As our community, and the country, slowly came to a relative standstill, the people and businesses of Georgetown did some of the things that they do best; came together to help each other.
MESQUITE CREEK OUTFITTERS: “HOLD MY BEER…” LITERALLY
While it has become a powerful punchline in our vernacular, the owners of Mesquite Creek Outfitters (MCO) took this phrase to heart and demonstrated the kind of commitment that keeps Georgetown on the top of the fastest-growing-cities list.
When the County announced no gatherings larger than 250, then 50, then ten, MCO began curbside service. When owner Cody Hirt noticed there was a line of 60 or more people, standing close together, on the sidewalk outside, he realized even that was not safe and shifted his services again, to delivery.
When things slowed again to “Stay Home, Stay Safe”, he closed up shop completely for a few days to create a system of pantry food delivery for older residents.
This phase wasn’t just about community outreach. With little work to be done in the building, Cody and his partner, Brad Strittmatter, provided three weeks of pay, a two-week supply of food for every employee and their families, and later set about making them delivery drivers. Cody says, “Our number one thing was keeping our employees safe, and without stress. Managing the business was stressful for us, but we know it was worse for them.”
In early April, they turned the place into a pantry-store and began selling packages of food in two-week bundles. “We included meat, vegetables, and chips, along with pasta, or fish and anything to keep people fed, while keeping our employees busy. We also continue to pour beer and can deliver that to homes as well. It’s better than standing in line, and we will text you once we’ve dropped the items on your porch. We also asked our drivers to take photos of the food and post a quick story about the families we are serving, to keep us all connected.”
In terms of the future of MCO, Brad says, “We were in a beautiful river that was constantly flowing, but every once in a while God hits the reset button to remind us how we’re supposed to act. He has given us this temporary dam to start caring about a lot of things; eating differently, washing our hands, and telling people how much they mean. I know, when we open those gates, people are going to be the flood. Downtown Georgetown is a gem and we will be here to make sure we don’t lose that.”
Brad agrees, “It means so much to receive so many phone calls and inquiries from people wanting to help us. Keeping our employees paid, and their bills paid, is our goal. If we tell our employees they are family, we will back that up because that is who we are as men and leaders.”
We will spend our last nickel to make sure our people are secure. ~ Brad Strittmatter
When they weren’t pouring beer for delivery, or preparing food bundles, Brad and Cody continued to encourage other small businesses, sharing their understanding that many people moved here from rural America, “We have wonderful humans, with great ethics, morals, and values. That is why the melting pot of Georgetown is so beautiful.”
Imagine starting a new job just one week before the world turns upside down and you are asked to set that aside to be a crisis response liaison for a while. That is exactly what Pamela Ward did over the past two months as a coordinator for the County Organizations Active in Disasters (COAD). Under the direction of Mobile Outreach Director Annie Burwell, COAD was formed by order of Judge Bill Gravell to identify and meet myriad needs across the County for the foreseeable future.
Under Annie’s leadership, COAD is able to network and organize between and among faith-based and non-profit organizations across the county to provide “channels” of materials and services to people in need. She surveyed non-profits and churches to ask what they needed and also what they could provide. COAD’s job was then to create a flexible system that would matrix the two appropriately.
Pam provides communication and organization between the County and faith organizations. “I have worked for the county for many years, and I am comfortable working within and extending my own networks to ask for things. I attend meetings with pastors and advisory boards to catalog what needs exist, then I just start thinking of the people I can reach out to as resources.”
Her efforts included finding shelters and funding for people who were evicted or suddenly unemployed. She also connected a construction company with a low-income clinic that needed a hand-up to move forward on their building progress.
This is bigger than us — we are just pushing forward and putting the light on the idea. The more people hear about it, the more eager they are to help. ~ Pam Ward
Under the COAD umbrella, churches in each County precinct have become drop sites for specific items; food, non-medical protective equipment, cleaning supplies, personal necessities and more. In the early days, they focused on hygiene items and toilet paper for neighbors who were homebound, or otherwise unable to acquire them.
As the situation evolves, COAD has developed food channels in cooperation with non-profits like Meals on Wheels. Other organizations provided driving services and other necessities (new and un-used). Items were collected at drop sites and delivered to a warehouse at First Baptist Church in Georgetown, where they were cataloged, quarantined for 14 days, boxed, and distributed to those in need based on surveys and online requests.
At press time, Pam reports that the greater needs have shifted from personal items to food. “We are still at the beginning of this. May 1 was the first time a lot of people did not get a paycheck, so we are preparing to meet new needs as they come.”
Mobilizing mask makers
Williamson County’s Mask Brigade kicked off April 6 at the Georgetown Hobby Lobby. District Judge Donna King headed up the effort with a corps of volunteers hard at work to provide an extra layer of protection for first responders, corrections facilities, nursing homes, and healthcare professionals.
Once the textiles left the store, the overwhelming community response for “The Mask Brigade”, included all ages, genders, and abilities; from private homes as well as many organizations.
On Day 1, the Covid Rangers, a group of five seamstresses were in action to support medical professionals with covers specifically designed for N95 masks. By Wednesday, four more recruits joined their ranks and, soon, one Sun City group−several husband-and-wife teams−worked overtime to have more than 500 masks ready at the end of the first week.
At press time, under the direction of Paula Dennis and Judge King, there were more than 200 volunteers working a production line out of the Worship Place. To date, they have produced more than 8,000 safety masks; simple fabric coverings for people to wear in public.
In Sun City, Judge Gravell reported golf carts loaded with donations, which piled 3-4 feet high at collection sites. Appropriately-spaced workers at the Worship Place cut the fabric, passed it to seamstresses, who bagged the masks for delivery to Reid’s dry cleaners.
Reid’s worked overnight shifts to clean, press, and sanitize the masks for distribution. The store’s owner provided this service free of charge and even used his SBA stimulus money to pay his employees to work the extra hours.
“The Mask Brigade will make masks as long as the pandemic is ongoing and there is a demand for them. We are grateful for any support people can provide. Our goal is to ramp up to produce 2,000 masks per week,” said Judge King.
Sewing Like the Wind
The Mask Brigade helped encourage all interested tailors and seamstresses by providing step-by-step PDF files to make the masks—anyone with a desire to help can do it. Along the way, Paula adds, the team has innovated the process to extend resources and provide more comfort.
Scraps left from cutting the safety mask models are collected and given to Sun City quilters who are donating finished comforters to the Williamson County Children’s Advocacy Center.
Volunteers who crochet are making headbands with buttons to attach to the masks. Paula says this makes wearing them more comfortable, especially around the ears. Softer materials with less tension make it possible for those with hearing-aids to hear better, since the elastic can disrupt the clarity of sound.
For information, email COVID-19Masks@wilco.org.
As one of the largest communities in Georgetown, when the call came from Judge Gravell to mobilize, Celebration Church put many things in motion.
Mel Stauber, Local and Global Outreach Pastor, says the church put together a group that could respond to needs as they were identified; and even launched an automated Serve app ahead of schedule to build teams and staff projects. “Everything just seemed to hit at the same time and we were excited to showcase what the body of Christ is doing across the country and around the world.”
The greatest impact of their teams has been in food packing. With help from their campuses and other local churches like River Rock and City View, Celebration has packed nearly 20,000 boxes of food for the Austin Food Bank. At press time, Mel says they continue to average 840 per day.
Celebration and River Rock also combined three mobile blood drives, for which all the appointments were quickly filled.
By the numbers…
- 21 days
- 694 volunteers
- 2,300 hours worked
- 19,800 boxes of food prepared
- Members of the Mask Brigade at Celebration added 282 volunteers and 573 service hours. Grace Bible Church, Life Church in Leander, and the Worship Place in Sun City are also mask production hubs.
- More than 12,000 masks distributed.
- $10,000 raised for disaster relief (mask supplies and expressed needs)
- Celebration has “mask packets”, enough for 10-25 masks available for checkout by the public. The Central Texas Treatment Center produces 200 per week and comes back for more.
Mel also praised the quick thinking of Travis Claypool, who teaches engineering at Stony Point High School. “He has a laser cutter in his garage and when his mom told him what the Celebration mask makers were doing, he offered up his ‘hobby’ equipment and his time. A manual cutter can cut 16 masks per hour; Travis’ laser can do hundreds, and supplied the seamstresses with thousands of cutouts over one weekend. ”
GIVING AND RECEIVING AT “THE RESERVE”
The Reserve at Georgetown celebrated first responders in Georgetown with a give-back cookout May 1. They prepared and handed out 100 bags with burgers, hot dogs, and all the fixin’s and drinks to say “thank you” to Police, Fire, and EMS personnel across the city.
The Reserve is also a shining opportunity for giving by many others in Georgetown. That same day, Marketing Director Kimberly McQuaid went to McDonald’s to buy breakfast for a staff meeting; the manager took one look at her nametag and said, “No charge.” “Everywhere I go,” she says, “people want to help us care for our residents with discounts, coupons, or free food and they are happy to do it.”
Kimberly said the Reserve staff is managing the extraordinary task of protecting seniors in memory care, all while navigating their regular responsibilities and personal safety. She says, “It doesn’t matter what jobs they do, there are lives in their hands and they all deserve as much support as we can give.”
Staff coordinate daily video chats, window visits from family, and work hard to keep appropriate social distance among residents. “We can not keep our patients locked in their rooms, and it’s heartbreaking to explain again why they are not able to see family or have group activities, maybe even until July. It takes a toll on everyone’s well-being.”
They and other assisted living centers have received many free meals for staff from nearby Bush’s Chicken. Just a phone call produced 100 ketchup packets for the cookout; plus a supply of gloves and wipes. She also received a supply of gloves and sanitizer from the mechanics at Kwik Kar on Williams Drive.
Many residents have also been adopted as pen pals by elementary students who send encouraging notes and artwork on a daily basis.
Kimberly says if anyone would like to help, they always welcome food and goodies to support and encourage the staff. Contact Marketing@ReserveAtGeorgetown.com
Just one of the many e-mails sent home from teachers.
I just wanted to reach out to you and let you know that I am thinking about all of your sweet babies. I am here to support you and help facilitate learning for your student to meet his or her individual needs.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out. I am not sure what the next couple of weeks will look like, but please know I am here to support you in any way I can.
Look for a video message from me this week. Please give your kiddos a hug from me!
Sincerely, Your Teachers