth Management of Raymond James, Broadway Bank, Perkins Coie LLP, ECPR Texas, Sarah Jones Simmer, Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, Springdale Ventures.
Thank you to other coordinating members, the awards committee, event staff and Mueller Scott.
As another season of impact comes to a close, and an even brighter one takes its place – we are reminded that systemic problems require systemic change, and systemic change requires community.
If we haven’t said it enough, thank each of you for being our community at Moontower Ball. We hope to see you in 2024!