Florence’s Comfort House: Love’s in Need of Love Today

Montopolis refuge kicks off fall donation drive for goods, toys

Florence Ponziano and her great-grandson, Josiah (photo by Todd V. Wolfson)

Amidst hundreds of worthy charitable efforts in Austin, Florence's Comfort House stands out as a "Do-It-Herself" miracle. For decades, Florence Ponziano has used her Montopolis home (515 Kemp) as a hands-on refuge for neighborhood children (and occasionally their families), and a place of warmth, creativity, adventure, education, and yes, comfort. Ponziano has done so with what resources she and her small volunteer board of supporters can wrangle together – backpacks for schoolkids, toys for youngsters, playscape for after school, field trips for kids who yearn for knowledge, and reams of spectacular art to be admired as well as sold for fundraising.

Florence does most of the work on her own, but if she is to continue it, she and her team need help from other Austinites. This year, they're trying a new strategy: an online donation calendar where you can "sponsor a day" in support of Comfort House. For $100 – or as much as you can manage – you can adopt a day in November or December, in order to do what you can to support Florence and her work. "Everybody needs so much help that we can't keep up," Florence said last week, "but please thank everybody who has helped us in any way. We really need the help – we've always just got a month or two before we run out of funds, but I can't worry about it because we just have to keep working. Thanks to all the people who help us."

In addition to perennial needs like toys, diapers, blankets, miscellaneous clothes, she mentioned a baby cradle and baby boy clothes – one of her young charges will be giving birth in a couple of months. More shyly, she mentioned that she herself could use an eye exam and new eyeglasses: "It's getting harder for me to read to the kids."

Comfort House has also posted an Amazon wish list where you can browse and purchase gifts and necessities large and small. As board chair Jessica Frick puts it, "Florence has been providing a safe space and support for the children of Montopolis at Comfort House for more than 20 years. She does everything from making sure they have the basics to teaching them to give back to their community."

Florence's Comfort House Wish List

• Diapers, pull-ups, other baby stuff, and clothes for kids/teenagers (new or very gently used)

• Toys on the kids' Christmas wish lists: Ninja Turtles figures, Peppa Pig figures, Calico Critters, metal hand bells, Guardians of the Galaxy figures, Tickle Me Elmo, Dinosaur + Dragon toys, Talking Parrot, Target gift cards

• Florence and the kids also take Christmas gifts to the seniors at a local nursing home: socks/non-slip slippers, blankets, stuffed animals, and books (apparently cowboy novels are popular).

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