9 volunteers making Austin greater

As part of our 90-day celebration of UWATX’s 90th anniversary, we’re working on 10 lists of 9 highlighting influential and impactful people in the Austin community. In the seventh part of our series, we bring you nine volunteers changing Austin. 

Austin is known for our volunteering spirit – nearly 30 percent of Austinites invest their time in making our community even better. We’re proud to work with thousands of these dedicated community members through our Hands On Central Texas program, Austin’s largest volunteer network. Approximately 1 in every 17 volunteers in Austin interacts with our program, so we thought we’d take a second to highlight a few of these truly outstanding volunteers. 


1. Ryan Melendez, BB&T

Ryan Ryan Melendez at BB&T makes Austin greaterRyan not only teaches families about banking and managing money in English and in Spanish, but also builds confidence in our families by showing their impact on the economy.  Ryan’s been a wonderful volunteer by teaching financial education and conducting outreach for UWATX’s Bank On Central Texas initiative.


2. Tom Wald, former Executive Director of Bike Austin

Tom brought his cycling expertise to a group of Decker Middle School Volunteer Leaders who were passionate about securing a bike lane or sidewalk on the route to their campus. He helped the students understand safety laws and ultimately get in front of TXDOT to share their stories and letters of advocacy which helped to secure priority funding for a Decker sidewalk that will ensure a safe passage to and from school.


3. Jennifer Healy, Target

Jennifer Healy makes Austin greaterJennifer’s spirit of giving is contagious. She not only gives her whole heart to the causes she cares for, but the special thing about Jennifer is that she helps and encourages others to find their passion and get involved in their community. For Jennifer, a volunteer experience is not successful unless she has coaxed a handful of her colleagues or friends to join her. She truly makes Austin greater by building a generation of new volunteers and creating a contagion of philanthropy wherever she goes!


4. Jennifer Foster, Dell

Jennifer Foster makes Austin greaterJennifer has been an invaluable United Way volunteer since 2006. In addition to serving on the Success By 6 Leadership Council, she spearheads the Women’s Leadership Council, serving as a tireless champion for our community’s youngest and most vulnerable children. Whether Jennifer is advocating for early childhood education at City Hall or canvassing her neighborhood for a school supply drive, she proudly represents UWATX’s vision for our children’s future.


5. Mark Capehart, Kerbey Lane

Mark makes Austin greaterAs a philanthropic liaison for Kerbey Lane, Mark led the charge in getting the company engaged in volunteering in Austin. He started by coordinating the adoption of a local child development center near their restaurant that he and his staff volunteer at on ongoing basis, supporting a variety of school needs – part of the UWATX Success By 6 Center Project, . He has been a role model for philanthropy which has led to three other Kerbey Lane Café sites adopting child development centers near them as well!


6. Jesse Garcia, Freescale

Jesse Garcia makes Austin greaterJesse is one of our most enthusiastic members of the Young Leaders Society and engaged in volunteering with middle school students. Not only does he show up for projects (and lots of them!) with an amazing attitude, he is a positive and engaging adult role model to the students and thinks outside the box on how he can support and inspire them. At one project he brought one of his work projects (Jesse is an engineer) to share with the students and he is now taking the lead on recruiting volunteers to do science activities with students over the summer.  


7. Paula Vaughan

Paula Vaughn makes Austin greaterWhether it’s serving on the IT committee, working with the Board, building processes and procedures or training staff on project management skills, Paula has been an instrumental part of United Way for more than four years. Her wealth of knowledge is abundant and her energy around United Way’s work and support of the staff has been invaluable! Thank you, Paula!


8. Kaden and Niko Eckhart, students

Brothers Kaden and Niko Eckhart began their philanthropic careers in middle school as part of the UWATX Middle School Volunteer Project Leader program. Both rose quickly to lead volunteer projects supporting their community. Their sense of humor and camaraderie has not only helped them to engage friends in volunteerism, but has strengthened their bond as brothers.


9. Mark Williams

For several years, Mark has provided leadership, mentorship and process development for United Way as a whole. Mark has worked with the Strategic Programs team to develop and articulate a strategy that will increase cross departmental communication and provide clarity in defining outcomes. Mark is currently working on an implementation plan for neighborhood investments that ensures all activities are aligned and coordinated to achieve most success.


Know of other amazing volunteers who deserve a shoutout? Add them in the comments! 

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