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Austin Runners Provide Life Line for Harvey’s Smallest Victims

Steve Bush with his helicopter and delivery of breast milk from Mother's Milk Bank of Austin

Question: What do helicopters, flood victims, and medically-necessary breast milk have in common?

Answer: Austin runners.

Harvey Hits Houston Hospitals

Hurricane Harvey made landfall on Friday, Aug. 25, bringing a wide swath of destruction to Texas’ coastal cities. Just four days later, the Mother’s Milk Bank at Austin was faced with a crucial problem: four Houston-area hospitals desperately needed donated human breast milk.

Opening of the new Mother's Milk Bank at Austin location.
The new Mother’s Milk Bank at Austin opened in July 2016. Photo courtesy of Mother’s Milk Bank at Austin.

At Tuesday’s Board of Directors meeting, Executive Director Kim Updegrove explained the increased demand. While Mother’s Milk Bank of North Texas in Ft. Worth had picked up evacuees’ needs, the Austin facility would cover Houston-area hospitals. Due to flooding, mothers couldn’t reach babies in NICU (neonatal intensive care units) and power outages had reduced stock. Donated human breast milk is usually delivered by Federal Express or other courier service, but roads were awash and routes impassable.

Mother's Milk Bank of Austin volunteer works with donated human breast milk during Amplify Austin fundraiser.
Volunteering during Amplify Austin fundraiser. Photo courtesy of Mother’s Milk Bank at Austin.

Board member Julia Weatherby listened, and she, Updegrove, and fellow BOD members weighed delivery solutions. Boats? Too problematic. Helicopters? Hospitals have helipads, so flying would be best…but Updegrove hadn’t found an Austin-based pilot with access to a helicopter. There was another problem: how the nonprofit would fund the emergency mission.

“The situation was becoming critical,” Weatherby explained. “The process of acquiring donor milk is very similar to donor blood. For inpatient recipients, the hospital manages their supply (they order in a big batch, usually not specific for a patient)…A small percentage [of donated milk] goes to outpatients, babies who are healthy enough to be at home but still need donated breast milk because they’re not healthy enough.”

Why not substitute formula? Those vulnerable babies have no choice. That donated human breast milk is medically prescribed.

Without appropriate nutrition–babies at different stages require breast milk with different components–these tiny patients couldn’t thrive. Without breast milk, they’re at risk of developing serious disease, like NEC (necrotizing enterocolitis, which damages the intestinal tract).

For these Houston-area babies, this milk delivery was a matter of life and death.

The clock was ticking.

Austin Runners to Babies’ Rescue

Weatherby pondered the Mother’s Milk Bank’s need. How could she help?

Julia Weatherby and Michelle Garel at Mother's Milk Bank at Austin function
Julia Weatherby (right) with Michelle Garel, her friend and fellow runner and Mother’s Milk Bank at Austin volunteer and committee member. Photo courtesy of Julia Weatherby

Now, members of Austin’s running community know Weatherby well. She’s a popular figure who’s combined her love of travel, running, triathlon, and technology in a variety of community services. Naturally, Weatherby thought to tap her local resources–perhaps a pilot friends was available? Some six of her buddies fly small or commercial planes.

Being social media-inclined, Weatherby turned to Facebook.

“I thought about tagging [my pilot friends],” said Weatherby. “But then I decided, tonight, I’ll just send a generic message and talk to people tomorrow.” She posted a simple status update at 8:18 p.m.

At 10:05 p.m., Jill Beardsley was checking Facebook from her bed and breakfast on Lake Bemidji in Minnesota. Beardsley and her husband Dick (that’s right; Dick Beardsley, the famous American marathoner) moved to Minnesota a few years back, but they’re near and dear to the Austin running community and maintain those friendships. She saw Weatherby’s post and immediately thought of more Austin running royalty: John Conley.

“I know John is taking flying lessons. I figured he would know someone or, at the very least, someone who could take it one step further to finding [a pilot],” Beardsley modestly commented. She tagged her good buddy (and John’s wife) Stacey Conley.

The Conleys have been pillars of the Austin-area running scene. Through their company Conley Sports, they managed many classic road races and events before retiring in 2016. Stacey and Jill are fast friends and past running partners. At 11:19 p.m., Stacey responded to Jill’s tag.

Screenshot of Facebook request for helicopter pilot for Mother's Milk Bank delivery

Stacey connected Weatherby with Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services Special Operations Captain Steve Bush. Bush, the owner of Lone Star Helicopters LLC.,had helped the Conleys for years with the Austin Marathon support.

Steve Bush with his helicopter and delivery of breast milk from Mother's Milk Bank of Austin
Captain Steve Bush of Lone Star Helicopters with his precious cargo. Photo courtesy of Mother’s Milk Bank at Austin.

“I gave Julia Steve’s number and thought, if it’s meant to happen, it will. I was thrilled when I heard Steve would help out. I assumed he’d be swamped with other rescue efforts and wouldn’t have any free time at all (which, for all I know, is probably true),” Stacey explained.

“Out of all the volunteering and donating I’ve done, this is by far the most satisfying.”

Less than 24 hours after Weatherby’s post, Bush and his team had delivered those crucial life-saving and health-enhancing milk deliveries.

[Want photos, video, and accounts of the actual flight? See these Mother’s Milk Bank at Austin and Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services Facebook write-ups.]

It wasn’t until another running friend posted–“Love you and our friends!”–that Weatherby made the connection. Her Austin running community had come through for those babies and their families.

“I never even got to my pilot friends,” Weatherby mused with a smile. “It’s funny because everybody’s so humble (‘All I did was post a message’) but having that link is so crucial to getting what you need.”

Volunteers and Lone Star Helicopter delivering donated human breast milk to Houston hospitals flooded by Harvey.
Evening milk delivery, thanks to volunteers and Lone Star Helicopter. Photo courtesy of Mother’s Milk Bank at Austin.

How Can You Help?

Donate breast milk or money to Mother’s Milk Bank at Austin

Volunteer in the Mother’s Milk Bank at Austin office, lab, and outreach events

Share your donor and recipient stories on the Mother’s Milk Bank at Austin blog

 

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September 2, 2017

New Year, New Faces at Top Trip Rentals

Postcard styled graphic for Top Trip Rentals that says "stay"

As we greet 2017, our Top Trip Rentals staff doesn’t want 2016 to get away without reflecting on a few special highlights.

In 2016, Top Trip Rentals welcomed more guests from more varied locations to more accommodations than ever before.  That kind of growth introduced new faces to our guests.

We added two great new team members: Rebecca Barbeau, general manager, and Cara Thibodeaux, reservations specialist. Both come with extensive travel-related professional and personal experience.

Top Trip Rentals staff members Rebecca and Cara
Staff members Rebecca and Cara of Top Trip Rentals

Meet Cara Thibodeaux, Reservations Specialist

If you’re booking a Top Trip Rentals stay in Austin, your first contact will most likely be with Cara. She calmly and knowledgeably answers hundreds of daily calls and emails regarding accommodations in Austin and the surrounding Hill Country.

Cara’s extensive experience includes working with hotel brands and vacation rentals, including HomeAway.com and TurnKey Rentals. When she’s not working, Cara travels the world (recent trips include Guatemala, France, Spain, and Italy) and writes an Austin food blog, Foodofthe512.

Meet Rebecca Barbeau, General Manager

Rebecca joined Top Trip Rentals in 2016, filling our newly created General Manager role. Rebecca has years of experience globe-hopping and working in resort hospitality at some of the nation’s most gorgeous locations: Big Sky, Catalina Island, and the Grand Canyon.

Rebecca keeps everything running smoothly at Top Trip Rentals. You will find her at the Littlefield Lofts property handling guest relations, working with our housekeeping staff, and overseeing the moving behind-the-scene pieces. When not tenaciously problem solving for Top Trip, Rebecca loves traveling and used to live out of the largest piece of Samsonite luggage you’ve ever seen.

Cara and Rebecca can be reached at Top Trip’s email if you have a question about an upcoming stay. Make sure you say “hello” when you book your stay.

January 21, 2017

The 410: Craft Cocktail for Graeber House

We love a good cocktail!

When it came time to create a specialty cocktail for 410 E. 6th Street, our historic Graeber Home, Top Trip Rentals chose Barmadillo partner and mixologist JR Mocanu. His mission–to merge  traditional and modern elements to accurately reflect the downtown Austin building’s historic significance and modern updates.

Presenting The 410

With these requirements in mind, we present a mix of locally-sourced spirits that looks sweet but tastes substantial (it’s the bitters).

In keeping with the historic provenance of the building, The 410 in made of ingredients available to barkeeps in the 19th century. The combination, however, is a modern celebration of the home’s mid-20th century remodeling and renovations.

When you book your Top Trip Rentals stay at the Graeber House, request a batch of “The 410” to get you in the spirit.

Cheers!

The 410 drink created by Mixologist JR Macanu.
“The 410” cocktail, created by mixologist JR Mocanu.

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September 2, 2016

Seaholm Development Brings New Shops, Restaurants to Downtown Austin

View of the decommissioned Seaholm Power Plant

It’s been a long time coming, but one of Austin’s newest transformations is the Seaholm EcoDistrict near West Avenue and 3rd Street. (Sure; the district’s bigger, but if you want to tell a driver where to drop you off, that’s a good corner.) Commissioned in 1948, the Seaholm Power Plant produced power until 1989. It closed in 1996 and became a Texas Historic Landmark and National Historic Place. Now, it’s becoming a downtown destination.

View of the decommissioned Seaholm Power PlantEstablished highlights of this downtown area already exist: salons (Jackson Ruiz has a location in this development), grocery stores like Trader Joe’s, and restaurants, including True Foods Kitchen. You can enjoy a lovely outdoor dining experience with a view of the decommissioned power plant steam pipes. The Seaholm Power Plant sign is still there. Commissioned in 1948, Seaholm produced power until 1989. The plant closed in 1996 and became a Texas Historic Landmark and National Historic Place.

A quick trip these days reveals an ongoing construction site. The new Austin Central Library is in final stages (that completion date keeps changing); the entire area, once completed, will be a pretty cool spot and interesting mixture of iconic and cutting-edge Austin architecture.

Austin Central Library sign lit up in early morning.
Austin’s new Central Library waits behind construction fences for new patrons. Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler

Once the dust has settled, the Seaholm District will be an amazing gem of a destination for locals and travelers alike.

 

April 28, 2016

Austin’s 410 E. 6th Street Available as Rental

Living room of Austin's Graeber House, vacation rental home, at 410 E. 6th Street

Former 19th Century Saloon and 20th Century Architect’s Private Home now 21st Century Private Rental Available through Top Trip Rentals

March 5, 2014, Austin, Texas—For the first time in more than 60 years, this tucked-away private residence on Austin’s 6th Street is available for over-night rentals and special events. Top Trip Rentals, an Austin-based vacation rental company, represents the property. 

Graeber House History

Entrance to 410 E. 6th Street in Austin
Next time you’re on Austin’s 6th St., look for The Graeber Home’s entrance. Photo Credit: Twist Tours

The 19th century limestone building at 410 E. 6th Street began life  as the rough-and-tumble Shamrock Saloon. More recently, it was the private residence of David Graeber, Austin architect, urban planner, and founder of GSC Architects.  

An LA-based digital media company became its first guests after reserving for this week’s SXSW Interactive Conference. Chereen Fisher, owner of Top Trip Rentals, explained why this was such a perfect fit for the client:

 “Space plays an important role in the creative process. Our SXSW guests were interested in the house’s unique character, history, and location. These stand-out characteristics gave them a chance to connect with business partners and entertain clients in a memorable space right on 6th Street.” 

 

Location, Location, Location

Interior view of The Graeber House in Austin on 6th St.
Family living room in the multi-story Graeber Home on Austin’s 6th St. Photo Credit: Twist Tours

The Graeber House has all the feel of a small boutique hotel. Yet this protected Austin Historic Landmark is located in the heart of Austin’s famed 6th Street Entertainment District.

Within its 4,623 sq. ft., there are 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, 2 separate wings, an indoor pool facing the 19th century structure, and 2 kitchens, all spread across two floors of living space. Walls are decorated with original art provided by IEI Austin.

Fisher spoke fondly of this uniquely special Austin home:

“The building at 410 E. 6th Street is a time capsule, with references to times and lives lived over 130 years in this one location. When guests stay with us, they too add to this home’s story, so we hope they have a great time and make it a good story.”

Top Trip Rentals Announces Partnerships with KEY Concierge

Street signs in front of Austin's Littlefield Lofts on 6th and Brazos

At Top Trip Rentals, we strive to provide our guests with the most amazing stay possible. We know that time away from life is limited and that vacations are precious opportunities to reconnect with friends and loved ones or simply to unwind from the stress of life. 

To enhance your stay, we have partnered with KEY Concierge.  They not only handle the essentials…pre-arrival grocery + stocked bar, transportation, food delivered in, etc…they also deliver five-star experiences curated by local concierge.  Whether it’s a customized taste of Austin, guided hill country hike + picnic, live music crawl, breakfast taco + bloody marys delivered to your door or waiting in a five-hour line for the infamous Franklin BBQ, the sky’s the limit. To make your trip seamless and experience the best of Austin, let their local concierge team handle the details so you can arrive + relax.   austin@key.co | 512.640.4888.

“We are excited to provide concierge services for guests staying at Top Trip Rental vacation homes,” says Erin Kotzur, KEY Concierge Director of Business Development. “We make stays memorable by crafting the perfect itinerary and handling the details so guests don’t have to,” she added.

Top Trip Rentals will continue to provide guests with Austintacious ways of enjoying their stay through information found on our blogFacebookTwitterPinterest boards and Instagram. “At Top Trip Rentals, we continue our commitment to giving each guest personal assistance, so we’re always just a phone call away to help you, but for more elaborate requests, we wanted to be able to give guests additional services, like access to KEY Concierge, that will improve their stay,” says Chereen Fisher, Founder of Top Trip Rentals.