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Feeling Guilty Scrolling Through Instagram While Folks Are Out Of Work? Make A Bid In This Auction.

South Congress is devoid of people and cars on Friday.
Gabriel C. Pérez
South Congress is devoid of people and cars on Friday.

Many of you are probably (hopefully) sitting at home right now, selflessly isolating and socially distancing. And, some of you are probably bored; Netflix and puzzles can only go so far. If you've got a smartphone, you're likely (more than you'd care to admit) staring at Instagram – a lot.

Now, you have the option to actually help some of those folks who are out of work because of the coronavirus and assuage that bone-deep pang of guilt that comes with that glut of screentime.

"Between South by Southwest and the coronavirus, our community is really experiencing a lot of hardship – and a lot of unexpected hardship," said Lindsey Lee, who helped start a virtual charity auction called Help Austin Now, "especially because this is the most important event of the year for a lot of businesses and a lot of freelancers. And people are hurting."

Lee and local ceramicist Frank Zhu came up with the idea Tuesday, moving at a breakneck pace to set up an account, figure out the donation platform and launch Thursday at noon.

So far, they've partnered with 15 local nonprofits. Proceeds go to the charity or a Go Fund Me of the buyer's choosing, Lee said. Buyers can also choose to contribute directly to people who have lost work through, a repository for freelancers that sprang up after SXSW was canceled that's posted more than $4 million in losses as of last week.

It's simple: Anyone can donate an item, it's put up for auction on Help Austin Now's Instagram, and would-be buyers comment to place a bid. After 24 hours, a winner is declared. Donors then ship their items to the person – or fulfill a service online. 

Donations can be anything, like a piece of art or a gift card, that can be shipped or delivered online – all with the emphasis on maintaining social distance. Lee says they've received offers for professional services like consulting, as well. 

"Our biggest point in this is eliminating people having to get close to each other, by being able to emphasize the social distancing aspect," she said. 

Lee said Help Austin Now is looking for any and all donations, and she and Zhu hope to double the number of donation options within the next week.

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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