LEANDER, Texas - Mambo Italiano Restaurant was a busy place Monday. Owner Al Redzematovie could be seen running in and out of his business, not carrying orders of food, but 25-pound bags of flour and containers of cooking oil.
Sarah Little was among the first to show up and get the hard-to-find items.
"My mother in law she calls every day and ask, have you found flour yet, have you found flour? So when I was leaving the house I saw the post, and called her, and said, I found some flour,” said Little.
The restaurant has been shut down since last month due to COVID-19. Redzematovie's idea was a simple recipe of goodwill. The flour and oil are not unused from his restaurant; he bought it all just to give away.
"I just thought, we have restrictions, especially for the elderly to not go to the store, to stay home, and most of my customers they are in the age 50 and up, and I recommend them to come in here, get their stuff instead of going to a store,” said Redzematovie.
When Redzematovie wasn't hauling out bags, he was taking phone calls from people asking about his offer. As word spread, more people drove up.
"We have five kids, it's pretty big for us, it will help, we can't really find bread right now, so this will help us make bread,” said Claire Stires.
Redzematovie has been serving up food in Bertram for a couple of years now. "Oh he is awesome, I absolutely appreciate everything he does for this community,” said Stephanie Culver.
Redzematovie said he purchased a total of 2500 lbs of flour. Taking money for this effort never entered his mind. The giveaway ran from 10 a.m. until noon. "It's unbelievable, I really have the goosebumps, just pray to God to honor us for what we do,” said Redzematovie.
The plan is to try and do a giveaway like this once a week or every other week, depending on demand. Late Monday, after receiving more calls for help, Redzematovie said his next giveaway will be on Saturday, April 11 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Redzematovie is able to bankroll and sustain the giveaway because of his pizza shop that's a block away from the restaurant and doing well for him.
For another group handing out food, the job is a little more difficult. On Monday afternoon a mobile food pantry at Bethany UMC opened. The pantry is one of five locations set up by Hill County Community Ministries.
"Last year in 2019 we served 78,000 individuals across 10 zip codes in Travis County and Williamson County,” said Gene Krider with HCCM.
The organization started the mobile pantries last week and immediately saw demand increase. No one is turned away, but you have to register at the drive up and can only get one bundle once a week. To reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19, the organization is having to make a big change.
"Due to the virus, and the handling of the items, we have to limit how much actual food donations we are getting from the public, so monetary donations are the best right now,” said Krider.
The HCCM Mobile Food Pantry is open from noon to 2 p.m. four days a week and two Saturdays a month:
- Monday: Bethany UMC
- Tuesday: Good News UMC Leander
- Wednesday: RockPointe Church in Liberty Hill
- Thursday: RockPointe Church in Leander
- First and third Saturday of every month: LifeChurch in Leander
With the crisis expected to continue for the next few weeks, efforts to feed a growing need will require efforts big and small.
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