During this difficult time, AQUILA has been in search of ways to support our Austin community. One of the most important ways we have found is to give back to the nonprofit organizations in Austin that do so much to serve our local community. Many Austin-area nonprofits that serve our community have taken a big hit because of COVID-19. Some have had to shut down fundraising events that typically help them pull through the year fiscally, some have seen a reduction in volunteers who help run their day-to-day operations, and others have seen an influx in demand for their services caused by this pandemic and resulting economic downturn. Because of this, they need your support more than ever. 

In this article, we are highlighting six nonprofits in our community that have been impacted and what you can do to help them continue their mission, including: 

 

Any Baby Can

Any Baby Can guides parents in building confidence, nurturing relationships and planning for the future so that children – and their entire families – can reach their full potential. By providing services and assistance to children with cancer and other medical needs, children with developmental delays, expecting parents and parents with young children, and parents in need of education, Any Baby Can has been following this mission and impacting the Austin community for forty years.  

How COVID-19 Is Affecting Their Mission

During the current health crisis, Any Baby Can has adapted its services and continues to go above and beyond, supporting families through telehealth and tele-visits. Any Baby Can’s staff partners with members of our community who have been hit hard by COVID-19 including young single mothers, low-income families, and children with increased medical involvement and costs.

New job losses as a result of the pandemic have greatly reduced family incomes, affecting lives in critical ways. Stores and local resource “banks” have limited quantities of basic needs like food and diapers. Families have limited transportation options, making it even more difficult to access food and basic needs. Medical appointments have been delayed, families lack funds for medications and it’s increasingly difficult to fill new prescriptions. 

Any Baby Can’s team of social workers, nurses and case managers are working tirelessly during this pandemic to provide stability in services and help client families navigate their unique situations. 

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Its programs currently have limited funds available to order food and supplies to be delivered to client homes, pay providers directly for health insurances as well as prescriptions and copayments on behalf of clients, or provide case management via phone and tele-visits to help families enroll in available benefits and otherwise navigate this community health crisis. 

Even with all these challenges, Any Baby Can has provided 1,862 virtual visits to 770 clients as of Thursday, April 9. Any Baby Can has also started virtual mental health webinars and virtual moms’ mental health support groups, as well as holding their parently classes virtually.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Any Baby Can had to cancel its signature fundraiser this year, a benefit concert that is held annually. This will likely have a negative impact on their fundraising this year and make their mission in our community harder to accomplish.

How You Can Help

Any Baby Can needs financial assistance to support its programs that uplift those in our community. You can make donations here

Additionally, the organization has a list of virtual volunteer opportunities on its website, including making face masks for staff and clients, sewing blankets for newborn babies, and sending messages of encouragement to their clients.

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Explore Austin

Explore Austin has been serving the Austin community since 2006. Explore Austin uses mentoring, leadership, and outdoor adventure to empower youth to reach their full potential. Through a leadership-based outdoor adventure curriculum coupled with social-emotional learning components and long-term mentoring, Explore Austin is improving the well-being of each participant, their families, and the community. While there are a lot of youth programs in our community, this one is unique in the fact that each Explorer gets a mentor in sixth grade that stays with them until they graduate from high school. 

Each year, Explorers participate in nine “Saturday Challenges”, where along with their class of Explorers and mentors, they spend the day on an outdoor adventure – hiking, rock climbing, fishing, kayaking, etc. In addition to the weekend adventures, each class also partakes in a weeklong Summer Wilderness Trip that grows in challenge level with the Explorers’ age and experience level, ranging from a backcountry wilderness trip to a 14,000-foot climb to the peak of Mt. Baldy in the Colorado mountains

That means over a six-year period, each Explorer gets 1,300 hours with their mentor in which they are being guided and supported in their growth.

How COVID-19 Is Affecting Their Mission

As a result of social distancing and shelter-in-place orders, Explore Austin is shifting its programming. They have canceled all of their Saturday Challenges through the end of May and are assessing how their backcountry summer wilderness trips will change. They are doing their best to run a virtual program during the stay-at-home order. 

The organization has pivoted from its standard event-based programming to virtual activities. They are currently partnering with an Austin-based community wellness app, Blipic, to launch its “Fresh Air Challenge.” The idea of the challenge is to promote team engagement and connection, while encouraging time outside and friendly competition amongst Explorers. Explorers and Mentors receive “Sunshine Points” for their time outside and compete to see which Explore Austin team spends the most time outside over a given period of time. 

help local nonprofits | explore austin

As a majority of the Explorers come from low-income households, Explore Austin has built out a resource center where it is sharing pertinent information about meal distribution programs in the area, internet access options, mental health, ways to support youth during COVID-19, and instructions on how to engage in the outdoors in a socially responsible way. 

In addition to programming changes, Explore Austin, like many nonprofits, was forced to postpone their major fundraiser, Quest for the Summit, and tentatively rescheduled for September. This event typically raises a fourth of the organization’s annual income. While they were able to raise about half of their fundraising goal through event sponsorships, they do estimate that they will see a nearly 40% decrease in overall funding this year. In response to this anticipated limited operating budget, they have slimmed down every expense item possible in order to ensure that the integrity of their program remains and that their staff is supported through these difficult times. 

How You Can Help

Explore Austin needs financial assistance in order to help them stay afloat and continue providing this community program to the city’s youth. On the Explore Austin website, there are multiple ways to give including a one-time donation or a monthly commitment. Or to learn more about making a long-term commitment, find out more about the Summit Circle of Giving multi-year giving opportunity or learn more about becoming an Explore Austin Mentor.

 

LifeWorks

LifeWorks has been a fearless advocate for youth and families seeking their path to self-sufficiency in Austin since 1998. With programs that assist youth in getting off the streets and into jobs and homes, this organization has consistently guided more than 4,000 youth and families each year into better living situations. Many of these people are facing challenges like trauma, homelessness and abuse.

The organization has set forth a goal to end youth homelessness in Austin by 2020, and according to the LifeWorks Stakeholder Briefing they saw a 28% reduction in youth homelessness between 2019 and 2020.

How COVID-19 Is Affecting Their Mission

There are more than 1,600 homeless youth in Austin every year. While this number is alarming in and of itself, imagine the impact of a pandemic on that population. See how LifeWorks staff and clients are reacting to COVID-19:

According to the CDC, homeless services are often provided in congregate settings, which could facilitate the spread of infection. The circumstances we currently find ourselves in as a community are challenging enough in the comfort of your own home, let alone for the youth experiencing homelessness compounded by additional medical, emotional and economic vulnerability as a result of COVID-19. 

LifeWorks shelters or houses more than 140 youth on any given night. These people need food, shelter, counseling, healing and more. The organization is still working to make this happen. 

During this period of social distancing, LifeWorks has converted its Youth Resource Center into a walk-up, drop-by center providing resources to the community including bus passes, food and water, socks, basic hygiene supplies, etc. as well as WiFi access and access to outlets. The program’s residential services, including the LifeWorks Emergency Shelter and PORT, remain open. Additionally, peer support, employment specialists and caseworkers are still working with clients remotely. 

Learn more about the resources that LifeWorks continues to provide during COVID-19.

This year, LifeWorks had to cancel its primary fundraiser which brings in roughly $500,000 in donations. With increased costs in hazard pay for their employees, assistance programs for their youth who have lost service industry jobs, and the uncertainty of the months to come, this is quite an impact for this organization.

How You Can Help

LifeWorks is accepting donations to help with their organization’s needs. These donations will help support the youth living on their own who have recently lost jobs and need food and essentials to stay healthy.

If you are in a position to put together a gift card drive, an initiative to collect gift cards to stores such as HEB, Target or Walmart where LifeWorks youth can purchase groceries and essentials, please reach out to development@lifeworksaustin.org for more details on how you can set that up. Please remember during this time, it is of the utmost importance to respect social distancing guidelines. 

 

National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline)

The National Domestic Violence Hotline, which is preparing to celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2021, supports domestic abuse survivors nationwide. The Hotline has been helping our community since 1996, and in 2019 alone, they responded to 362,897 calls, chats and texts from people across the country. Their guiding light in all of this is the goal to ensure a future where all relationships are positive, healthy and free from violence. They are working to provide hope 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

How COVID-19 Is Affecting Their Mission

Local reports of domestic violence have spiked during the COVID-19 induced stay-at-home orders as people are finding themselves in increasingly stressful situations. And the situation is not limited to Austin; the New York Times reported a worldwide increase in domestic abuse as a result of social distancing and restricted movement. Job losses and fears around the pandemic have assisted in the rise of domestic violence.

The virus has now kept families in homes in a time ‘when stress is high and likely to cause more anger and frustration even in families without abuse.’”

Coronavirus isolation raises concerns for domestic violence survivors, experts say, NBC News

In an interview with NBC News, The Hotline’s staff shared stories of women being told to wash their hands so much their skin was raw. Some were being kept from their children or locked out of the house due to fear of the virus. People that normally get a reprieve from abuse by going to school or work now find themselves in uncomfortable and often dangerous situations. In response to this situation, The Hotline has issued specific recommendations for survivors during this time of shelter-in-place: Staying Safe During COVID-19.

How You Can Help

The Hotline is accepting donations to help keep their programs running and serving the community. On social media, the organization shared messages encouraging people to continue to check on survivors they may know and to share with them ways to contact The Hotline and similar organizations.

If you or someone you know is affected by domestic violence, get help at thehotline.org or by calling 1-800-799-SAFE.

 

Partnerships for Children

Partnerships for Children’s primary goal is to empower and support abused and neglected children in the care of child protective services. They do this through five main programs:

  • The Rainbow Room provides essential supplies to children who have recently been removed from their homes or schools.
  • The Heart Gallery is a portrait exhibit and community education/outreach initiative that brings to life the personalities of children waiting to be adopted.
  • The Youth Empowerment and Success (YES) Mentoring program matches young adults with people who are able to be positive influences and be a supportive presence in their life.
  • Holiday Wishes is an annual drive to help children in the system have a happy and as normal as possible Christmas experience.
  • Foster Community is a network of nonprofits, government agencies, and community leaders dedicated to increasing the number and diversity of healing foster and adoptive families in Central Texas.

Through these five programs, Partnerships for Children fosters our community and provides support, compassion and guidance to our next generation. In 2019, PFC helped 13,492 children receive basic necessities, 71 children find forever families and 86 youth engage with community mentors.

How COVID-19 Is Affecting Their Mission

Partnerships for Children is keeping three of its programs running during COVID-19 to serve the needs of the community: the Rainbow Room, YES Mentoring and the Heart Gallery. In addition, they are also adding special COVID-19 programs to assist those in foster homes, adoptive care and mentees who have aged out of the system. 

help local nonprofits | partnerships for children

The greatest unmet need they are currently challenged with is providing food for these children, young adults and their families, as many of the people the organization serves have been deeply affected by COVID-19 and the resulting economic downturn. 

In response, they have implemented a program called Comfort Care Food Packages where they are partnering with local restaurants like Cover 3 to provide hot meals that are delivered directly to families in need at no cost to them. According to the program guidelines, meals should range between $50 – $100 and contain enough food to feed a family of four at a minimum. 

The Partnership for Children annual gala is typically in April. They have currently postponed it to June 15th. If they are unable to do this, they will be holding an online fundraiser with silent auction items in order to raise funds.

How You Can Help

There are multiple ways for you to help Partnerships for Children during this time.

Participating restaurants in the Comfort Care Food Packages program are listing these packages on their online ordering system. Customers can add these packages to their online order and proceed through their normal ordering process. The meal is then delivered to a family or shelter in need. 

In addition to this program, Partnerships for Children is currently doing a drive for donations to help fund grocery store gift cards, as well as Favor/DoorDash deliveries from local Austin eateries. The organization is also asking for volunteer projects that can be done at home, such as bundling diapers or pull-ups and bagging baby wipes. 

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SAFE Alliance

For 45 years, SAFE has acted as an advocate for survivors of abuse and provided housing, healing, and support services for the Austin community. These services range from emergency shelter and counseling, to trauma-informed programs that promote healthy childhoods. They also provide prevention and community services that help our community with things like education and legal services.

How COVID-19 Is Affecting Their Mission

The mission of SAFE is to “Stop abuse for everyone.” As previously mentioned, there has been a large increase in abusive behavior since COVID-19 came into play. As such, SAFE is doing its best to keep its many resources available to the community; most of the organization’s facilities remain open, and their programs continue to operate either through these facilities or in modified ways in order to safely continue their services. The abuse hotline, SAFEline, remains open and fully staffed.

However, all 30 of their offered programs are currently at capacity. This includes their Children’s Shelter, which provides shelter for about 200 to 250 children a night. 

A representative at SAFE shared that as a result of the health crisis surrounding COVID-19, SAFE has taken on $100,000 in increased costs to meet survivor’s health needs.  Additionally, they are experiencing an increased need for support as a result of the community crisis, isolation and social distancing. Finally, like so many healthcare organizations, they are struggling to supply all direct service providers with the personal protection equipment they need to continue care including sexual assault and forensic nursing services, etc.

While they will be pushing their Touch-a-Truck event to later this fall, their annual Storybook Gala will proceed as planned for Saturday, November 7.

 How You Can Help

Watch this video from the SAFE team to learn more about how to help and what is needed:

The SAFE team is asking for donations of essentials including cleaning supplies, diapers, baby wipes and formula. They have put together an Amazon wish list featuring the items they are most in need of at their facilities. 

They are also asking for donations of fabric masks for their staff doing face-to-face work on the SAFE campus and in the shelter as well as for clients who need masks for venturing into public for necessary activities. 

Finally, SAFE is accepting monetary donations and has a list of off-site volunteer opportunities including sewing face masks, making craft kits, etc. on their website. 

If you think that you or someone you know may be a survivor of abuse, please contact their SAFEline by phone at 512.267.SAFE (7233), text at 737.888.SAFE (7233) or chat at safeaustin.org/chat.

 

If you have the means, consider donating money, supplies or time through virtual volunteering. If not, share this with your family and friends who might be able to. 

You can find more donation and volunteer opportunities in this article: Austin Donation and Volunteer Opportunities During Coronavirus Outbreak

If you find yourself or someone you know needing assistance, consider reaching out to one of these organizations. 

Learn more about how you can support the Austin community in our article How to Support Austin’s Local Businesses During COVID-19.

Visit AQUILA's COVID-19 Austin Real Estate Resource Center


Suzanne Fordering | Platform Coordinator | AQUILA Commercial

Suzanne Fain

If you want something done, just ask Suzanne. She’s a bonafide doer – eager to please and ready to take challenges head on.


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