Q & A With Karisti Julia, President, AWARE

Nonprofit name: AWARE

Your name and title: Karisti Julia, President 2021-2022

Website: www.awaredallas.org

  1. State your nonprofit’s mission:

AWARE is dedicated to fighting Alzheimer’s disease by providing funding and support to programs, projects, and research provided by nonprofit organizations that actively help individuals affected by Alzheimer’s in Dallas and the greater North Texas area. 

2. Give us a brief history. Who founded this nonprofit?

Founder, Evelyn Ponder, and first-elected president, Cyndy Hudgins, led a small group of passionate and civic-minded Dallas women to create AWARE in 1989.  Since that time AWARE has raised and donated nearly $14,000,000 in support of its mission. Today, the AWARE mission continues with men and women of all ages who have joined our fight.

3. How did your career path lead you to this position? What were some prior jobs you held?

This is always a favorite question of mine!  When I first moved to Dallas in 2000, I was on a mission to find somewhere to volunteer.  I had no idea the long-term health care industry even existed!  I had always volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House in Amarillo, so when I got moved and settled in Dallas, I went to the Forum at Park Lane and asked if they had any volunteer opportunities.  The sweet lady at the front desk said, “Absolutely!” and that was the start of my journey.   I started the following week calling BINGO every Tuesday night for about a year then was offered a position as their Activity Director.  This opened the door to senior communities to me. I was thrilled then and I still am! 

4. Why are you passionate about helping this charity? Do you have a personal story to relate?

AWARE is unique to this cause!  I believe donors like to know where their charitable dollars are being used and that they are being used in support of their local community.  Donating to AWARE does just that.  Once AWARE completed its move to become a component fund of The Dallas Foundation in 2014, AWARE was able to ensure that all volunteer time invested and all donor dollars raised were used in support of nonprofit organizations in Dallas and the greater North Texas area.

Working in a senior community for so many years I have seen the hardships and sadness that comes along with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.  AWARE support for educational outreach, caregiver respite, art-based therapies, and in-home services has allowed me to witness firsthand the smiles and happiness and the relief that care giving provided with tools and emotional support can provide.  AWARE support of research for the cure and research for on-going therapies reaffirms my hope that one day my job will become a thing of the past.  This is what keeps me going.

5. What is the most important thing your nonprofit does for our community?

Membership in AWARE provides members with a network of individuals and organizations that have personal experience with Alzheimer’s; with the latest information about treatment and research; and with resources into best practices in the compassionate care of loved ones and support of their care partners.  AWARE’s fundraising focus is on awarding grants to deserving nonprofit agencies in our community who develop Alzheimer’s related programs and engage in ongoing research.  All of our grant recipients are from Dallas and the greater North Texas area.  I encourage you to visit our website, www.awaredallas.org.  There you will be introduced to the programs, projects, and research supported by AWARE.  I would then encourage you to reach out to any of our recipients to see their programs in action so you can experience firsthand how AWARE’s support enables these organizations to care and provide for our community.     

6. What is difficult about your job?

The most difficult part of my job is guiding families and care partners through the emotions that come with such a life changing diagnosis and the disease progression.  With Alzheimer’s, family visits can often be quite challenging as one day with their loved one might be a pleasant and happy visit.  The next visit might be completely different in a confusing and unpleasant direction.  The decline and inconsistency with Alzheimer’s disease is devastating, not only for the patient but also for their family and care partners.

7. What is rewarding about your job?

I am blessed to work directly with families.  Even with this awful disease the patient is still someone’s loved one.  When I can help them through their hard times and ease them through this journey with the knowledge that their loved one’s life is respected and that they are cared for, then hopefully, I can send them home with a sense of peace and happiness.  It is those smiles that keep me going.

8. About how many people are served each year?

AWARE is proud to have our 2021/2022 efforts touch the lives of over 20,000 individuals:  Alzheimer’s patients, family members, care partners, professional caregivers, clergy, respite providers, and researchers.

AWARE Grants 2021/22
Patient Care Services0.20833320.83%
Arts Based Patient  and Caregiver Respite and Training0.17666717.67%
Patient and Caregiver Respite and Training0.47547.50%
Nursing Scholarships0.0066670.67%
Patient Care Services:
     Baylor:     Salary support for Care and Support Specialist/                       737 patients/family members/care partners
     Juliette Fowler Communities:     Dementia Care Programs          including “I’m Still Here” and Dementia Friendly Dallas/          150 residents/entire Fowler Community Staff
     VNA:    VNA RN Nurse Navigators:  152 clients evaluated for                        advanced care
     UT Foundation/Callier:     Therabeat:  A Novel Sound Therapy            for Alzheimer’s Patients/Prototype available to 30 patients            Dr. Yune Lee, Primary Investigator
     UTSW Medical Center:    Noninvasive Brain Stimulation to            Improve Memory Problems in Alzheimer’s Disease/15         patients and family members enrolled in initial trials          Dr. Christian LaBue, Primary Investigator 
Arts Based Patient and Caregiver Respite and Training:
     Dallas Museum of Art:  Meaningful Moments /275 Alzheimer’s           participants with care partner/1 trained docent per group
     For Love & Art:  Celebrating the Art Experience for Seniors/           964 patients and their caregivers in 77 Senior Communities
     Plano Symphony Orchestra:     Healing Notes/600 participants           plus musicians and volunteers
     SMU Meadows Museum:     Connections and Reconnections           75 patients and care partners at 3 session programs           presented 4 times per year
     Texas Winds Musical Outreach:     funding to provide 2 concerts           in 95 facilities for 5,770 Alzheimer’s patients and care            partners
Patient and Caregiver Respite and Training:
     Casa de Vida/NorthPark Presbyterian:  28 participants matched            28 trained volunteer partners/respite to 28 care partners
     Center for Brain Health:  Alzheimer’s Voices:  Creating a New            Narrative/ 10,000 via Center’s website and UTube Channel     
     Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden:     Memory Garden            Program/ 100 participants plus caregivers benefiting from            respite
     Ed-U-Care:    Compassion Fatigue Symposium/ 700 participants/                              70% work with Alzheimer’s population
     Friday Friends/Wilshire Baptist Church:   48 participants/40+            volunteers/ 48+ care partners benefitting from respite
     Jewish Family Service:    Older Adult Programming                         70 Alzheimer’s patients and 81 caregivers  
     Senior Source:     75 volunteers/75 patients/approx. 225 care-                                        giver family members
     Stomping Ground Comedy Theater and Training Center:                  Improv for Caregivers:   450 care partners
     Texas Health Resources:   Lifelines Cognitive Stimulation               Therapy:   123 patients and caregivers
     Myrna D. Schlegel AWARE Scholarship Fund:                  Geriatric Care Nursing Scholarships/average 4–5 annually
  • 9. What are your critical needs now, besides money donations?

AWARE is actively partnering with churches, museums, long-term memory care facilities, etc., to provide respite programs not only for Alzheimer’s patients but for their care partners.  Support for the caregivers is presently the most important population in need of support.  More than 16 million Americans provide 18.6 billion hours of unpaid care for people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.  When a church, a museum, or a care facility can provide a caregiver with even a small window of time for themselves; the moment to share a quality experience with their loved one; or give a professional or family member a new tool of communication the quality of life for all is changed for the better.  AWARE needs help in getting as many of these institutions the tools they need to support Alzheimer’s care partners.  Just image if the day when all churches and museums offer respite programs for Alzheimer’s care partners and their loved ones!

10. What upcoming fundraisers are on the calendar? Name of event, date, location, chairs, link, logo.

AWARE annually hosts the AWARE Affair, Celebrate the Moments, a gala evening designed to provide Alzheimer’s awareness and to raise funds to support our grant recipients.   The 2022 AWARE Affair will be held on Friday, April 8, 2022.  This year’s celebration is chaired by Mari Epperson and Sharon Ballew.  Details to come! We would love to have your support!

11. Describe your facility, if applicable.

Our totally volunteer driven efforts are accomplished from our private homes and offices.

12. How can someone help as a volunteer?

VOLUNTEER is the definition of AWARE!  The Dallas Foundation is the fiscal sponsor of AWARE, but our work and our efforts are TOTALLY volunteer driven.  AWARE membership is open to all and I encourage you to experience the camaraderie, support, and volunteer opportunities you will find in its membership.  Our membership information is available on our website, www.awaredallas.org.  You can email info@awaredallas.org or call me directly at 214.793.1759.  Reach out to us, we love volunteers! 

13. If this nonprofit received a $50,000 donation today, where would it immediately be put to good use?

In partnership with The Dallas Foundation, a 501(c)3 publicly supported charity, AWARE conducts an annual grant review process resulting in the selection of the most exemplary organizations in the Dallas and greater North Texas region that are working on the front lines in the fight against Alzheimer’s.  To that end, ALL donations are deposited directly into our grant funding account, which is dedicated to supporting the annual selection of our grant recipients.

14. What are the charity’s goals? What does the future hold for your charity?

I don’t believe our goal is different from any other charitable organization’s goal.  We envision a day when patients and families affected by Alzheimer’s in our community have the resources and education needed to ease the stress and pain of this devastating disease and ultimately to finding the cure.  Thirty-two years ago, six women put this goal in motion.  With the support and strength of our community, AWARE will hold true to the vision of these remarkable women so that one day this work will not be needed.  Until then, we will continue to work to support those who can best serve the needs of the patients and the caregivers and also provide for the support of research for the cure. 

15. What is the most memorable thing that has happened since you began?

It’s the board and volunteers of AWARE, who just do not stop nor take no for an answer, to the thank you emails from the grant recipients updating us on what and how they are helping so many people.  It is just amazing and inspires me want to do more!

16. Any other question or points you would like to make that we have not asked.

Alzheimer’s can affect anyone. Join AWARE today and help us spread the word.  Be a resource to the community in this fight!

(This Philanthropy Lifestyles Q & A eBuzz courtesy AWARE. Sharon Adams, Adams Communications Public Relations is honored to represent AWARE.)


Principal of Philanthropy Lifestyles (formerly SocialWhirl.com), the award-winning eBuzzNewsletter and Adams Communications Public Relations, a boutique PR firm specializing in media and community relations for small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Sharon is also a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in Dallas Business Journal, Katy Trail Weekly, People Newspapers (Park Cities People and Preston Hollow People/North Dallas People), Preston Hollow Life magazine, The Park Cities News, White Rock Lake Weekly, numerous blogs and websites and more.