Local business, Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, gives hope to Hurricane Harvey victims
It has been more than 30 days since Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast. As the damage in surrounding cities and affected areas are being addressed, many local businesses continue to offer assistance to victims of the natural disaster in any way they can.
The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce reached out to one local business, Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, to see how they are helping victims of Hurricane Harvey. The endeavor is part of our blog series dedicated to businesses who serve as local hereos during a time of catastrophe.
Kendall Antonelli, President, and co-owner, of Antonelli’s Cheese Shop shared her story of how Chef Dan of Royal Fig Catering inspired her to do more during the crisis. Their partnership shed light that the real heroes aren’t Batman or Superman, but local companies like Royal Fig Catering and the many people who donated to those in need.
Read her story below.
On August 18, the Austin skies were clear but meteorologists forecasted imminent rains and floods as Hurricane Harvey arrived in the gulf coast of Texas. Our managers and team members made an unprecedented decision to close the Cheese Shop in fear that night showers, potential power outage, and torrential winds would present dangerous situations to get to work the following day.
On Saturday morning, Austin was comparatively unaffected physically. While we weren’t flooding, we knew that our Texas neighbors were. Social media photos circulated of people stranded on highways that looked like raging rivers; of the elderly trapped in chest-high waters; and of families atop roofs with quickly encroaching water. The stories of heroism and humanity started rolling in too. Folks grabbing boats and braving the elements in search of others in need and chefs doing what they could to get food to people in need.
One of those stories was from a client we have been working with for nearly eight years. Chef Dan Stacy of Royal Fig Catering, made three consecutive trips—first to Bloomington to feed nearly 700 folks hot meals; then to The Woodlands to feed the doctors, nurses, and administrators of the Texas Children’s Hospital who had been going without food to save their patients; and finally to Friendswood to feed folks in the midst of gutting their homes to salvage anything from mildew or rot. He inspired us to boldly help others. But first, we had to figure out how we could make a difference.
We held a staff meeting Monday morning to brainstorm ways we could provide support services. We decided to donate five percent of our September class sales to Harvey Relief. But we needed to do more. Something bigger. Then Chef Dan called. He was headed to another area and needed supplies for that night.
We collected about $1,500 in diapers, childcare, and feminine hygiene needs that first day. For those who couldn’t personally drop off supplies, we took IOUs and went shopping for them. We collected an additional $1,000 in supplies. I loaded them up with Chef Dan and we headed to Friendswood to set-up a distribution site.
Two days before, the streets of Friendswood were impassable. But the day we were visiting, you would not have known until you turned off the main road. There you would find what looked-to-be a city-wide garage sale. Only instead of goods for sale, drywall, beds, mattresses, bathtubs, couches, and everything else normally inside homes was gutted to the street.
Chef Dan and his crew gave out hot meals of lasagna. My friend Carly and I set up the donation station. We received. We gave. We received. We gave. The heat and sweat on our brows made us consciously aware of the stifling heat of those clearing out their homes without electricity. A teacher dropped off a packet of letters from her students. Those that were addressed to “victims” or “survivors” we stuffed into the individual first aid kits we’d made. Those that were addressed to “volunteer” we saved for our trip home.
We are fortified with the hope, thoughts, and unity from those first days of rescue that skin color didn’t matter. Political preference didn’t matter. Immigration status didn’t’ matter. Gender didn’t matter. Instead, the only thing that mattered was humans helping humans.
As if that wasn’t amazing enough, nearly everything provided to Chef Dan and crew was donated. It took his love and determination to help people in need to load up the trucks and brave the streets. It took his team members empathy to volunteer their time to drive with him and cook. And it took the donations of countless other folks to provide the food: Lone Star Meats; Niman Ranch; Jenny DeMarco Photography; Brock & Co Events; The Cupcake Bar; Daily Juice; Wild Sky Events; Verbena Floral Design; Lox Box & Barrel; Farm to Table; Johnson’s Backyard Garden; Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop; Fresh Plus; and the many individuals who provided financial contributions through Venmo.
Now, in the wake of not only Hurricane Harvey but also Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and the current wildfire devastation in California, we are reminded of those moments we witnessed of bravery, self-sacrifice, dedication, perseverance, strength, and love of people. This is why we will continue to seek and do more as we push our mission forward: Do Good. Eat Good.
Antonelli’s Cheese Shop has donated more than $3,800 to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. This week we are donating five percent of Cheese Shop sales to California wildfire relief and we recently launched an online auction for hurricane relief in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. So far, more than $4,000 has been donated to help hurricane victims. The auction will end November 3.
I’ll conclude with the words of one of the children who donated letters to volunteers. To everyone who has donated in any way possible to relief efforts, “I hope that you never feel discouraged and keep pushing through for others. You are what keeps our crazy world having hope.”
For more ways on how you can help or donate, click here.
Greater Austin Chamber
The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce focuses on how the Austin Region works. We serve as the voice of business for 2,800 organizations representing a combined workforce of about 330,000 employees throughout Central Texas. Our mission is to provide leadership that facilitates the creation of a prosperous regional economy and effective advocacy for members.