#TXVoices: Shawn Hohnstreiter, a Career Volunteer

by Lisa Davis on December 13, 2019 in Living Texas, Nonprofit,

Shawn Hohnstreiter helps everywhere help is needed.

Volunteering comes naturally to the Indiana native who believes citizens have a responsibility to give back to communities in need. What started at an early age by remodeling his family’s homes quickly turned into a career and passion for helping others. 

“When the conditions are bad, chances of survival are slim and after others may have lost hope, we know we need to push on as someone may be waiting around the next bend or behind the next tree with an equally strong determination to live and just needing a helping  hand to be returned to their loved ones,”
says Shawn Hohnstreiter. Photo courtesy Silvergraph Studio

Hohnstreiter moved to Austin in 1998 where the philanthropist spent countless hours volunteering for Austin Habitat for Humanity until he was offered a permanent position managing every phase of the nonprofit’s homebuilding process. He stayed for five productive years.

Soon after leaving Habitat for Humanity, Hohnstreiter opened his own construction business, Hohnstreiter LLC. For 18 months, he continued to make the world a better place by focusing on rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. In his downtime he volunteered at Fairhaven Children’s Home

Hohnstreiter came to Texas Search and Rescue (TEXSAR) as a volunteer in 2010, but his talents and experience were quickly apparent to the other like-minded volunteers. Working with TEXSAR came naturally to Hohnstreiter because it combined a passion for helping others with his United States Army Infantry background.

Texas Search and Rescue relies on fundraisers, private and corporate donations, and charitable foundations and trusts to fund the services offered for free to the State of Texas. Volunteers pay for their own training, uniforms, equipment, and time spent away from work and families. Photo courtesy Texas Search and Rescue

As a first responder organization since 2004, TEXSAR has been a leader in providing specialized ground search and rescues, flood and swiftwater rescues, K9 search, rescue and recoveries and dive team operations for 254 counties in Texas, as well as with other states when needed. 

The nonprofit averages one deployment every five days at the request of law enforcement, fire departments and emergency management agencies. Every deployment is free to requesting agencies and are staffed by volunteers who are trained professionals in their fields.

With no two searches ever being the same, the impact certain searches have on volunteers varies, but, “when a search involves a child, it is tough on everyone and escalates very quickly with everyone helping any way they can and hoping for a positive outcome,” says Hohnstreiter.  

Being an all volunteer team at TEXSAR, with no state or federal funding, requires an entire network of many to make it possible, including four-legged volunteers. Courtesy photo

One of Hohnstreiter’s most memorable moments was assisting in the search for Cathy Frye in October 2013. Cathy and husband Rick were celebrating their 12th wedding anniversary by hiking in Big Bend Ranch State Park. They became lost and were not prepared for the amount of days they spent in the desert’s harsh environment. Rick was forced to make the difficult decision to leave his wife behind in search of help, which resulted in a large-scale search. On the morning of day five, it was a true feeling of elation for Hohnstreiter to hear Cathy respond to the rescue team. She was in poor condition and within hours of death, but coherent and elated to be found. 

After a decade with TEXSAR and countless search and rescues under his belt, Hohnstreiter continues with his personal mission of helping people and communities. 


Cover: Shawn Hohnstreiter (left), Brandon Goering (center) and Jeff Turk (right). Photo courtesy Texas Search and Rescue

Lisa Davis lives in Austin and is the Editorial Assistant for Texas Lifestyle Magazine and an honors graduate of Concordia University Texas with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication and Public Relations.