Ann Hart has volunteered in the autism community for 30 years, giving countless hours to impact thousands of families through Autism Society of Texas.
Ann Hart has been a core part of the Autism Society of Texas for over 25 years. For the first 20 years, the organization was entirely run by volunteers and has been able to positively impact thousands of parents in need of educational resources and support. Suzanne Potts, former Executive Director, gushes about Ann. “We COULD NOT operate without her! She’s a really phenomenal volunteer – there’s no part of the organization that she doesn’t know or have an impact on and she single-handedly speaks with every person with autism who calls in.” The time Ann has dedicated to the organization has grown little by little until she essentially served as full-time unpaid staff doing just about everything for several years.
She spent at least 6 years serving as Board President and is currently serving as Secretary while simultaneously serving the Advocacy Committee, chairing the Governance Committee and serving on the Texas Autism Council. She’s also spent many years serving as the volunteer Information and Referral Specialist. Beyond that, all Ann does is head up a monthly support group which has met regularly for the past 15 years, while supporting digitally over a virtual Yahoo support network for the same span. Suzanne says the online group is really good for folks who are new to autism or who can’t really leave the house. “It can be very overwhelming, and having Ann to go to for answers and resources online really makes a difference,” she says. She even recently held a training for first responders to become educated about autism, how to recognize the signs, and how to effectively interact with the autistic community when responding to an emergency situation.
As a long-time part of the Advocacy Committee, she is heavily involved with monitoring and contributing to the Texas Legislature, whenever issues come up which will impact the autism community – which is often. Ann has been a great resource for advising on Legislative issues because she’s been around for so long that she very often will know a lot of background and history surrounding issues or at least knows who to call for more information. She has been very involved with the national-level organization, the Autism Society of America, and has even testified at the Texas Capitol in support of relevant legislature helping improve quality of life at every stage for those with autism as well as for their families.
“She always pitches in, she’ll always help us, she’s always the first to volunteer and she’s a really solid person,” says Jackie Benestante, current Director of Advocacy and External Affairs. “We’re lucky to have her as a board member – we always joke, ‘What would Ann Hart do?’”