November typically conjures up images of family gatherings, meal sharing, and helping your neighbors. However, as we enter the ninth month of a global pandemic, many of our traditional holiday events are going to look much different.
With the Centers for Disease Control issuing precautions for hosting holiday gatherings this year, we're using this month's History of Austin to uncover some of the city's longest running nonprofits — and finding four fun ways to give back during this unusual holiday season.
Meals on Wheels of Central Texas
Although the agency name has changed through the decades, the fundamental mission remains the same: nourishing seniors and disabled individuals in Central Texas, while offering an variety of free specialized programs to help enrich lives.
The agency was started in 1972 with a small dedicated group of volunteers. During its near five decades, Meals on Wheels has prepared over half a million meals for homebound individuals and local senior centers. Other programs offered include minor home maintenance and repair, case management, technology classes, and respite time for caregivers while their loved ones attend social and educational classes.
Unlike past years, Meals on Wheels volunteers won't be serving meals on Thanksgiving Day. Instead, they will deliver frozen holiday meals on a regular delivery day, Friday, November 20. Learn how to volunteer or donate here.
Feeding Texas & Central Texas Food Bank
Feeding Texas is a statewide consortium made up of 21 food banks in the state. The organization supplies food to over four million Texans, and includes the Central Texas Food Bank, which serves 21 counties across the region. CTFB, located at 6500 Metropolis Dr. in Southeast Austin, opened in 1982 as a part of a national network of food banks that swept the country beginning in the late 1970s.
The concept of food banks was begun by community activist John van Hengel (known as "The Father of Food Banking"), who lived in Phoenix, Arizona. He encountered a woman whose husband was on death row and found herself the sole caregiver of 10 children. She confessed that although she had no problem finding discarded food for her family, it was storing the food was the real problem.
Food banks help eliminate food waste by storing food and produce in warehouse facilities. An estimated 72 billion pounds of food is wasted in the U.S. annually, according to Feeding America. They also estimate that 54 million Americans are coping with hunger. And these numbers have skyrocketed during the current pandemic. In fact, CTFB reports a 220 percent increase of first-time clients since the pandemic began. Statistics show that in Central Texas, one in five adults and one in nearly three children are at risk of hunger (the national average is slightly higher).
In Austin, CTFB has hosted 50 food drives since early March. In August, they distributed over 6.6 million pounds only to shatter that record just a month later in September. Volunteers are currently needed to help safely distribute food during local mobile pantries, which have transitioned into drive-thrus during the pandemic. For those who feel more comfortable donating money, note that your donation will be matched during Thanksgiving.
H-E-B Feast of Sharing
H-E-B's humble beginning began in 1905 when the Butt family opened a small store in Kerrville. More than 100 years later, H-E-B now owns 340 stores serving the state of Texas and Mexico. Along with grocery stores, H-E-B also sponsors numerous community events, including the Feast of Sharing, traditionally held in-person at places like Austin's Long Center.
This year, the celebration will be different. Beginning November through December, H-E-B is scrapping the in-person event and committing more than 340,000 meals to hunger relief organizations and food banks in Texas and Mexico. To help find out how to help in your community, go to Feeding Texas for volunteer opportunities. And don't fret it you're a Feast of Sharing fan — H-E-B said the event will return in 2021.
Thundercloud Subs Turkey Trot
ThunderCloud Subs rolled out its first location in 1975 as a fast-food sub sandwich shop staffed with laid-back employees offering fresh food at a reasonable price. Today, there are over 30 locations in the Central Texas area and although ThunderCloud Subs has expanded in number, their commitment to the community has not wavered.
Turkey Trot was started by the sub shop 30 years ago and the annual Thanksgiving run has raised $4.2 million for Caritas, a local nonprofit that was created in 1964 with a mission of eradicating local homelessness through agency support.
Like other November events, the 2020 Turkey Trot will proceed virtually, allowing participants to walk or run solo, or with your family and friends on Thanksgiving Day. Register for the race, purchase raffle tickets, and learn how to volunteer here.