Volunteers bag up food to deliver to those requesting assistance from the Highland Lakes Crisis Network. The organization has partnered with Bear King Brewing Company, where food is cooked and boxed. Photo courtesy of Bear King Brewing Company
After Governor Greg Abbott closed the dining rooms of restaurants and bars across the state three weeks ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bear King Brewing Company co-owner Grant Guidry examined his business’ full kitchen pantry and knew immediately what he was going to do: give the food to his employees and the Highland Lakes Crisis Network, which was preparing and delivering meals to those who requested assistance.
At the time, the Crisis Network was alternating between the kitchens at First United Methodist Church and First Baptist Church, both in Marble Falls.
And that struck a chord with Guidry.
“They weren’t able to store the stuff I brought,” he said. “We saw an opportunity to help more people. It was a chance to turn lemons for us into lemonade for others. We knew we had the space and all the stuff they needed to become a neutral hub and basically consolidate and make it as neutral as possible.”
Crisis Network Executive Director Kevin Naumann, who estimated the food donation exceeded $1,000 in value and was all cooked during the first week, enthusiastically summed up the partnership with Bear King.
“It’s awesome!” he said. “We can leave everything set up (after each day). Our drivers can use the alley in the back to drive through and pick up boxes of food for delivery, and they don’t have to get out of their vehicles. There’s a lot of logistics with the location. (Guidry) could have very easily shut the doors.”
The location of Bear King, 207 Avenue G, one street away from U.S. 281, makes it easy for volunteers and drivers to arrive and leave.
The game changer for Naumann is partnering with a local business. The Crisis Network works with several local churches to meet the needs of the homeless, homebound, unemployed, and those going through a crisis. The organization was formed after the October 2018 flood to provide longterm recovery for flood victims. Since then, the Crisis Network has expanded its services to other crises.
The organization hopes the Bear King partnership leads to joint efforts with other area businesses.
“The network and this business coming together to mobilize behind a common goal involving the community is a huge statement,” Naumann said.
By the second week of its COVID-19 response, the Crisis Network was feeding 250 people. This week, the third, it’s serving 420 people a day.
“It grows every day,” Naumann said. “It grows by 20 to 25 people a day.”
Those requests prompted other eateries to assist the network. Chick-fil-A, Chicken Express, KFC, and Which Wich also are making food donations. Numinous Coffee Roasters is donating homemade bread. Lowe’s gave $500 worth of moving boxes to make deliveries easier.
The delivered food boxes include enough for two meals.
Lutie Watkins Memorial United Methodist Church, 800 Wright St. in Llano
First United Methodist Church, 1101 Bluebonnet Drive in Marble Falls
Hill Country Fellowship, 200 Houston Clinton Drive in Burnet
any local food pantry
Thanks to Ben E. Keith, a food and beverage distributor, the network has been able to order hard-to-obtain items for the people it serves, but that costs money. Those who want to make monetary donations may do so by visiting the Highland Lakes Crisis Network website or calling 325-423-3662.
In addition to offering uncooked food to his employees, Guidry also paid them for two weeks. Instead of remaining home, the employees are helping prepare meals to be delivered to people in need.
“It was humbling to see that,” Guidry said. “It makes us feel proud to be a part of this. Not everybody can afford to purchase groceries. People are able to request assistance and get it. For this incredible organization, we’re here to make it as easy as possible.
“It’s a statement to how this community came together,” Naumann said. “It sends a statement of how the community takes care of each other.”