'We're not worried about making a ton of money right now': Local business, nonprofit team up to feed Lake Travis families

CraigO's Pizza & Pastaria owner Andrew Rincon (right), volunteer Mark Crowell (left) and a team of several other people helped feed dozens of at-risk families in the Lake Travis community April 2. (Courtesy Mason Culp)
CraigO's Pizza & Pastaria owner Andrew Rincon (right), volunteer Mark Crowell (left) and a team of several other people helped feed dozens of at-risk families in the Lake Travis community April 2. (Courtesy Mason Culp)

CraigO's Pizza & Pastaria owner Andrew Rincon (right), volunteer Mark Crowell (left) and a team of several other people helped feed dozens of at-risk families in the Lake Travis community April 2. (Courtesy Mason Culp)

By all accounts, it was a great success: A Lake Travis-area business owner along with about 10 volunteers spent two hours on the afternoon of April 2 delivering food to dozens of at-risk families within the community.

All told, 33 households got pizza and salad from CraigO's Pizza and Pastaria in Lakeway that afternoon.

But the story of how this endeavor came to be originated a couple of weeks prior and involved help from a CraigO's regular customer.

CraigO's owner Andrew Rincon said Deahn Ehlers, assistant director of Partners in Hope, a local charity that helps Lake Travis families in need, has been a longtime patron of CraigO's.

Rincon was supposed to host a fundraiser for Partners in Hope in CraigO's private dining area in March, but due to the rapidly escalating social distancing demands of the COVID-19 crisis, that event was canceled.


"But we stayed in touch with [Ehlers], and she continued to support us by ordering takeout or delivery throughout all this," Rincon said. "I noticed she had ordered online, and I sent her an email apologizing for us not being able to do the [fundraiser], but I asked if she knew of any family in need of a meal, CraigO's would be happy to take care of that."

It started with one family, an elderly woman living in the Apache Shores area of Lakeway who is not able to leave her house. Rincon organized a trip to deliver several days worth of food to her. After it all went smoothly, he said he then extended his offer to Ehlers based on the success of that effort.

"He asked if he could do anything else, and I said I have 40 families that need help, and he said he could do it," Ehlers said. "And I was like, 'What?'"

Ehlers jumped into action, facilitating the mass delivery on April 2 by giving Rincon the names and addresses of at-risk families, and Rincon took it from there.

At first, Rincon felt a little overwhelmed and requested spreading the deliveries out over a few days or perhaps longer.

But after giving it some thought, he decided he had enough resources to get it done in one day.

"After speaking with my staff, we decided we could just do it in one shot and that way we could spread as much positivity as possible all at one time," Rincon said.

During the mass delivery, each volunteer made about three trips each, and the number of people per household determined how much food each received.

"Some had as many as nine or 10 people in the house," he said.

As far as plans to continue more mass delivery efforts, Rincon said he is continuing to ask around the Lake Travis community to see if other families are in need and is willing to work with any organizations that can help facilitate those efforts, not just Partners in Hope.

If this is something that needs to be ongoing throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Rincon said he is happy to continue helping.

Local businesses have been helping CraigO's financially with its philanthropic projects, including Cox & Kor Wealth Management, and Rincon said he is grateful for their contribution.

Another thing he said he has been grateful for is the fact that not only has he been able to keep all of his employees amid the coronavirus pandemic, but he also recently had to hire a couple of extra cooks.

"We're not worried about making a ton of money right now," Rincon said. "We just want to keep the lights on, keep the doors open, keep the staff employed and be there to serve the community in any way that they need us to."

For her part, Ehlers said being able to help facilitate the April 2 mass delivery was a big win for Partners in Hope, but she could not help but relay the story of what PIH volunteers pulled off the next day, April 3. One of the clients had her 90th birthday, and several volunteers got together and organized a drive-by parade for her, honking their cars and yelling "happy birthday."

"So, there are things like yesterday [the mass pizza delivery], which was amazing, and then there’s today [the drive-by birthday parade], which was amazing. It’s hard to say which is more amazing," Ehlers said. "It’s all important."
By Brian Rash
Brian has been a reporter and editor since 2012. He wrote about the music scene in Dallas-Fort Worth before becoming managing editor for the Graham Leader in Graham, Texas, in 2013. He relocated to Austin, Texas, in 2015 to work for Gatehouse Media's large design hub. He became the editor for the Lake Travis-Westlake publication of Community Impact in August 2018.


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