Last year’s Season for Caring families have a lot to be thankful about today

Last Thanksgiving, Tony Plunkett and his family were living in an unfinished house with one working bathroom, no carpet and no working kitchen sink.

Curtis Dorrell lived in a broken pickup in the parking lot of a hardware store.

Cherie Mitchell and her critically ill toddler, Cody, were close to being evicted.

These were three of the families chosen to be part of last year’s Season for Caring campaign. For 12 years, the Austin American-Statesman’s charity program has helped our featured families and hundreds of other families like them through Central Texas nonprofit agencies. The 13th Season for Caring will begin Sunday.

This Thanksgiving, the Plunkett family is living in a used mobile home purchased with Season for Caring money. Tony Plunkett, 34, says he now loves washing dishes: “That may sound weird coming from a guy. I can wash them in a sink and put them up in the cabinet.”

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Disabled daughters, elderly mother just want to be together

Long ago, when she knew her twin daughters would never be able to live by themselves, Christine Sands made a promise: She would never take them from their home.

Kathy and Linda Sands are now 43. They have cerebral palsy and spend most of their hours in modified hospital beds in a back bedroom with one window.

But the face they see every morning is the same.

Linda & Kathy Sands

Linda Sands, front, and her twin sister, Kathy, have cerebral palsy and are confined to their beds. Their mother, Christine, right, who has her own health struggles, is their primary caregiver.

Christine Sands, 72, continues to care for her daughters as she has since they were babies. The twins, born seven weeks prematurely, were diagnosed with their condition when they were 9 months old.

Kathy Sands was affected most severely; her movement is limited to gestures with her arms. Her sister, Linda, a cheerful and talkative woman who likes unicorns and ’80s music, uses a computer to work on a novel and network on Facebook.

They live in the master bedroom of a rented, furnished house in Northeast Austin that strains their budget. They dream of a single-level home, ideally with a view from the room that the daughters would share. The bedroom where they live now has a partial view of a drainage ditch. They’d love an extra bedroom because a friend has offered to live with and care for them.

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Obituary for James “J.T.” Templeton: Longtime Advocate for those with Disabilities

James “J.T.” Templeton, born with cerebral palsy and housed for 30 years in a Texas mental institution, wished for an ordinary life. But his advocacy for those with disabilities made his life extraordinary, his friends said.

Templeton died Monday . He was 59.

“Working with him helped develop and open my eyes to the civil rights struggle that people with disabilities are fighting,” said Spencer Duran , a project specialist with the Accessible Housing Austin advocacy group.

Templeton moved out of the Austin State School in 1986, following a landmark federal lawsuit filed in 1974 against what was then the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation. In the 1990s, he was part of a group that sued the City of Austin to make parks and facilities more accessible. He joined protesters who took over former Gov. Ann Richards’ office in September 1991 to urge lawmakers to spend money for state schools on community-based initiatives for the disabled instead.

His close friend Stephanie Thomas said Templeton spoke to numerous lawmakers, including a U.S. Senate committee, and became a “voice for those with disabilities.”

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