Set Supper Club Auction to Benefit People Experiencing Homelessness

Win a 1:1 pastry class with Erin McDowell and support the unhoused

Waking up to devastating daily news alerts while also being required to stay at home can make one feel useless. But in the last few months, we’ve seen how our online world has allowed us to circumvent barriers to communication and come together virtually for collective action.

Here in Austin, the warm intimacy of an in-person supper club is gone, but one such club has used their tech savvy to give us the tools to act from our couches.

Set Supper Club began last October as a partnership between Brendan Nomura, a chef at Old Thousand, and Hannah Hwang, a soon-to-be counseling grad at UT. They were a classic supper club model, with meals hosted in various venues serving thoughtful (and affordable) prix fixe menus and artisanal goodies. But Set offered a twist: promoting mental health education. Hwang had worked at a psychiatric hospital and noticed “a whole lot of barriers to get access to services, even if those services did exist… cultural factors, language barriers, low socioeconomic status. I wanted to bring transparency to that and I felt like there was more that I could do.”

In service of that goal, they hosted dinners partnering with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), discussing suicidality and stigmatization with a UT professor and a representative from a psychiatric hospital, and had planned a dinner centered on mental health in the service industry when COVID hit. Between meals they’d hand out pamphlets and give their diners “tangible tips, things to look out for, who to call, how to talk to somebody you fear might be dealing with suicidal thoughts, ways you can be supportive.”

After COVID, they quickly pivoted online. Most recently their efforts supported the Movement for Black Lives with a bake sale; 100% of the proceeds went to MEASURE Austin, a research and data organization studying racial disparities.

On Saturday, July 18, they are hosting an auction to highlight mental health issues among people experiencing homelessness. “After I graduated, I worked for a local mental health authority,” says Hwang. “The population we served the most were individuals experiencing homelessness. There I saw just so much systemic discrimination and stigma. It's hard to see a psychiatrist regularly to get stabilized on medication if you don’t have a house. If you do have a tent, I've heard so many stories of people getting their tent stolen. Losing your ID prevents you from getting access to SNAP benefits. You might even have access to resources, but if you're not mentally well, it's really hard to follow through.”

In order to bring awareness to this issue, Hwang and Nomura organized a Zoom party for the ages: At 2pm this Saturday, Sarah Kincheloe, a clinical social worker and therapist, and Mark Hilbelink, lead pastor at Sunrise Community Church, will discuss their work supporting the unhoused in Austin. After the discussion, there will be an online auction benefiting the church's Homeless Navigation Center, which provides support to people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic.

They will be peddling hand-pulled noodle kits courtesy of Nomura, “tote bags designed by Seain Kennady of Bakery Agency that will be filled with locally made goods including coffee beans from Greater Goods, baby sourdough loaves from Handmade with Harriet, vegan baked goods and jam from You're So 2000 and Tate, pastries by Eat with Teng and cookie dough from Flour Vine.” As if that weren’t enough, they have wrangled a veritable celebrity of the food world, Erin McDowell, baking consultant for Food52 and contributing baker at the New York Times. She will be offering personalized one-on-one pastry classes to two lucky Austinites.

So if you’re feeling gutted by the news, tired of your home cooking, and aware of your neighbors who don’t have the luxury of AC during these 100-degree days, maybe Nomura and Hwang can give you some tools to feel useful again. You might even get a tote bag out of it.

Find more info at and on IG @setsupperclub. And to sign up for Saturday’s event, please visit the Zoom link.

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Set Supper Club, NAMI

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