For over 20 years, Florence Ponziano has been caring for children in the Montopolis neighborhood of Austin through her own programs and shelter, Florence’s Comfort House.
Inspired by the interest of neighborhood kids who joined her to pick up trash near her home one day, Florence’s efforts to help children in need have grown ever since. Families in her neighborhood, one of the oldest in Austin, regularly confront poverty, unemployment, drugs, prostitution, and violence, and she provides a safe haven for over 200 children throughout each school year on evenings and weekends. From meals, snacks, and clean clothes to educational materials, outings, and activities, in Florence’s words her Comfort House simply provides light.
“There’s always laughter, there’s always love, there’s always care,” Florence says. “The thing I learned is that the less you have, the more you are apt to share.”
Florence believes it’s important to teach the children she serves to give back to the community and instill in them a sense of responsibility for bettering themselves and others in their community. Often you will find Flo and the children helping paint houses, clean yards, remove trash and even cook for the elderly and disabled in the area – all free of charge.
Florence touches the lives of those she meets in a way that inspires them to act. People can visibly see how she is making a positive difference in the lives of the children, youth, elderly, and the community in general. Over the years, many private individuals, businesses, and nonprofits have donated playground equipment, toys, food, and money to help her continue the mission of the Comfort House.