By Adam Poulisse
PASADENA – Like all successful artists or businessmen, Augie Schlanger knows the suit makes the man. He never leaves the house wearing anything less than a suit and tie — a bow tie if he wants to feel particularly dapper.
Yet, like all 6-year-olds, he can’t eat a candy cane without staining his mouth and hands.
Still, Augie’s talents as an artist and leader are beyond his years. His several renditions of Jack Skellington from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” are more than just stick figures. People who make animated blockbusters at Dreamworks Animation buy up some his abstract drawings, like a Snowman barreling through cities a??la King Kong.
“I love to do art, art, art and draw, draw, draw,” Augie said with a blue mouth and half-eaten blueberry candy cane in his hand Tuesday evening at the Schlanger’s kitchen table in their Bungalow Heaven neighborhood home.
Rallying his neighbors and classmates, Augie led a fundraiser with handmade arts, crafts and baked sweets in his own front yard, attracting at least a hundred people and netting $457, plus non-perishable donations, for Union Station Homeless Services in Pasadena.
“If a 6-year-old can raise (almost) $460, our adult community can pull together, too,” said Augie’s mom, Nickella Schlanger.
When the Schlangers get onto the 210 Freeway from Lake Avenue every morning to take Augie and his 9-year-old sister Emory to San Rafael Elementary School, Augie always notices the homeless who congregate near the ramp.
“I felt sad and wanted to help,” Augie said, “because they have no food, money or houses.”
On the ride home from school, his mom usually rolls down her windows so Augie can give them some leftover Goldfish crackers or granola bar.
“That’s why I don’t eat all my lunch, just in case I see one,” Augie said.
He told his mom he wanted to round up all the kids in the neighborhood and at school to make art that could be sold, and then take the money to Union Station to help.
Initially his mother, knowing how busily her friends and family members hustle and bustle for the holidays, swept the idea under the rug. She hoped Augie would do the same.
“He’s got a wonderfully big, kind heart,” Mom said. “I see him thinking outside himself. When you’re 5 or 6, you’re thinking me, me, me, me.”
Mom finally conceded to the art sale (“It’s not an art show,” Augie sternly corrected. “When I think of show, I think of dancing.”).
On Saturday, about a hundred people swarmed the Schlanger’s front yard.
“It’s that idea of community building,” said Augie’s dad Jed Schlanger, who is a Dreamworks animator. “It actually raised awareness, and it connected us with neighbors and friends.”
Money came in from as far as Illinois, where Mom is originally from, and Greensboro, N.C., where Grandma and Grandpa live, Augie said.
“I didn’t expect such a large donation,” Union Station spokeswoman Dana Bean said. “We were impressed with Augie and how much he raised.”
“I think it reminds us that everyone can make a difference,” Bean added. “Augie is really inspirational because he had this idea and had compassion to come up with all this. I think everyone can learn from Augie.”