It was a muggy Texas morning as five volunteers met in the under-bridge parking lot across from APD Headquarters at I35 Frontage and 7th street for our August modified giveaway. Unfolding our wagons, loading them with bags assembled the day prior at our storage unit. These bags were filled with items like soap, deodorant, insect repellent, socks, and shelf stable foods. Each volunteer also carried a bag of menstrual kits for woman in need and masks for those without. The giveaway continued to Cesar Chavez and San Marcos where folks are lined up at Angel House for breakfast. Concluding our Central Austin giveaway, we finished on the other side of the under-bridge parking lot with anyone who was missed. Approximately 180 bags were distributed. Since our 3 month pause and then the start of modified giveaways, we haven’t seen some of the regular folks we usually see at our giveaways. It was nice to see Miss Jesse who we have not seen since February, and gave her a fresh clean mask as hers was pretty worn.
Recently our organization contacted Austin Public Health: Homeless Services Division to inquire about their Eat Apart Together initiative. This program was started to help those experiencing homelessness acquire food. When the shut-down due to COVID-19 happened, many services closed or changed how they operate. Austin Humanists at Work is now a bag distribution team for the Eat Apart Together initiative. As a distribution team, we are handing out 15lb encampment bags of shelf-stable food to those along the I35 corridor north of 183. Our first distribution was after the giveaway last Sunday. We only had two people help make this distribution happen. So we are calling out to volunteers to help make this happen on a weekly basis. Our distribution team will meet 9am in the parking lot at the Norwood Park Walmart provided we have enough volunteers to make this distribution happen. We also need each volunteer to fill out a liability waiver to have on file before the distribution event. We have seven locations to drop-off encampment bags and can use teams of 2 to help take 1-2 locations. If we have about 6-8 volunteers to make up 3-4 teams, this would get our bags distributed pretty quickly. Please email Virginia: firstname.lastname@example.org to volunteer.
Each month we operate, it takes many hours of work from volunteers and the generosity of our donors. This month we ran a drive to raise money for food that goes into our giveaway bags. Since we have suspended our regular giveaways and give out pre-assembled bags, the regular food donations we get aren’t enough for the 200 bags for each giveaway. We offset physical donations with our monetary donations and make bulk and fill-in purchases. Our Facebook Food Fundraiser brought in $670 which will help us buy food for approximately 5 months. Thank you to all who donated: Sherrie Haynie, Bliss Hanlin, Kyle Jones, Emilie Lutostanski, Carolyn Patrick, Pinky Tejani Merchant, Astrea Lemur, Ann Thurston Henkels, Steve Kluchin, Jesus Urbano, Valerie Ruiz, Greg Franger, Justis Bertrand, Paul Trowe. Along with food kitchens all over Austin providing meals, EAT passing out bags to those in Central Austin, we are looking to provide some fresh fruit like oranges and bananas once again as those items are commonly requested. We will spread these funds out as much as possible to provide items in most need in Central Austin.
As always, a huge thank you to the Patricks for your ongoing sponsorship of our storage unit, and donations of much needed items for our giveaways. On top of their ongoing monetary donations, the Patricks donate, and collect items each month for our giveaways. We do miss seeing Carolyn at our giveaways, but are very thankful for all they continue to do for our organization.
Thank you also to Sherrie Haynie for your monthly donations of items we are in most need. This month we received 72 rolls of toilet paper that went into our bags. Sherrie is also a long time volunteer and we miss seeing you in charge of the bag and TP table, and also helping pick up trash at our giveaways.
Our Gettin’ Knotty Guild not only makes knitted and crocheted washcloths, hats, and scarves, but we accept donations of sewn cotton masks for distribution. A big thank you to Masks in Austin for making another 30 masks for our organization to distribute at our giveaways. Masks are also sold to help offset costs of masks that are made for organizations like ours. We appreciate all your work and dedication.
There are many of our volunteers we don’t see but still show up where ever they can to keep our organization running the best we can during this difficult time. During August, Amanda Preece, the small business owner of Blessed Hot Mess Designs, created a t-shirt design for a shirt fundraiser that benefited Community First Village and Austin Humanists at Work. The fundraiser brought in $200 that our organization split with Community First Village. Thank you Amanda for organizing and using your business to help the community.
Our regular Central Austin giveaway are continuing to happen on the 4th Sundays of every month. Next giveaway is September 27th. Over the coming months we could use more volunteers to help give out Winter Warmth Drive items which will we’ll start to collecting next month. Please send us an email if you’re interested in volunteering.
As a side note, the distribution of EAT bags and our modified giveaway, are two separate volunteering events. If you have any questions or would like to volunteer for either please email Virginia: email@example.com.