With Christmas only four days away, there's no better time to give back to the Austin community.
In a tough year for many, you can help others in the community through donations and volunteering. You might just make someone's holiday season that much better.
Here are some ways you can give back to the community.
Travis County Brown Santa
The Travis County Brown Santa is a community service program created by the Travis County Sheriff's Office seeking to help underprivileged children and their families. This year, Brown Santa is looking to continue it's tradition of donating goods with the help of volunteers who help make the magic happen. The program is currently collecting new, unwrapped toys, unopened non-perishable food and money to help those in need.
More information on ways to help the Travis County Brown Santa can be found here.
Austin Jingle Bell 5K
Austin Jingle Bells 5K is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year by going virtual. The program is run by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which focuses on bringing awareness to drunk driving and giving aid to victims. Since the event is virtual, you can participate wherever you'd like until Jan. 6 or donate online.
More information on ways to help the Austin Jingle Bell 5K can be found here.
The Austin Police Operation Blue Santa
Blue Santa 2020 is kicking off by providing toys and food for families in need during the holiday season. The Austin Police Operation Blue Santa is a non-profit volunteer organization serving Austin for 48 years. Blue Santa is trying to reach $500,000 this year to provide families in need gift cards for toys and food. Due to the pandemic, the program is not seeking volunteers this year but encouraging a monetary donation online
More information on ways to help the Austin Police Operation Blue Santa can be found here.
Austin Habitat for Humanity
Austin Habitat for Humanity accepts donations year round to help build a home for local families. Every year, Realty Austin volunteers with the organization to help raise money and build a home before the holiday season arrives. This year, they met their goal with help from the local community. With Christmas around the corner, consider donating your extra furniture in your home to make someone's holiday a little merrier.
More information on ways to help Austin Habitat for Humanity can be found here.
Central Texas Food Bank
With the pandemic affecting so many families this year, the Central Texas Food Bank is asking for extra help to help those who have been impacted by the pandemic. The organization is offering many ways people can give back and help provide for families in need, such as making an online donation and donating to local participanting stores such as Target, Sprouts, Wheatsville Co-op and more. Central Texas Food Bank is accepting donations and business proceeds until Dec. 31.
More information on ways to help the Central Texas Food Bank can be found here.
Meals on Wheels Central Texas
Meals on Wheels Central Texas provides meals, safety checks and human connection to homebound older adults. The organization focuses on ensuring that seniors stay independent and connected to their community while providing meals and other life-sustaining services. Meals on Wheels provides year-round services but encourages extra donations during the holiday season.
More information on ways to help Meals on Wheels Central Texas can be found here.
Toys for Tots
The Toys for Tots Foundation assists the U.S. Marine Corps in providing new toys for underprivileged children during the holidays. With help and donations for local community members, the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program supported over 20,000 children in Austin in 2019. Due to the pandemic, the program is looking to raise even more toys to distribute than last year with an online fundraiser.
More information on ways to help Toys for Tots can be found here.
Austin Angels is a non-profit organization aiding foster families with international giving, relationship building and mentoring. The program is continuing to help children and youth in foster care with donations. Due to COVID-19, Austin Angels is looking to support thousands of children to have access to the resources they need to build a better community. You can make a one time, monthly, quarterly or annual donation to Austin Angels.
More information on ways to help Austin Angels can be found here.
This is part of a holiday series counting down to Christmas so make sure to visit Austonia tomorrow, as we reach three days until Christmas.
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Austin's Delta 8 industry has been turned on its head after Texas health officials clarified that the cannabinoid is on the state list of illegal substances, though it was previously believed to be legal by most retailers, consumers and manufacturers.
House Bill 1325, which was signed in June 2019 by Gov. Greg Abbott, and the Farm Bill, signed into law by former President Donald Trump in 2018, legalized any hemp product containing less than .3% THC. The same bills were thought to have made Delta 8 legal, though the Texas Department of State Health Services added a notice on its website saying it was still a controlled substance as of Friday, Oct. 15.
Both the federal and state governments keep separate lists on what is considered a controlled substance. Marijuana is considered Schedule I, a category reserved for substances with "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," both statewide and federally.
Austin-based CBD retailer Grassroots Harvest CEO Kemal Whyte, like many CBD shop retailers, was blindsided by the announcement. Many small businesses rely on Delta 8 for their sales—Green Herbal Care CBD said about 90% of its sales come from Delta 8—and Whyte said he is frustrated by the inconsistencies in the drug scheduling system.
Since 87% of Texans support the legalization of marijuana, at least for medical use, per a recent poll, Whyte said he wonders who this legislation is for.
"It's gonna have a massive impact on small businesses—there's just no way around it," Whyte said. "The reality is, we don't want to push out anything bad for our customers, we want this to benefit our customers and to help them. If we can make money while doing it, that's the American dream. What are we doing, whose benefit is this for?"
Delta 8 surged in popularity after the perceived legalization—consumers enjoyed its lower psychotropic potency, decreased anxiety while using it and the peace of mind as a legal way to get high. So in order to protect their products and livelihoods, both Grassroots Harvest and Austin-based manufacturer Hometown Heroes are taking legal action.
Whyte said Grassroots Harvest is suing DSHS, saying their action is creating negative effects in the market. Meanwhile, a Hometown Heroes spokesperson said the company is in the process of filing a temporary restraining order that would pause the ban on Delta-8 in the state of Texas.
Threats against Delta 8 are not new—DSHS lost a lawsuit trying to make "smokable hemp products" illegal last year and Texas lawmakers had been considering a bill that would make Delta 8 illegal, though it was dropped after the clarification was made.
Hometown Heroes released a formal statement in response to the DSHS rule.
"I need to be clear—we love Texas, we're just choosing to fight for the will of the people in regards to cannabis in Texas," Hometown Hero CEO Lukas Gilkey said in a statement. "(Texas DSHS) are using backhanded ways to create legislation and go against the will of the people."
Whyte laments the fact that it would be easier legally to "open up a strip club that also sells guns," and said he can't post customer testimonials that mention the benefits of Delta 8 without getting hit with a cease and desist from the Food and Drug Administration. Whyte said he isn't opposed to regulation—far from it—he just wants to see it go through the correct channels.
"The fact that they're stunting our ability to communicate with our clients that want to learn about this, you're preventing us from communicating with them and teaching them, or spreading information that we know," Whyte said. "I think that that in and of itself opens up a lot of questions."
Grassroots Harvest still has Delta 8 products on its shelves for the time being but for how long, Whyte doesn't know.
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Austin Public Health and other clinics around Austin are now providing booster shots for all three vaccines, including Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, to fully vaccinated individuals after both Pfizer and J & J were approved by the CDC on Wednesday.
APH and Austin clinics, which were already administering the approved Pfizer booster, will begin distributing shots as soon as Friday.
Those who received the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine more than six months ago are elligble to receive a booster if they are over 65 or if they are over 18 and:
- Live in a long-term care environment
- Have underlying medical conditions
- Work or live in high-risk settings, such as schools, hospitals or correctional facilities
Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said in a media Q&A Friday that APH is encouraging boosters just as much as they have urged residents to get their first and second doses.
"Boosters are incredibly important to keeping our community protected and hospitalizations low," Walkes said. "If we can stay on top of our vaccinations, we provide protections for our most vulnerable and make it that much harder for COVID to spread in our community."
Eligible residents are free to choose the same booster as their first doses or "mix and match," per the CDC announcement.
Those looking for another dose can simply bring their vaccination card to APH centers or the dozens of Walgreens and CVS locations in the metro, which began administering doses Friday.
Additional updated guidance from the CDC allows for all eligible individuals to choose which vaccine they receive as a "mix-and-match" booster dose. It is advised to remember to bring your CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Card showing the original doses with you when going for booster shots.
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