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  • Impact Austin

We Are So Much More Collectively

Suzanne Daniels, Brentwood Social House owner and Impact Austin member

What do collective giving, a coffee house, and a community fridge have in common? In this story, each is rooted in love - love of humanity and community - the essence of philanthropy. And each finds expression in Suzanne Daniels, an Impact Austin member who passionately believes. "We are so much more collectively than we are individually."

Suzanne joined Impact Austin in 2014, connected by a member-friend. She joined the Marketing team and has worked with that committee ever since. Suzanne loves Discovery Day, Impact Austin's signature day of learning, and she likes the fact that Impact Austin continues to learn and evolve as an organization, extending "beyond what we know and are familiar with." Within our grantmaking, Suzanne also loves the idea of Impact Austin building relationships with nonprofits, being in community with them, and having faith that those partners will use our grant dollars in a way that is right for them. Suzanne appreciates that she can "do a lot of good" by pooling her annual membership contribution with those of other members for maximum impact.

After 14 years as a graphic designer, Suzanne fulfilled a long-time dream to open a coffee house, which she named Brentwood Social House (BSH) in her Brentwood neighborhood in Austin. Through the ups-and-downs of entrepreneurship, a global pandemic, major freezes, city waterline snafus, and more, Suzanne and BSH have persevered. In addition to offering superb coffees and teas, European-style baked goods, and savory meals, they serve up community, connection, and love. In a 2022 interview, Suzanne explained, "I opened Brentwood Social House in 2016 because I believe the world needs more spaces to experience connection and love." One customer calls BSH "a sanctuary."

Brentwood Social House, 1601 W. Koenig Ln., Austin, TX 78756

But Brentwood Social House has also become an extension of Suzanne, her "true voice," and her values. She measures every business decision alongside her social justice values. She has brought culturally-aware practices and policies into her business and created a workplace community where employees can be themselves and express themselves safely. BSH customers feel the positivity. One Yelp reviewer declared, "such a gem in the neighborhood." Another said, "...they define themselves by the way they stay connected to the neighborhood they serve." A third wrote, " the end of the day, all we really want is a safe space to feel comfortable and connected and nourished."

Suzanne and BSH give back to their community by offering space for vendor markets, tarot reading, live music, La Leche League meetings, a crochet meet-up, and Impact Austin's Marketing Committee! They also host a little free lending library in front of the shop.

In November 2023, they took a big step toward giving back and opened the BSH Community Fridge and Pantry. Part of the ATX Free Fridge Project, they went live on November 11. Suzanne admits she was unsure how much the BSH fridge would be used. But the community has stepped up! "It's really for everyone," she says. Like other Free Fridge projects, the BSH fridge is an expression of "solidarity, not charity." For one person, accessing supplies from the fridge took pressure off that day's meal planning. For another family, Thanksgiving was possible because of food shared in the fridge. One mom of three kids brought her children by and each was able to choose an item from the fridge. Suzanne says, "I didn't recognize the need in our community until we had the fridge. The joy is how much food comes and goes on a daily basis."

Suzanne's ask of the broader community is that more people do this: provide the space, upkeep, and power for a community fridge. You can partner with ATX Free Fridge to assist, she says, and they have a helpful protocol to follow. "It's really so easy," Suzanne insists. "It doesn't take away from your business!"

Suzanne reinforces the strength in collective giving and collective action. "I couldn't personally fill that fridge all the time. We're stronger together!"

Indeed, we are so much more collectively than individually - especially when our efforts are rooted in love of humanity and community.


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