Photo by Katie Friel

Update: Due to the overwhelming generosity of locals, Casa Marianella is pausing food donations for the time being. Monetary contributions are still being accepted.


Austin hospitals are without water and relying on generators, a high-rise housing low-income seniors is entering its 100th hour without power, critical water mains are breaking, and the entire city is on a boil water notice — assuming you have the electricity to do so.

Tens of thousands of Austin residents are beginning their fourth day without power amid below freezing temperatures, and people across the country are looking for actionable ways to help. In the coming days, weeks, and months, there will be an examination of how this happened and the epic failure of leadership on every level — but we're not there yet.

Below are vetted ways to give money, donations, and volunteer your time to local organizations helping Austinites survive this unprecedented week. As we dig out from this historic storm, we'll continue to navigate the needs of our community and keep this story updated.

Monetary donations

Black Leaders Collective Fund — Black Leaders Collective is creating a coordinated effort to provide critical emergency aid to community members impacted by recent winter storms. Donate here. BLC will also be at Sims Elementary for the foreseeable future giving out supplies to residents in need.

Good Work Austin — Good Work Austin has been working directly with restaurants to get thousands free meals to folks, and says they will continue to do so after the storm. Donate here.

Austin/Travis County EMS — Donate a meal to local emergency workers here.

Tankproof — This nonprofit is pivoting from its central mission of teaching children to swim and on Saturday, February 20, will be in East Austin preparing and serving meals to all community residents in need. Until further notice, all donations made to Tankproof will go towards Winter Storm Uri relief efforts as they endeavor to address food security in Austin. Donate and learn more about the February 20 meals here.

Austin Mutual Aid — Austin Mutual Aid works to help Austin's most vulnerable populations get into housing during this winter storm. Venmo @austinmutualaid or @austinmutualaidhotels. (Note the "s" on the end of hotels.) The group is also looking for drivers with four-wheel-drive vehicles and experience driving on black ice. Clothing donations of cold weather/winter gear, hand warmers, blankets, tents, and food (both perishable and non perishable) can be made at its emergency pop-up at 207 W. Fourth St. More information here.

Casa Marianella —Several of the organization's former clients have lost power and are riding out the crisis at Casa Marianella. Donate directly to Casa Marianella here.

Goods and services

Rebekah Baines Johnson Center — Many seniors have been stuck in their apartments since the blackout began on Monday, unable to use the elevator to leave the 16-story high-rise building. RBJ's food pantry, Serafina, is looking for donations, which can be made on the ground-floor level at 21 Waller St. Shelf-stable proteins (canned tuna, chicken, etc.); non-condensed soup; and other items that do not require cooking are among the items requested.

Austin warming centers — Local warming centers are continuing to look for volunteers. Currently, the city is using CapMetro buses to transport folks to the live-saving centers, but people are still needed to drive and staff the centers. Sign up here.


Know of more nonprofits or organizations in need? Please email details to katief@culturemap.com.

Courtesy photo

Generous Austinites give and get holiday cheer at Frost Bank's donation drive-through

The Gift of Hope

Austinites in the mood to give had a worthy place to direct their energy on December 10: the Frost Bank and CultureMap donation drop-off, benefiting Central Texas Food Bank.

During the two-hour event, more than 700 pounds of nonperishable food items — which CTFB will turn into nearly 600 meals — were handed over at Lamar Union Plaza, and those who donated received a few surprises in return.

Santa Claus himself was there, visiting with those who drove up to donate and neighborhood residents who stopped by on their evening walks.

Frost Bank swag was waiting for those who donated, along with $10 Frost It Forward cards to continue spreading optimism.

This generous gesture from Frost Bank echoed the Optimism Starts With You mural by Mike Johnston, which was located directly across from the drop-off point in front of the Alamo Drafthouse.

Those who attended the donation event also got a head start on entering the social media contest by snapping a selfie by the mural and using #OptForOptimism to enter.

If you'd like a shot at winning the grand prize packages from Lamar Union Plaza — which includes a $100 gift card to Caffe Medici, $40 to Finley's Barbershop, $50 to Shake Shack, $50 to Jjim BBQ, two gift cards for a small treat at Lick Honest Ice Creams, a 10-pack of classes to Orangetheory South Lamar, a 500 mg Broad Spectrum tincture and 400 mg Spot Cooling Lotion from Greenbelt Botanicals Co. (worth $90), $50 to TLC, and $50 to Soto South Lamar — there's still time. Get your post up before December 31, when we'll pick one lucky winner.

The items received from the event are more important than ever to Central Texas Food Bank, which is on the front lines of hunger for an average of 200,000 people each month.

When CTFB was established in 1982, its goal was to help the hungry in the community. Over the years, the weak economy has increased challenges for clients who have turned to food pantries for food assistance.

Now it works with partner agencies in 21 counties across Central Texas, and it provided more than 39.2 million pounds of food to families in need during the 2017-18 fiscal year.

If you missed the event but would still like to contribute to CTFB's important mission, please make a donation this holiday season.

Those who stopped by were encouraged to snap a photo at the nearby mural.

Frost Austin donation drop-off
Courtesy photo
Those who stopped by were encouraged to snap a photo at the nearby mural.
Photo courtesy of Central Texas Food Bank

Help feed Austin's hungry at Frost Bank's donation drop-off event

The Season of Giving

Looking for a way to give back this holiday season? Then mark your calendar for Thursday, December 10, when CultureMap and Frost Bank are hosting a donation drop-off from 4-6 pm benefitting Central Texas Food Bank.

Donations will be accepted at Lamar Union Plaza, in front of the Alamo Drafthouse. Help CTFB be on the frontline of hunger for an average of 200,000 people each month by bringing these food items to donate:

  • Peanut butter
  • Canned chicken breast or tuna
  • Canned low-sodium vegetables
  • Canned fruit in its own juice (no sugar added)
  • Dry pinto beans
  • Brown rice
  • Non-fat dry milk powder
  • 100% whole grain cereal

When you bring five or more donation items, you'll receive a $10 Frost It Forward card (while supplies last) as yet another opportunity to spread generosity and the power of optimism.

Everyone who donates will also get the chance to win a special grand prize that includes a $100 gift card to Caffe Medici, $40 to Finley's Barbershop, $50 to Shake Shack, $50 to Jjim BBQ, two gift cards for a small treat at Lick Honest Ice Creams, a 10-pack of classes to Orangetheory South Lamar, a 500 mg Broad Spectrum tincture and 400 mg Spot Cooling Lotion from Greenbelt Botanicals Co. (worth $90), $50 to TLC, and $50 to Soto South Lamar.

To enter, visit the Optimism Starts With You mural by local artist Mike Johnston at 1100 S. Lamar Blvd., facing the Alamo Drafthouse. Snap a photo of the mural and share it on social media using #OptForOptimism. We'll choose a grand prize winner on December 31.

Stick around after you donate to enjoy special same-day discounts from Lamar Union Plaza businesses, including a one-time free shake from Shake Shack with any $20 purchase (redeemable in the Shake Shack app), corporate membership rates to Orangetheory Fitness Lamar, 10 percent off at Lick Honest Ice Creams and TLC, and 25 percent off at Greenbelt Botanicals Co.

When the Central Texas Food Bank was established in 1982, its goal was to help the hungry in the community. Over the years, the weak economy has increased challenges for clients who have turned to food pantries for food assistance. Now it works with partner agencies in 21 counties across Central Texas, and provided more than 39.2 million pounds of food to families in need during the 2017-18 fiscal year.

Help make sure your neighbors don't go hungry.

Mobile food pantry
Photo courtesy of Central Texas Food Bank
Help make sure your neighbors don't go hungry.
Photo courtesy of ThunderCloud Subs

4 fun ways to support Austin charities during the pandemic holiday season

History of Austin

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.

The Turkey Trot is going virtual, but that doesn't mean you can't trot in a turkey costume.

Turkey Trot 2020 socially distance picnic thanksgiving austin
Photo courtesy of ThunderCloud Subs
The Turkey Trot is going virtual, but that doesn't mean you can't trot in a turkey costume.
Photo by Ben Porter Photography

Austin nonprofit's big event goes virtual to keep local music alive amid COVID-19

Charity Spotlight

Every fall, Health Alliance for Austin Musicians brings together local music lovers and performers for a day full of fundraising and concerts across town. But, like many things in 2020, the organization is putting a virtual spin on its annual event to support the musicians when they need it the most.

On September 15, a virtual version of HAAM Day will celebrate the nonprofit's 15th anniversary and provide you with opportunities to tune in to live music and donate to Austin's music community during this unprecedented time.

"It's been just over four months since the live music scene in Austin was dealt an unexpected and astronomical blow — a hard, fast halt on live music. This meant that thousands of Central Texas musicians, who rely so heavily on their weekly and monthly gigs, were now without any source of income," notes a release.

"As the effects of COVID-19 continue to wreak havoc on the Austin music community, HAAM knows that now more than ever, access to affordable, quality healthcare is vital to our musicians maintaining their livelihood and their ability to remain in Austin, creating the music we all love. It's for those reasons that they have decided to create the very first virtual HAAM Day!"

Traditionally, on HAAM Day, fans can stumble upon live music performances at restaurants, bars, grocery stores, and even corporate campuses across Austin. This year, HAAM Day will feature 15 hours of live music streaming across platforms like Facebook Live and YouTube.

The nonprofit is currently seeking entertainers to join the lineup, and, given the virtual pivot, HAAM will be able to include "a wide range of talent more reflective of the diverse array of musicians [the] programs serve," says the release.

HAAM hopes to raise more than $600,000 on September 15 — funds that will go directly to its mission of providing affordable healthcare to Austin's low-income musicians. But, HAAM reminds that this day is about more than just money — it's "dedicated to supporting, enjoying and discovering the local musicians who help create the Austin that we all love."

Performers can register for HAAM Day online, and the organization is also seeking sponsors for the 2020 event. More details on HAAM Day's virtual programming will be released in the coming weeks, but mark your calendar now.

Photo courtesy of United Way for Greater Austin

City of Austin announces $6 million in COVID-19 relief grants for local nonprofits

Nonprofit News

KVUE — The Austin City Council has approved more than $23 million to help nonprofits and businesses during this COVID-19 pandemic, and now those affected can apply for help.

On July 7, the City of Austin opened the application process for the Austin Small Business Relief Grant and the Austin Nonprofit Relief Grant. Businesses could receive up to $40,000, and nonprofits could get up to $20,000.

“Austin’s nonprofit organizations and small, local businesses play a vital role in building healthy and vibrant communities across our city,” said Sylnovia Holt-Rabb, acting director for the City of Austin Economic Development Department.

“As directed by Austin City Council, these grants will help strengthen small, local businesses, and organizations so they can continue to provide crucial services, retain employees, complete health and safety improvements, and remain open and operational.”

The nonprofit funding of $6 million will allow applicants to apply for a one-time grant up to $20,000. The council approved the distribution of funds to the following areas:

  • Health and human services: $2,000,000
  • Workforce development and social/legal services: $1,250,000
  • Education: $1,250,000
  • Arts and culture: $1,000,000
  • Environment and animals: $500,000
  • Other: $350,000

The application process will close at 5 pm on Friday, July 24.


For the full story, including the small business grant parameters, please visit KVUE.com.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Breathtaking Hill Country hideaway is one of Vrbo's top 10 vacation homes in the country


A magnificently hidden home located just an hour away from Austin has been chosen as one of Vrbo's "Vacation Homes of the Year" for 2023. It was the only Texas home chosen out hundreds of thousands of private residences on the vacation rental site.

The Vacation Homes of the Year showcases several popular homes throughout the country (with the occasional international spot) that range from "idyllic lakeside escapes to cozy mountain retreats and desert paradises." In all, two homes are based in California, and one each in Arizona, North Carolina, Oregon, New York, Florida, South Carolina, Idaho, Colorado, and Mexico.

Texas' Hill Country Riverfront Hideaway is tucked away on five acres of land bordering the Pedernales River in Dripping Springs. The home spans 2,150 square feet with an open-concept living area, three spacious bedrooms, two lavish bathrooms, a modern chef's kitchen, fireplace, and a breathtaking wrap-around terrace.

Floor-to-ceiling windows complete the space, allowing guests to take in all of the tranquility the Hill Country has to offer. With the home's 430 feet of river access, visitors can enjoy escaping the city and relax into the views of the vast canyon below.

Dripping Springs Riverfront HideawayImagine a getaway to this Hill Country paradise. Photo courtesy of Vrbo

The property is within a half hour drive to many of the finest wineries, breweries, and must-see outdoor recreation spots in nearby Dripping Springs. Fredericksburg is only an hour's drive west for those wanting to put a greater distance between them and downtown Austin.

The average nightly cost for the riverfront oasis is $475, making it an ideal destination for small groups, a family trip, or a couple's getaway.

Dripping Springs Riverfront Hideaway

Photo courtesy of Vrbo

The Hill Country Riverfront Hideaway was the only Texas home chosen on Vrbo's list.

Expedia Brands president Jon Gieselman shared in a press release that there were plenty of eye-catching homes to wade through for the report.

"This year’s Vacation Homes of the Year range from an urban oasis and a cozy ranch home under $400 a night to a beachfront estate that can sleep the whole family and more," said Gieselman. "Every single Vacation Home of the Year has a beautiful view, and combined boast seven private pools and fire pits, eight hot tubs and even five putting greens."

The full list of Vrbo's 2023 Vacation Homes of the Year are:

  • No. 1 – The Oasis Estate in Palm Springs, California
  • No. 2 – The Happy Roadrunner in Phoenix, Arizona
  • No. 3 – The Chasestone in Lake Norman, North Carolina
  • No. 4 – The Contemporary Gem in Manzanita, Oregon
  • No. 5 – Ocean View Oasis in Montauk, New York
  • No. 6 – The Riverfront Hideaway in Dripping Springs, Texas
  • No. 7 – 30A My Way in Rosemary Beach, Florida
  • No. 8 – Port of Call in Isle of Palms, South Carolina
  • No. 9 – Salmonfly Lodge in Victor, Idaho
  • No. 10 – Trestle House in Winter Park, Colorado
  • No. 11 – Villa Luna Nueva in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
More information about Vrbo's 2023 Vacation Homes of the Year can be found on their website.

Whataburger weighs in as healthiest cheeseburger in the nation


With its love of greasy enchiladas, gluttonous fried steaks, and fat-speckled brisket, Texas isn’t always known as a healthy eating mecca. But it turns out that one locally beloved dish isn’t as unhealthy as one might think.

Inspired by February’s American Heart Month (albeit belatedly), Gambling.com decided to dig deep into which fast-food burger was best for the ticker and the body overall. What that has to do with online slots is anyone’s guess, but perhaps open-heart surgeries are not conducive to risk-taking.

Surprise, surprise, surprise! Local favorite/ food cult Whataburger took the top slot, earning honors with its standby cheeseburger. Assumably, the gambling site considered the mustard-slathered original, eschewing calorie bombs like bacon slices and creamy pepper sauce. Where’s the fun of Whataburger if you can’t get it just like you like it?

To arrive at the rankings, Gambling.com analyzed each burger for sugar, fat, salt, and calorie content per ounce. Each metric was given a one to ten score that factored into the final report card shared with content-hungry food journalists everywhere.

Coming in a close second was In-N-Out’s cheeseburger, a comforting fact for Texans who enjoy complaining about Californians. Rounding out the top five were Checker’s Checkerburger with Cheese, Culver’s ButterBurger Cheese, and Del Taco’s del Cheese Burger.

For those trying to make better eating choices, that list should give some pause. Yes, Whataburger beats out other fast-food faves, but it was competing against a chain that literally toasts all their buns in churned cream. Health is a relative concept.

Elsewhere on the list was another Texas darling, the No. 6 ranked Dairy Queen. Apparently, all that “hungr” is being busted by a hefty dose of sodium. Yes, we will take fries with that.

Texas ranks No. 2 best state to start a small business in new report


Texas regularly ranks highly among business-friendly states, earning the No. 1 spot in Chief Executive magazine's recent annual report and the No. 5 spot in a February study of the best states for female entrepreneurs. Now, new research shows the Lone Star State stands out as one of the best places to start a small business, specifically.

Business credit card experts Capital on Tap determined Texas is the second best state to start a small business, right after Florida. They retrieved their data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics based on several factors, including new firm survival rates, corporate tax rates, the number of entrepreneurs per state, and more.

Texas has very friendly tax frameworks when it comes to small businesses; it is one of five total states that don’t impose any income tax. Furthermore, all Texas businesses that make less than $1.08 million in revenue don’t owe any franchise tax. That also includes all businesses that have less than $1,000 in tax liability.

If a small business owner in Texas needed to take out a loan, they’d be able to secure $4,811 per employee, which is the fifth-highest average loan amount in a calculation of all 50 states.

Capital on Tap COO Damian Brychcy says in a release that the decision to start a small business involves assessing several factors and risks, but he hopes his team’s research can provide future guidance for businesses and entrepreneurs no matter where they reside.

“Entrepreneurship is driven by the desire for independence,” he says. “This includes the freedom to pursue your passion, choose your workplace and working hours, and foster personal growth.”

Florida earned its top spot in the report due to its strong support of local economies with the highest number of jobs created by start-ups per 1,000 residents in the state. However, unlike Texas, Florida small businesses have to pay a 5.5 percent corporate tax rate.

The top states that are the best places to start a small business include:

  • No. 1 – Florida
  • No. 2 – Texas
  • No. 3 – Idaho
  • No. 4 – Nevada
  • No. 5 – North Carolina
  • No. 6 – Colorado
  • No. 7 – Washington
  • No. 8 – Georgia
  • No. 9 – California and Montana (tied)
  • No. 10 – Utah