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San Antonians in the mood to give had a worthy place to direct their energy on December 13: the Frost Bank and CultureMap donation drop-off, benefiting the San Antonio Food Bank.

During the two-hour event, bag after bag of packaged food items — that SAFB will use to help serve 58,000 food-insecure individuals a week — were handed over at the Frost Bank on West Grayson Street. A large amount of pet items were also collected, and those who donated received a few surprises in return.

Each person who donated more than five items received a $10 Frost It Forward card to continue spreading optimism. And local influencer San Antonio Stephanie even stopped by, passing along her Frost It Forward card to someone in need.

This generous gesture from Frost Bank echoed the Optimism Starts With You mural by Los Otros, which was located directly across from the drop-off point in the Pearl District.

Those who attended the donation drive-through also got a head start on entering the social media contest by snapping a selfie by the mural and using #OptForOptimism to enter.

If you'd like a shot at winning the ultimate staycation package — a one-night stay with valet at Hotel Valencia on the Riverwalk and two drinks in Dorrego's Bar (a $532 value), plus four tickets to the Briscoe Western Art Museum and a $200 gift card to use at Pearl — there's still time. Get your post up before December 31, when we'll pick one lucky winner.

The items received from the event — all 1,006 pounds of them — are more important than ever to the San Antonio Food Bank, which not only fights hunger but also serves to educate and provide assistance in many other ways.

Since its founding in 1980 as Texas' first food bank, SAFB has worked to give more than 7.7 million free meals annually. It partners with more than 500 nonprofit agencies throughout 16 counties in Southwest Texas, rescuing 63 million pounds of food (or the equivalent of a semi-trailer full of food every hour).

Texas is ranked second in the nation for food insecurity, with 1 in 6 living in food-insecure homes. These populations are impacted significantly by fluctuations in the economy and changes in work hours, like those that have happened during the pandemic. Donations like the ones received here make a huge impact for people looking to break the poverty cycle.

If you missed the event but would still like to contribute to the San Antonio Food Bank's important mission, please make a donation this holiday season.

Giving became a family affair.

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Giving became a family affair.
Photo courtesy of San Antonio Food Bank

Help feed San Antonio's hungry at Frost Bank's donation drop-off event

The Season of Giving

Looking for a way to give back this holiday season? Then mark your calendar for Sunday, December 13, when CultureMap and Frost Bank are hosting a donation drop-off from 12-2 pm benefitting the San Antonio Food Bank.

Donations will be accepted at 125 W. Grayson St., where the Optimism Starts With You mural is located. Help SAFB fight hunger and feed hope by bringing these food items to donate:

  • Peanut butter
  • Cereal
  • Tuna and canned lunch meats
  • Beans
  • Rice
  • Mac 'n' cheese
  • Chili and canned stews/soups
  • Baby food
  • Pet food
  • Pop-top food items

When you bring five or more donation items, you'll receive a $10 Frost It Forward card (while supplies last) as yet another opportunity to spread generosity and the power of optimism.

Everyone who donates will also get the chance to win the ultimate staycation package: a one-night stay with valet at Hotel Valencia on the Riverwalk and two drinks in Dorrego's Bar (a $532 value), plus four tickets to the Briscoe Western Art Museum and a $200 gift card to use at Pearl.

To enter, snap a picture at the mural, which was done by local artists Los Otros, and share it on social media using #OptForOptimism. We'll choose a grand prize winner on December 31.

Founded in 1980, the San Antonio Food Bank serves one of the largest service areas in Southwest Texas. Its focus is for clients to have food for today but to also have the resources to be self-sufficient in the future.

Help make sure your neighbors don't go hungry.

Photo courtesy of San Antonio Food Bank
Help make sure your neighbors don't go hungry.
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Favorite San Antonio fundraiser transforms entire city into brightly colored canvas

Colorful Creations

In non-COVID times, Artpace's Chalk It Up fundraiser turns downtown San Antonio into a vibrantly colored wonderland of temporary murals, surrounded by a big party that celebrates art, charity, and community.

This year, with everyone's health and safety in mind, Chalk It Up: Community is happening, well, wherever it can.

Right now, school and community teams from all over the city are creating murals at a location of their choice, submitting photos and statements to be reviewed for Chalk It Up Day on October 10.

That's when co-chairs Katie Pace Halleran and Cristina Peña Walls — along with honorary chair Councilman Roberto Treviño — will choose 17 finalists from across every school district within the San Antonio city limits. The finalists and a winner will be announced at noon on October 10, with each receiving gift cards courtesy of H-E-B.

In addition, 20 featured artists are turning sidewalks and pavements at 10 San Antonio Pubic Library branches into brightly colored works of art, all capturing the 2020 theme of community. Drive-through viewing is available at most libraries, but appropriate social distancing guides will be in place if you're visiting on foot/

You can also get in on the fun from the safety and comfort of your own home or neighborhood, with #ChalkItUpAtHome prompts on social media to guide your creations. Artistes are encouraged to share their masterpieces on social media by tagging @artpace, #ChalkItUpAtHome, #ArtpaceAtHome, and #MakeArtHappen.

You can learn more about this year's Chalk It Up here, as well as read about the featured artists, get more info on #ChalkItUpAtHome, and map out where to view the library murals.

Texas-based initiative helps San Antonio hospitality workers Get Shift Done

Filling the Gap

When a Texas-based nonprofit saw that San Antonio could benefit from its initiative during the COVID-19 crisis, it jumped right in. Get Shift Done for San Antonio pays out-of-work hospitality employees to provide assistance to in-need charity organizations that have seen a rise in demand since the pandemic began.

Started by Anurag Jain and Patrick Brandt, the nonprofit serves Bexar and surrounding counties by matching displaced hourly workers in the food-service industry with shifts at local food nonprofits. Workers get paid $13 an hour to do what they did pre-pandemic — cook, serve, and deliver food.

The model provides relief in three ways: help for nonprofits, paychecks for the newly unemployed, and food for the hungry.

Get Shift Done recently came to the area thanks to a partnership between United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County. The USAA Foundation funded the initiative, in addition to money it has received from the COVID-19 Community Response Fund.

Get Shift Done implements Shiftsmart technology to find workers for open nonprofit shifts in and around the city. Handling the lion's share of the HR processes, the Shiftsmart platform streamlines operations with onboarding, scheduling, and much more.

“San Antonio is known for its outstanding tourism and award-winning restaurant community that has been hit hard economically as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. We are extremely grateful to partner with United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County to be a part of a solution to provide hunger relief to so many by activating the strong base of restaurant workers who call San Antonio home,” said Shiftsmart president Patrick Brandt.

The list of charitable organizations working with Get Shift Done is quickly growing. Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of San Antonio, Inc.; Haven for Hope; St. Vincent de Paul Society; the San Antonio Food Bank; and Greater Randolph Area Services Program, Inc. (GRASP) are all currently using the matching services.

The initiative is also available in cities across the state and country, including North Texas; Houston; El Paso; Rio Grande Valley; New Orleans; Central Arkansas; and the Washington, D.C. area.

Photo courtesy of BCM

Tito's Vodka pours $1 million into Texas research institution for COVID-19 vaccine

Research on the Rocks

A famous Austin-based vodka distiller is sending funds to a Houston research group that's working on a vaccine to fight the coronavirus.

Tito's Handmade Vodka — through its philanthropic arm Love, Tito's — has pledged to give Baylor College of Medicine a $1 million grant to accelerate research on a vaccine for the virus.

Two BCM researchers are taking the work they began in 2011 to develop a SARS vaccine with the intent to make adjustments to target SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Dr. Peter Hotez is the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor, and Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi is the associate dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine. The duo serve as co-directors of the Texas Children's Hospital for Vaccine Development as well.

"Our coronavirus vaccine is designed in Texas and tested in Texas with the utmost priority to ensure it is safe and effective," Bottazzi says in a news release. "To now see that it will be supported by Texas-based Tito's is a testament that our state will be recognized as being at the forefront of this pandemic, making a difference and reaching all populations locally and globally."

Hotez and Bottazzi focus on developing vaccines for new or neglected tropical diseases that affect those living in poverty around the world. Along with their partnership with PATH, a global nonprofit organization that will help speed up the vaccine's regulatory phase, the doctors' work from 2011 on SARS is promising and will hopefully help safely and quickly develop a COVID vaccine.

"It's an honor to work with Tito's on this life-saving initiative, which we hope will ultimately lead to a vaccine for America," Hotez says in the release. "Our vision is that it would also advance as a low-cost global health vaccine, now that COVID-19 is racing through Latin American nations, such as Ecuador and Brazil, in addition to South Asia."

Love, Tito's, which is also based in Austin, has contributed to a few other organizations amid the COVID-19 crisis, including: Children of Restaurant Employees (CORE), USBG National Charity Foundation's COVID-19 Relief Campaign, World Central Kitchen, and Southern Smoke Foundation's Emergency Relief Fund.

"Everything we do at Tito's is rooted in giving back to the communities we serve, and this pandemic is no exception," says Sarah Everett, director of global impact and research at Tito's Handmade Vodka.

"We applaud the worldwide effort to fund and support vaccines that look promising, because we can never know in advance which ones will be effective. We're proud to support Dr. Hotez, Dr. Bottazzi and their team's work to improve humanity's odds of success against COVID-19 and future coronavirus mutations."

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This story originally appeared on our sister site, InnovationMap.com.

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San Antonio artists talk inspiration behind their bright new Pearl district mural

Opt for Optimism

If you happen to be near the Pearl, seek out the new "Optimism Starts With You" mural that has gone up on the West Clay block wall at 125 W. Grayson St. The giant public artwork has brought a bright burst of color to the area.

"I feel optimism means to live your life as best you can and try to lead by example," says Nik Soupè of Los Otros, the duo that painted the mural.

"It helps you get through those hard times and helps you overcome those obstacles that come in day-to-day life," adds Shek Vega, the other half of Los Otros. "Some are bigger than others and it's important to focus on the positive, be optimistic, and jump those hurdles that you come across."

It's the latest project in Frost Bank's Opt for Optimism campaign, in partnership with CultureMap. The colorful new artwork is based around the idea that optimism may start with one person, but it can easily ripple out through small acts and thoughtful moments, therefore changing the people and communities around you.

The mural's silhouette is meant to encourage passersby to stand in its place for photo opps.

Vega and Soupé hope that the mural will remind everyone that now is the ideal time to be grateful for what we have, and to spread that attitude to others: "It's a great time to reassess, regroup, and appreciate what you have, because this too shall pass."

And if you're looking for some fresh air, stop by and snap a pic with the uplifting mural at 125 W. Grayson St. Be sure to tag @culturemapsa and #optforoptimism when you do.

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7 San Antonio staycation spots for Valentine's Day, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. 7 San Antonio staycation spots to spoil your special someone this Valentine's Day. Alamo City is bursting with romance, and we've got you covered with the best places to spoil your special someone this year.

2. Popular Pearl brunch spot remixes with new weekend DJ nights. The popular local haunt just announced a new limited-time music series launching this month.

3. Where to see the once-in-recorded-history green comet approaching San Antonio. Okay, so the weather wasn't super ideal for stargazing this week, but there may still be time to catch this rare opportunity.

4. Here are the top 5 things to do in San Antonio this weekend. Locally inspired happenings and live performances make it easy to explore all that Alamo City has to offer this weekend.

5. Texas scores top ranking among best states for dating, says new report. This Valentine’s Day is for the unattached, and it turns out Texas is a pretty great place to be single.

Sneak peek inside San Antonio chef Steve McHugh's new Austin restaurant

Officially cured

Bucking the recent (and growing) trend of Austinites moving to San Antonio, chef Steve McHugh just debuted his first concept in Austin. The eagerly-awaited Luminaire opened February 1 at the new Hyatt Centric Congress Avenue Austin, along with a second concept, Las Bis.

Located at 721 Congress Avenue, details of the new hotel and its restaurants were released in fall 2022, sparking excitement from anyone already familiar with McHugh's work at Cured and Landrace. For the initial announcement, CultureMap connected with the six-time James Beard finalist to hear what to expect at the new outpost, while an updated announcement this week revealed that McHugh has enlisted chef Greg Driver as executive chef at the new concepts.

“We’re thrilled to finally lift the curtain and bring in guests to dine with us,” says Chef Steve McHugh in a release. “Chef Driver and I work really well together, and I have no doubt that Luminaire and Las Bis will shine under his leadership.”

Previously the interim executive chef at Austin's Westwood Country Club, Driver will carry out McHugh's vision at the restaurants. Both new concepts and the hotel itself will no doubt be a welcome addition to downtown Austin, padding out the list of pre- and post-theatre dining options for entertainment at the city's historic Paramount and State theatres next door.

Luminaire occupies the entire ground floor of the hotel, including an expansive patio stretching both sides of the corner along Congress Avenue and 8th Street. Much like its San Antonio counterparts, the full-service restaurant will feature the seasonal, local Texas fare and charcuterie well-known (and well-loved) by McHugh devotees. Along with specially curated meat boards (hello, 24-month jamon), the menu will also showcase a heavy Spanish influence, featuring a variety of delicious breakfast empanadas, chicken a la plancha, the Angus beef Luminaire burger, and more.

The all-day restaurant will be an ideal pre-curtain-time destination, while the upstairs Las Bis will take over for post-show nightcaps. Located on the eighth floor of the hotel, the terrace bar and lounge shares space with the hotel’s lobby and will feature craft cocktails, natural and biodynamic wines. Snacks will include an assortment of playfully plated conservas, both domestic and imported, which McHugh shared the story behind in our previous coverage.

“Our team put many thoughtful hours into the menu creation for Luminaire and Las Bis, blending familiar flavors with plenty of discovery,” says McHugh in this week's latest release. “And for those without much experience in cured meats and conservas, we made sure to include plenty of must-try items to introduce folks the right way.”

In addition to the two new concepts, McHugh’s team and executive chef Driver will provide room service for guests, as well as catering for the hotel’s four meeting and event spaces. Starting February 1, Luminaire will be open Monday through Sunday from 6 am to 11 pm, while Las Bis will open Sunday through Thursday, 4 pm to midnight, and noon to midnight on Friday and Saturday.

Photo by Mary Whitten

A sneak peak at Luminaire.

Historic San Antonio venue chugs ahead with new owners and all-day music festival

JUST THE TICKET

Music will soon be back in the air at one of San Antonio's most historic venues. Ambassador Theatre Group, the company behind the Majestic and Empire Theatres, has taken over The Espee in St. Paul's Square and is celebrating with an all-day music festival.

The move is the latest chapter for the Spanish Mission Revival complex, built in 1902 by the Southern Pacific Railroad. In 2019, a development group redubbed the site The Espee as a nod to the former train route's abbreviation, "The SP." 2021 saw the depot transformed into the swanky 1902 Nightclub.

Ambassador has gussied up the venue with enhanced sound and lighting, renovated artist accommodations, a tour production office, satellite bar areas, landscaping, and refreshed restrooms. The improvements gel with St. Paul Square's vision of bringing more entertainment and nightlife to the district without compromising its history or architecture.

Guests can check out the revamped space during All Aboard on March 4, a daylong party featuring The Head and The Heart, Danielle Ponder, Grupo Fantasma, UPSAHL, Golden Dawn Arkestra, Mike and The Moonpies, and DJ sets from Bartees Strange. Doors open at 2:30 pm, with performances starting at 3 pm.

Tickets are on sale now and partially benefit local nonprofit San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside (SAGE), which champions investments that improve the quality of life for individuals, families, neighborhoods, and businesses in the area.

The show is only the first experience the revived venue is set to deliver. "Vicious" hitmaker Sabrina Carpenter is set to bring her Emails I Can't Send Tour to the Espee on March 25. The San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum will hold its Fiesta Family Blues festival on April 28. More programming will be announced throughout the year.

"The Espee is the perfect addition to San Antonio's growing entertainment landscape – from venues and musical performances to community gatherings and everything in between," said Emily Smith, Ambassador general manager, via a release. "This unique, beautiful, and historic space will bring even more creative experiences to San Antonio for the entire community to enjoy."