Everything feels like life has been upended, but people in Austin have a wonderful way of looking out for each other. I’m here to spread a little joy and information, as I chronicle some of Austin’s stories of kindness and hope in the face of COVID-19.
There’s only one way we’ll to make it to the other side of this, and that’s together (though physically alone). One piece of advice from Mister Rogers, though initially aimed at children, is still comforting:
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’-Mister Rogers
There are businesses and people out there being awesome. I see people ordering to-go food and buying gift cards from local restaurants, starting Facebook pages and GoFundMe campaigns to support out-of-work service industry folks, musicians, artists, or temporarily shuttered businesses. Folks are sewing homemade masks to donate, and fostering hundreds of animals as shelters have shut down for daily business.
Yes, there are scary, frustrating, and maddening things going on. But there are also many kind, generous, and hopeful things going on, too. It helps my heart to seek out and focus on the good. How about you?
Remember, you can participate in many of these initiatives by donating (though you don’t have to, and shouldn’t if your financial situation is suddenly shaky or uncertain). Consider writing online reviews for your favorites, so more people can discover these businesses when they reopen fully.
1/ Crema Bakery
This tiny but fierce bakery and cafe in south Austin was one of the very first small businesses offering free meals for the needy as long as they lasted. As of this writing, Crema Bakery has served more than 450 meals to those in need. The small business also shifted to include a popup market for produce and other essential needs. They are doing this no matter what, for as long as they can.
Crema Bakery has also offered up its own “imperfect produce” for free. This is produce that is so ripe or unpretty they can’t sell it. It’s still edible, though, and can be a source of nutrition for those in need. Follow social media to see when Crema has produce available.
If you want to offer support, then please donate to the cause! Crema also has adorable cookie-decorating kits and Easter egg mini-cake decorating kits for sale. Fun for the whole family!
2/ Tso Chinese Delivery
Tso Chinese Delivery makes and delivers fresh, delicious Chinese food. It’s super delicious, and now the business is being super supportive of our community!
Like Crema, Tso Chinese Delivery stepped up right away, offering free meals to those impacted by COVID-19. It’s called the #TsoGiving campaign, and thousands of meals have been provided to our neighbors in need.
Don’t forget, you can buy your own fresh Chinese food for you and your family from Tso Chinese Delivery. You may also contribute to #TsoGiving by donating on Venmo at @tsogiving.
3/ Teddy V. Patisserie
Teddy V. Patisserie wants to thank H-E-B workers! She is offering drool-inducing, 1/3-pound cookies at the wholesale price of $3. We buy the cookies at the discounted rate, and she delivers them to area H-E-B workers. Sweets for our sweets.
Teddy V. has delivered more than 600 cookies to H-E-B stores so far. Gratitude and community spirit help us lift each other up. Donate or order your own goodies on her website.
4/ Baton Creole
The next time you crave some tasty Cajun food and want to be a kind community member, too, check out Baton Creole food truck, behind Shangri-La bar.
With the Pay-It-Forward Plate, you can donate $10, and Baton Creole will make a full meal to give away to someone affected by this novel coronavirus. If someone is in need, they only need to call ahead, ask how many Pay-It-Forward plates are available that day, and sign up.
Baton Creole also recently delivered 60 meals to doctors, nurses, and other medical staff in the E.R. at Seton Hospital. Owner-Chef Lynzy is using all of the donations to keep the campaign going as long as possible, and pay her employees who want to keep working! Order/donate online. It’s a win-win-win.
Visit Baton Creole to order
5/ K.J. @BakedCrumb
This guy…what a mensch! K.J. appeared in his south Austin yard with racks of freshly baked, vegan French bread loaves and a hand-written sign saying they were free.
Shortly after restaurants and bars closed in-house operations and encouraged people to stay at home, K.J. was out there, taking care of neighbors, friends, and strangers alike.
K.J. has now added chocolate chip cookies to his free baked goods for the community. He is out there with his free goods, dozens of loaves, on Mondays and Thursdays for now. DM him on Instagram for the address if you need or want to try his bread.
He asks you to pay it forward if you can, either now or later, by helping someone else out. If you care to donate to K.J. for supplies and ingredients, you can Venmo him at @bakedcrumb.
6/ Food for Caregivers with Baylor, Scott, and White
Baylor Scott and White Foundation launched its Food for Caregivers campaign on April 8, 2020.
Funds raised are used to purchase lunches and dinners from local food trucks and restaurants for healthcare workers at Baylor Scott & White Medical Centers throughout the Austin region. Many of the vendors are donating product, as well.
Austin Medical Center and Pflugerville Centers are both being served by Chi’Lantro. Buda Medical Center will be fed by Brooklyn Breakfast Shop as well as La Traviata. Steiner Ranch Steakhouse will be serving Lakeway Medical Center, and Smokey Mo’s BBQ will be at the BSWH Medical Center in Round Rock. And finally, workers at Taylor Medical Center will be taken care of by Tarka Indian Kitchen, and the Cedar Park Center by Torchy’s Tacos.
7/ The Soup Peddler
The Soup Peddler recently donated $5,000 worth of soup to the staff at Dell Children’s Medical Center. Yum, soup! So comforting!
8/ El Alma
El Alma is pairing with Partnerships for Children to send a donated family-sized, tinga taco dinner kit to a family in need, matched to the program by the Department of Family and Protective Services.
To order your own meal and donate a meal to a family in need, order online and choose “Comfort Food Care Package Care Donation.” Volunteers will then pick up the donated meal and deliver it.
9/ Hat Creek Burger Co.
Buy a giant hamburger casserole for $18 for you, and buy a second one for a family in need for only $9. Hat Creek will give the second one to a foster family in need through Foster Village Austin, a nonprofit supporting children in foster care and their families.
10/ FSG (Fine Southern Gentlemen) Prints
These guys have a way for businesses to make, sell, and deliver t-shirts. They’ll even help you design a shirt. This service costs $24, with $12 going to the businesses.
11/ Greenbelt Kombucha
Greenbelt Kombucha, my personal favorite kombucha, donated products to front-line healthcare and restaurant workers. The company has also offered to donate product to local community organizations that are out there helping.
12/ Rambler Sparkling Water
Rambler Sparkling Water donated 700 cases of limestone-filtered, sparkling water to the Central Texas Food Bank early on, to meet the increased need across the area.
13/ Mighty Fine
Mighty Fine Burgers offered free meals for first responders and healthcare workers over a weekend in March. They called it “Red, Scrubs, and Blue,” and gave free meals to anyone working on the front lines. Really fine!
14/ Rocket Banners
Rocket Banners is coming through for restaurants, food trucks, and bakeries by giving away free “OPEN FOR TAKEOUT ” signs to restaurants and food trucks. The signs are 2′ x 3′ and eye-catching. Sometimes simple gestures mean so much. Signage isn’t cheap, so this is a clutch move, Rocket Banners!
15/ 101 by Teahaus and Me So Poke
101 by Teahaus is offering a free Boba Tea to all healthcare workers. Sister restaurant, Me So Poke, is offering free lemonade to healthcare workers. 101 by Teahaus is also offering $5 meals, which is a great deal! Me So Poke is offering gift cards at 20 percent off.
You’ve got to love these local restaurants that are working hard to keep the doors open, but are also offering deals to the community and free drinks for our healthcare workers. These two restaurants are also selling family pack meals that look amazing.
16/ Easy Tiger
Easy Tiger started the 10,000 loaves community initiative. Buy a loaf of bread and Easy Tiger will match it (up to 2,000 loaves). The community can donate to the cause or buy a $3 community loaf that is then donated.
Bread loaf recipients are Central Texas Food Bank, Keep Austin Fed, Drive a Senior, and Mobile Loaves and Fishes. Plus, Easy Tiger donated bread to Crema Bakery & Cafe to help feed those in need. Dang, that’s tight.
17/ Vic and Al’s
The Patrizi’s family has dedicated its brand new, not yet officially open restaurant space, Vic and Al’s, to feeding people in need. I’M NOT CRYING, YOU ARE! Honestly, what a stellar thing to do. Vic and Al’s has a Cajun spin on it, so I can’t wait to try it when it’s open.
This initiative began by opening a Vic and Al’s “Service Industry Soup Kitchen” to feed service industry workers who lost their jobs, even temporarily. They campaign has since expanded to serving anyone in need. People have to sign up on Vic and Al’s website for a meal.
There is often a waiting list for the slots. So if you sign-up, then show up! If you can’t show up, please contact Vic and Al’s to cancel, so they can give your spot to someone on the waiting list.
For a restaurant that hasn’t even opened, this is salt-of-the-earth behavior, a true investment in the well-being of our community. Let’s pay it forward when they open or help them out now! Their Venmo is @vicandals if you want to help feed a neighbor in need.
18/ Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ
Valentina’s has offered free lunches (chef’s choice, pre-packaged) to laid off service industry workers a couple of times. Nothing like a decadent Valentina’s meal to make you feel good about life again.
19/ Austin Tea Xchange
This adorable tea house and cafe has donated meals to its local H-E-B and to healthcare professionals.
20/ Roppolo’s Pizzeria
If you spend time on Dirty Sixth or live on campus, then you’ve likely eaten at Roppolo’s. Roppolo’s Pizzeria is sending out trolleys to donate lunches to first responders and hospitals, up to 600 pizzas per week for the duration of the crisis.
They are doing this out of love for our community and appreciation for our first responders and healthcare heroes, but we can donate to help offset the cost to this small local business with a big heart.
21/ Hopdoddy Burger Bar
One of the most popular burger joints in town, Hopdoddy, has launched the awesome Pay-It-Forward deal. Customers can buy one regular-priced burger online for takeout, enter the code Buy1Give1, and Hopdoddy will donate and have a burger delivered directly to a healthcare hero.
Hopdoddy is coordinating hands-free drops with healthcare administrations for the donations. They are donating up to 250 burgers per Hopdoddy location.
22/ Austin Eastciders
After this coming weekend, Austin Eastciders will have given complimentary six-packs of its popular cider to 900 service industry members. Service industry people who are now unemployed or underemployed signed up for specific pickup slots to get their free Austin Eastciders six-pack.
If you are in the group and missed your chance, then no worries. Austin Eastciders is also offering a 25 percent discount to service industry folk throughout the shelter-in-place order. Good looking out, Austin Eastciders!
GoodPop announced on its Instagram page that they are donating care packages to local essential healthcare workers. Followers nominated deserving healthcare workers to receive a bag of yummy GoodPop treats. The giveaway ended last week, but high five to GoodPop for looking out for fellow Austinites. These frozen treats are a delight, and the company is always up to some good!
24/ Delysia Chocolatier
Delysia Chocolatier is helping people in need during the pandemic by contributing 10 percent of sales proceeds to Central Texas Food Bank through April 30, 2020. Owner, Nicole Patel, is matching that with an additional 10 percent contribution from her personal funds, for a total of 20 percent of all sales donated to Central Texas Food Bank, which provides vital relief for a 21-county service area.
Since Delysia announced this initiative on March 31, the Austin business has already raised more than $1,000 to donate.
25/ Austin Meals for Heroes
Can one person make a difference? Yes! Ann Patton’s mother was sick and spent a lot of time in the St. David’s system near the end of her life. Patton was moved by and profoundly appreciative of the healthcare workers who took such good care of her mother. When she realized the havoc this virus was beginning to wreak on our healthcare workers, she sprung into action, starting a Facebook page and organizing meals to deliver to hospitals.
People loved the idea and jumped on board, and now she is working with restaurants, volunteers, and donations to bring all of the best of Austin together for the best of causes.
This Facebook group is working to support locally-owned restaurants, bakeries, and the like while nourishing healthcare workers. There is a Facebook page showing meals, restaurants, and which hospital unit Austin Meals for Heroes is taking food to next.
This Austin company has come up with a direct-to-consumer, easy-to-use, quickly processed test for COVID-19! Yes, the FDA has asked them to pump the brakes for now, until they either authorize the test for full use, or until such time as an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) is put in place. Everlywell invested up to $1 million in labs developing tests that are in compliance with FDA’s EUA guidelines. Well done, Everlywell. We appreciate you.
27/ Texas Distilleries Making Hand Sanitizer
I absolutely love this. This story is about the friendly, plucky Texas spirit (and spirits!) we love. Local distilleries Milam & Greene, Still Austin Whiskey, Desert Door Texas Sotol, Hye Rum Distillery, Violet Crown Spirits, Garrison Brothers Distillery, and Tito’s Vodka are a few of the Texas distilleries who have dedicated time, labor, and equipment to making hand sanitizer.
These companies are donating hand sanitizer in bulk to various places in need, from day care centers to hospitals. It’s not as easy as flipping a switch, though, as documented in this excellent Forbes article.
This Austin startup launched an app used by local farmers, bakers and grocers to sell products. Now they are adding restaurants that have had to close. Restaurants can use Vinder to sell perishable produce, meats, raw ingredients, and baked goods.
29/ Favor and H-E-B Senior Support Line
Favor is partnering with H-E-B to provide same-day delivery of essential items to seniors 60 and over. They are waiving delivery and service fees, and only requiring a $10 tip to the Favor driver.
Senior citizens 60 and older can choose from a curated list of essential items, with a maximum of 25 items/trip. Seniors place orders on a dedicated Senior Support phone line, the Favor app, or favordelivery.com.
Once an order has been placed, a Favor Runner personally shops for the items at H-E-B and delivers them within a few hours. To promote social distancing and limit exposure, all Favors are dropped off at the customer’s doorstep.
The Senior Support Line is staffed by volunteers to accept and process orders over the phone from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., seven days a week. To access the Senior Support Line, call 1-833-397-0080.
30/ Capital Metro
Cap Metro is partnering with Central Texas Food Bank and H-E-B to deliver Help-at-Home kits to Metro Access customers. These are customers whose disabilities and health conditions keep them from riding the regular buses. The Help-at Home kits have shelf-stable items that Cap Metro drivers are delivering before work and at other times to our most vulnerable population.
Cap Metro is also offering free rides throughout April. This allows essential workers to continue to use public transportation to get to their jobs. Equally important, it helps drivers maintain a safe distance from passengers, who will now be boarding the bus through the rear doors only. They’ve also hired cleaning crews to clean and disnfect the buses throughout the day, and have placed “Skip a seat” signs as a reminder to riders.
They are asking that people ONLY ride the bus during the shelter-in-place for essential transportation. Thanks, Cap Metro!
H-E-B started in the Texas Hill Country (Kerrville) and has shown up time and time again throughout this crisis, to the point of gaining national attention. H-E-B is rocking this, from staying stocked, to partnering for deliveries with Favor, to launching the #texanshelpingtexans campaign.
H-E-B has donated and enforced social distancing in line at stores. Most recently, it is supporting local restaurants by selling prepared meals at H-E-B, starting with Fresa’s Chicken al Carbon, Ramen Tatsu-ya, and Picnik. H-E-B, you’re the best!
You’re likely on the same emotional roller coaster we’re all experiencing now. The lowest point is tapping into the growing, worldwide communal dread and anxiety that’s traveling at the same alarming rate as the virus itself. For me, the high has been seeing people and businesses making an extra effort to take care of each other, to look out for and lift each other up.
I hope these examples of beautiful people right here in Austin, doing right by each other, brightens your day, too. It helps me to hold onto the good, to remember it’s not all doom and gloom, though all feelings are valid, and most of us are going to go through many feelings as this pandemic continues to change life as we know it.
If you are depressed or need more support than you have access to at home, then please reach out to these excellent resources that are available to you. For 24/7 help, text “HOME” to 741741 National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or call the new mental health hotline for Texas Health and Human Services at 833-986-1919.
In the meantime, let’s all pay attention to what we need to do for the public good. We love you, Austin.
@theAustinot wants to know:
What good have you seen during the COVID-19 crisis? Let’s celebrate the helpers!