Round Rock, Pflugerville, Hutto community rises up to help neighbors, businesses in need

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With the coronavirus dominating headlines and social media newsfeeds, contagion is top of mind around the globe. Against a backdrop of fear, Round Rock resident Marissa Almaguer set out to prove hope is contagious, too.

“When I first heard about the coronavirus in our community, I wondered about the people who don’t have anybody, elderly people who live alone and others who might be scared,” Almaguer said.

She started Corona Helpers-East Round Rock on the social media platform Nextdoor to provide a place for locals to both ask for and offer help to their neighbors. Members of the group offer to run errands for those experiencing difficulty or fear about leaving their homes. Participants also help each other locate hard-to-find items, such as eggs and hand sanitizer. Corona Helpers had 200 members as of April 1.

“I know asking for help is difficult,” Almaguer said. “I hope people feel safe enough to reach out because we’re in this together.”

Almaguer is one of many within the Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto community using what she has—be it an hour of time to go to the grocery store or an extra roll of toilet paper—to lend a helping hand in a time of need.


Donating medical supplies

In response to what has been deemed a critical need for surgical masks, gloves and other medical supplies, Round Rock ISD donated approximately 6,500 surgical masks and 7,000 pairs of gloves to the Williamson County Emergency Operations Center on March 26.

“When you look at what we’re dealing with right now, the situation is unprecedented,” said Jeffrey Yarbrough, Round Rock ISD’s director of safety and security. “But so is the response.”

RRISD joins several other Williamson County school districts, including Hutto, Granger, Georgetown and Jarrell ISDs, to offer their own supplies to first responders in this crisis, Yarbrough said.

“We understand the gravity of the situation that we’re dealing with,” Yarbrough said. “That’s why there are so many people giving so much of themselves to help others. I’m so thankful that school districts countywide are able to do their part to mitigate this pandemic and help those who are in need.”

RRISD officials announced March 31 that campus closures would extend until at least May 4.

Elaine Douville, RRISD’s director of health services, said when she heard about the county’s need for masks and gloves, she took inventory of the district’s supply to determine what it could give.

“This is one way RRISD health services nurses can still help out our community at this time,” Douville said. “We’re not on the front lines right now, but we’re still trying to do our part and help out those that are on the front lines in their roles as nurses.”

Douville said she did not donate the district’s entire supply of masks and gloves. Rather, she said she calculated an adequate supply for the remainder of the semester, should classes resume in May.

Supporting local businesses

A new fund to support local businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, Round Rock Cares, was established March 25. The city of Round Rock, the Round Rock Chamber, the Greater Round Rock Area Community Foundation and Dell Technologies launched the fund with a combined total of $100,000 in donations.

“I know this seems like this may not be a lot,” Round Rock Mayor Craig Morgan said. “But every bit that we can do to help these small businesses that have been impacted the most by the closures will help.”

Business owners with a principal location or business address in Round Rock can apply online for funding to cover a range of needs—including operational loan down payments, utility payments, payroll, lease payments and more—according to a March 25 news release.

In addition, the business must employ 50 or fewer full-time-equivalent employees and “have incurred significant disruptions to operations or ability to remain open,” the release states.

Morgan said financial resources will be provided to recipients as soon as applications are received and reviewed.

Nyle Maxwell, chair of the Greater Round Rock Community Foundation, invited the public to make donations to area businesses in need.

“Please examine what you have at home or in your business, and please help us with this fantastic solution to keep some of these businesses open during these next few weeks when it’s so terribly important,” Maxwell said. “Or we will lose some of these businesses long term.”

Helping others in need

Jason Ouellette, the pastor at Way of Life Church in Pflugerville, recently took to Facebook to leverage what he calls a “serendipitous event” in order to help his community.

Several months ago, a staff member ordered cleaning supplies and accidentally purchased two large cases of toilet paper instead of paper towels.

The church has approximately 60 attendees on a given Sunday, and that amount of toilet paper would have lasted them “years,” Ouellette laughed. “We’re a really small church,” Ouellette said. “We were wondering what we were going to do with all this toilet paper. And then COVID-19 came along.”

Nearly 250 people responded to Ouellette’s Facebook post, in which he offered free rolls of toilet paper to those within the community who are having a hard time locating the recently in-demand household product.

“I think it shows they’re trying to find hope and encouragement,” he said. “It’s something we’re all looking for.”

Despite being a small congregation, Ouellette said it is important to the church to help the community in any way it can.

“We don’t have a lot of resources,” he said. “But I think that’s everybody’s challenge, feeling like you don’t have the resources you need. Our focus is to take what we have and do with it whatever we can.”
By Taylor Jackson Buchanan
Taylor Buchanan joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2018 after completing a master of journalism degree from the University of Texas. She worked as the senior reporter for Community Impact's Southwest Austin edition and is now the editor for the company's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition.


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