Jamie Wallace-Griner made thousands of people cry all across the world.
The founder of nonprofit Safe in Austin, which has a mission of rescuing animals who in turn help heal children who have special needs or have come from hard places, Wallace-Griner and her story were featured in Season 6 of “Queer Eye.” Almost as soon as the season was released on Dec. 31, 2021, Safe in Austin began hearing from people around the globe who were inspired—and in tears—because her selfless dedication and unyielding passion for animals, many of whom who, without her, would end up dead.
“An out-of-body experience is the best way to describe it at the moment,” said Wallace-Griner, adding that the nonprofit’s Instagram, which had 12,000 followers before “Queer Eye,” has now surpassed 100,000. “I am unbelievably grateful. I’m just trying to juggle making sure everyone knows how grateful I am and not letting this whole thing go by without realizing the magnitude of it. Sometimes I feel like I’m living a dream.”
Jamie Wallace-Griner runs Safe in Austin, where she saves animals and helps children with special needs. (Jamie Wallace-Griner)
A self-described “special-needs mama that likes animals,” Wallace-Griner founded Safe in Austin after witnessing the incredible bond between her son, Jackson, who has autism, and his service dog, Angel. These days, Safe in Austin, which is set on the family’s 10-acre property in Leander, serves as a permanent home to more than 200 rescue animals including pigs, cows, horses, turkeys, ducks, dogs and cats.
On any given day, to walk the property is to witness magic in the making. In addition to frequent public days, Safe in Austin also hosts private Healing Hearts tours that pair children who may have special needs or a history of abuse or neglect with animals that have experienced the same traumas. Safe in Austin also hosts children’s birthday parties and, should turnout ever be low, has a list of on-call kids who will eagerly show up.
“These (on-call) kids have been through a lot and may have significant extra needs themselves, but they’re able to say, ‘Yes, I’m coming, I’m going to be a friend to this kid,’ even when they might not have very many of their own friends,” she said. “They feel special for helping this person, that person feels so much love from them doing that and they all get to share the animals they’re helping with. It’s like you could burst if you think about all the different areas of joy that it brings in.”
The Fab Five surprised Jamie Wallace-Griner with a much-needed barn. (Queer Eye)
Shot over five days in June 2021, the Safe in Austin “Queer Eye” episode spotlights Wallace-Griner’s undying passion for animals and children while also focusing on her need for self-care.
“All five guys are exactly as they seem; there’s nothing fake about what they’re doing,” said Wallace-Griner, a longtime fan of the show. “They’re just genuinely those people that you love on the screen, even when the cameras aren’t going. That was a real gift to find out.”
The admiration was mutual.
“I’ve really never met anybody like you, and I felt that the moment that I came here,” “Queer Eye” cast member Antoni Porowski said in the episode. “Every single person that I speak to tells me you gave them purpose, and that is the most unbelievable thing that you can do for somebody else, just by being you and by creating a safe environment where they can feel loved and protected and taken care of.”
Antoni Porowski, food expert, helped Wallace-Griner find her confidence in the kitchen on the show. (Queer Eye)
Wallace-Griner said she’s still in touch with several of the “Queer Eye” cast members, including Porowski, Bobby Berk and Jonathan Van Ness, who met an orphaned puppy during filming at Safe in Austin and ended up adopting it. In addition to the lessons on self-care and self-love Wallace-Griner received from the Fab Five, there was also a tangible gift—“Queer Eye” built her a barn she so desperately needed for the animals.
“We’ve done so much in the last six months because we have that space. It’s really incredible,” she said, adding that the barn is now “dramatically different than what the world saw. We had to take what they gave us, which was amazing and wonderful, but kind of tweak it into what works for us, specifically for special-needs animals and special-needs children that come out.”
Wallace-Griner would also like to clarify that while she cried a lot during the episode, she really is doing well.
Jamie Wallace-Griner cried during the Queer Eye episode but said she is is OK and understands the stress she is under. (Jamie Wallace-Griner)
“There’s been a lot of concern for my mental health, I guess because I just cried the whole time (in the episode),” she said. “I’m a little bit insane, obviously. You can’t do what I do without being an open-hearted and little-bit-crazy person. But I understand the stress I’m under, I understand when I hit an emotional peak, or like our kids say, when our sensory cup is filled completely. I’m OK. I swear. I just cry a lot.”
In addition to the increase of followers on social media, Safe in Austin has seen more traffic on days that they’re open to the public—Wallace-Griner estimates that 90% of the people visiting in recent weeks learned about them from “Queer Eye.”
“I still speak to every single person that comes on the property first. This is an important thing to me. I want them to share my heart and where we’re at,” she said. “Never before ‘Queer Eye’ did they applaud after my speech, but they keep doing that now, which is super weird. People ask to take pictures with me now, too, which they didn’t before.”
Karamo Brown speaks to Jamie Wallace-Griner on the show about taking time for herself. (Queer Eye)
Of all the ways “Queer Eye” has positively impacted Wallace-Griner’s life, she said the most important is the platform it gave her to inspire others to get involved with special-needs animals and children.
“So many people are saying that they’ve always wanted to do this concept and that I’m inspiring them to follow their dreams,” she said. “I love that aspect because there just can’t be too many people helping animals and children in the world. There’s no such thing as that. So that might be one of the best parts of the whole thing—inspiring that connection.”
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Flyers are less satisfied with the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport than a year ago, a new study shows.
Research firm J.D. Power placed ABIA at No. 15 on a list ranking overall customer satisfaction at large airports, a slip from last year’s spot at No. 7. Other Texas airports secured rankings ahead of Austin, with Dallas Love Field at third, Houston Hobby at eight, and San Antonio International Airport at ninth.
Dallas/Ft. Worth ranked eight in the "mega airport" category.
The study examined airports based on the following factors: terminal facilities; airport arrival/departure; baggage claim; security check; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage and retail.
On a 1,000-point scale, Austin-Bergstrom received 785 points this year compared to its score of 819 in 2021.
Passenger experiences at Austin-Bergstrom have been influenced by population growth in Central Texas, which has brought record traffic and longer wait times at TSA. And a recent power outage at Austin-Bergstrom caused flight delays. Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power., said that consumer satisfaction with flying has decreased overall.
“The combination of pent-up demand for air travel, the nationwide labor shortage and steadily rising prices on everything from jet fuel to a bottle of water have created a scenario in which airports are extremely crowded and passengers are increasingly frustrated—and it is likely to continue through 2023,” Taylor said.
Bailey Grimmett, a spokesperson for ABIA, commented on the ranking.
“We're grateful that AUS customers continue to rank our airport above average, especially during this year that saw air travel disruption here in Austin and across the globe as airports, airlines and the air travel industry continued navigating the impacts of the pandemic,” Grimmett said. “We look forward to delivering near-term and long-term improvements through our Journey With AUS program to improve the passenger experience.”
That program is slated to bring a new midfield concourse to increase gates and connect to the Barbara Jordan Terminal through an underground connector tunnel.
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By Jonathan Lee
The Planning Commission was split Tuesday on whether to help save an eclectic lakefront estate from demolition by zoning it historic amid concerns over tax breaks and the likelihood that a previous owner participated in segregation as a business owner.
The property in question, known as the Delisle House, is located at 2002 Scenic Drive in Tarrytown. The main house, with Spanish and Modern influences, was built in 1923 by Raymond Delisle, an optician. A Gothic Revival accessory apartment was built in 1946. The current owner applied to demolish the structures in order to build a new home.'
Historic preservationists, for their part, overwhelmingly support historic zoning, which would preserve the buildings in perpetuity. The Historic Landmark Commission unanimously voted to initiate historic zoning in July, citing architectural significance, landscape features and association to historic figures. City staffers recommend historic zoning, calling both structures one-of-a-kind examples of vernacular architecture.
Tarrytown neighbors have also banded together to stop the demolition. Many have written letters, and a few spoke at the meeting. “How could anyone buy this property with the intent of destroying it?” Ila Falvey said. “I think it’s an architectural treasure.”
Michael Whellan, an attorney representing the property owner, said that the claims made by preservationists are shaky. The buildings are run down, he said, and have had substantial renovations. A structural engineer hired by the owner said any attempt at preservation would involve tearing down and rebuilding – an undertaking Whellan said would likely cost millions.
Whellan also argued that any historical significance derived from the property’s association with Delisle and longtime owner C.H. Slator is dubious. “These men are not noted for any civic, philanthropic or historic impact,” he said.
What’s more, according to Whellan, Slator likely participated in segregation as the owner of the Tavern on North Lamar Boulevard between 1953 and 1960.
A city staffer, however, said she found no evidence to support the claim. “We would never landmark a property where a segregationist lived, or there was a racist person,” Kimberly Collins with the Historic Preservation Office said.
Commissioner Awais Azhar couldn’t support historic zoning in part due to lingering uncertainty about Slator. “Focusing on that factor is not here to disparage an individual or family. It is not about playing the race card. This is an important assertion for us to consider as Planning commissioners,” Azhar said.
Commissioner Carmen Llanes Pulido said that allegations of racism should come as no surprise. “We’re talking about white male property owners in the 1950s, in Austin, on the west side – and of course they were racist,” she said. But she argued that allowing the house to be demolished based on these grounds does nothing to help people of color who have been harmed by racism and segregation.
The question of tax breaks was also controversial. Michael Gaudini, representing the property owner, said that the tax breaks associated with historic zoning would exacerbate inequality by shifting property tax burdens to less affluent communities. City staffers estimate that the property, appraised at $3.5 million, would get either a $8,500 or $16,107 property tax break annually, depending on whether a homestead exemption is applied.
Commissioner Grayson Cox preferred the commission focus not on tax breaks but on whether the structures merit preservation. “To me, nothing in the historic preservation criteria lists, is this person deserving of a tax break or not?”
Azhar, on the other hand, said he plans to propose a code amendment getting rid of city property tax breaks for historic properties.
The commission fell one vote short of recommending historic zoning, with six commissioners in support and three opposed. Azhar and commissioners Claire Hempel and Greg Anderson voted against.
The odds of City Council zoning over an owner’s wishes are slim. Nine out of 11 members must vote in favor, and there have only been a handful of such cases over the past several decades.