Author: Ashley Haustein

United Way for Greater Austin & United Way of Williamson County are joining forces!

We are excited to announce that United Way for Greater Austin and United Way of Williamson County are joining forces! Our two organizations have signed a management contract with intent to merge, and we are engaged in a due diligence process as the final step in the merger process.  Together, we will have one mission: Bringing people, ideas, and resources together to fight poverty in our community.  “As the Austin metro area grows, the boundaries between Travis and Williamson counties continue to blend; many people work in one and live in the other,” said David C. Smith, CEO of United Way for Greater Austin. “For our communities biggest challenges, more and more people are finding regional solutions optimal. This merger will help us better and more efficiently serve the Greater Austin community, while expanding and deepening our impact with a regional approach. Together, we can do more.” The Boards of Directors for both organizations approved the move in June 2021. The due diligence process is expected to be complete by the end of the year, with a further vote by both organizations’ Boards at that time. Until then, United Way for Greater Austin has a managing agreement with United Way of Williamson County and is thoughtfully integrating the two organizations into one. “Integrating the services and expertise of our two organizations will help us better and more efficiently serve our community, both in Williamson County and the region,” said Jodee O’Brien, former CEO of United Way of Williamson County and […]

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VaxTogetherAustin: Helping the community heal, one vaccination at a time

On May 4, 2021, VaxTogetherAustin became one of nineteen community-based organizations receiving a total of $415,000 in grant funding from United Way for Greater Austin, Austin Community Foundation, and St. David’s Foundation. This grantee cohort shares ideas and collaborates in monthly meetings and day-to-day communications in their grantee Facebook group. Remember how we said that anyone can save lives in Central Texas? This week we want to introduce you to one of our vaccine equity initiative grantees who is doing just that. Meet VaxTogetherAustin, a COVID-19 health equity organization supporting underserved populations in Austin and surrounding areas.  Starting in January 2021, VaxTogetherAustin began as a loose coalition of volunteers drawn from various grassroots groups dedicated to helping people find COVID-19 vaccine appointments in and around the Austin area. Early efforts focused on serving seniors, the blind and visually impaired, medically fragile individuals, hesitant individuals, and underserved communities, while also assisting anybody who reached out for help. “Initially I was on NextDoor, helping people in my neighborhood who needed help securing vaccine appointments for their elderly family members,” Sharon Cohan, VaxTogetherAustin Founder, and Executive Director said. “I ended up partnering with Raji Parameswaran, now President of the Board and Strategic Operations for VaxTogetherAustin when we realized we were doing the same thing. The next thing I knew, we had a spreadsheet of 300 people that were all eligible for vaccines and needed help.” In February, Marcy Gonzalez, a visually impaired Austinite, helped VaxTogetherAustin identify a need for vaccine access in the […]

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Superior HealthPlan Supports New Moms: Meet Katy and her Futur

This blog was written by Superior HealthPlan Sr. Manager, Marketing and Communications, Michael Cation. Superior HealthPlan is a long-time corporate partner of United Way for Greater Austin and a pillar of our community. Together with our partners like Superior, we’re building a better Austin for families like Katy and Futur. Katy Moreno is a certified nursing assistant, a community health worker, and just weeks away from finishing coursework to become a phlebotomist. Three years ago, those achievements seemed unreachable, as she became a mother at the age of 16. As her son, Futur, faced early health complications, his wellbeing was at the top of her priority list. Katy and Futur accessed support through Medicaid and Superior HealthPlan, an Austin-based managed care organization that serves members in all 254 Texas counties. As a young, single mother in Austin, Katy had access to a range of services from Superior – including through its Start Smart for Your Baby program – that set her and Futur up to be successful. “Futur struggled to eat in the first few months,” Katy explained. “He had some issues with gaining weight and required multiple hospital visits and medication. Without Superior’s support, I think I would have had some anxiety and Futur might have had some even bigger health issues.” After addressing Futur’s healthcare needs, Katy’s focus turned to herself – how to support her young family moving forward. Like many before her, Katy enrolled in a GED and job training program through American Youthworks, an organization […]

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Read United: 10 age-appropriate books that reflect the LGBTQIA+ community

Did you know that having at least 20 age-appropriate books in the home can improve a child’s educational success? The Greater Austin Reading Coalition and Success By Six Coalition – convened by United Way for Greater Austin – want to make sure that all local children and families have access to books that illustrate a diversity of backgrounds and cultures. This June marks the 51st celebration of Pride Month — a month where we uplift, celebrate, and support the LGBTQIA+ community. United Way is excited to celebrate this month with all of our friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors.  In honor of Pride Month, here are 10 age-appropriate books that reflect the LGBTQIA+ community to help raise awareness about different types of families, what it means to be LGBTQIA+, and promote inclusivity. Many of these titles are available to check out at your local library or in audio form on YouTube. Top 5 board books for babies to toddlers: (ages 0-4) 1.”Love Makes a Family” by Sophie Beer 2. “My Two Moms and Me” by Michael Joosten, illustrated by Izak Zenou 3. “Peanut Goes for the Gold”  Jonathan Van Ness, illustrated by Gillian Reid 4. “Baby’s First Words” by Christiane Engel 5. “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell, and Henry Cole   Top 5 books for young readers: (K- 4th) 1. “Julian is a Mermaid” by Jessica Love 2. “I am Jazz” by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas 3. “Pride: The Story of Harvey […]

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Anyone can help save lives in Central Texas

Successful and equitable deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine is the most hopeful path to economic recovery, educational re-engagement, and re-emergence of cultural life in Central Texas. From vaccine clinics in church parking lots to high school cafeterias, we are proud to be a part of the coordinated effort to save lives in Central Texas. In collaboration with Austin Community Foundation and St. David’s Foundation, we awarded $415,000 in funding to 19 community-based organizations. These grants will support COVID-19 vaccine confidence and equitable access among Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and other groups that have suffered disproportionately the adverse health and economic impacts from the pandemic.  “Vaccines save lives,” said Stephanie Cerda, Vaccine Equity Program Manager at United Way for Greater Austin. “People of color and people with low income have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and these same communities now face challenges in accessing the vaccine due to barriers like language, technology, transportation, and more. We’re honored to partner with 19 community-based organizations to improve vaccine access, provide culturally relevant outreach to address hesitancy, and get our community closer to herd immunity.” Organizations receiving grants have deep connections in the community and a plan for increasing vaccination rates for underserved, unserved, disconnected, and rural populations in Central Texas counties (Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, and Williamson).  Congratulations to the grantees! Learn more about the grantees here. “This work is very reliant on trust and building relationships,” said Cerda. “I know from my background as an educator, the first […]

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Parents are powerful: Uplifting parent voices as champions for change | 2-Gen Leadership Council

Parents are powerful. At United Way for Greater Austin, we value the lived experience and extensive expertise of parents & caregivers. What does that mean for our work? It means that we not only strive to make room at the table for parent voices, but we work to uplift those voices and ensure that they are heard.  Welcome to our new blog series all about shining a spotlight on the ways amazing parents are using their voices to build a better Austin. In this first installment, you will hear from two-parent leaders, Alma Ruiz and Cristina Guajardo, about their experience serving on the 2-Gen Leadership Council.  What is the 2-Gen Leadership Council? The 2-Gen Leadership council is made up of 47 local leaders. These council members guide the creation of policy at the city and county level and are decision-makers in the areas of workforce, school districts, nonprofits, child care, and more. They provide big picture guidance and oversight for the 2-Gen Strategic Plan purpose, goals, and strategies. As parent leaders, Alma and Cristina are actually sitting at the table with systems leaders to co-design strategies, programs, pilots as well as to guide our overall strategic planning process. The 2-Gen Leadership Council is the only structure of this type elevating parent leaders to this strategic level in Austin currently. The goal is to elevate the voices of families and inform strategic plan implementation while giving families the skills they need to be effective advocates and leaders in the community. The […]

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What we are reading (and watching) about race, power, & privilege

Each quarter, we like to pull together a list of what we are reading (and watching) about race, power, and privilege. United Way for Greater Austin brings people, ideas, and resources together to fight poverty in our community. Race continues to be a big predictor of a person’s life outcomes, so we can only break the cycle of poverty by standing up for racial justice. Learn more about what we are reading and watching this quarter:  Podcast. Tune in to an episode of Leadership for Society with Brian Lowery. Brian is a senior associate dean for academic affairs at Stanford Graduate Business School. In this episode, Brian sits down with American journalist and publishing executive, Dana Canedy, to talk about the decisions editors need to make to bring in more voices to tell our country’s authentic stories. Listen with us >     Series. Educators have a responsibility to support young people as they grapple with multiple parts of their identities, including their gender and sexual identities. Exploring Equity, a new five-part series and teaching model from Usable Knowledge and Harvard Graduate School of Education shares strategies for leading and teaching so all students can flourish. Explore equity >       Brief. By helping people of color safely navigate current systems, financial coaching with a racial equity lens can be part of a broader strategy to increase equitable outcomes. The Asset Funders Network released a helpful brief all about Investing in Financial Coaching with a Racial Equity Lens. Read […]

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Meet Emerging Leaders Member, Arielle Sadler

We recently caught up with Arielle Sadler, a member of the Emerging Leaders Executive Committee and Senior Technical Writer & Trainer at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. We have loved working with Arielle on the Emerging Leaders Executive Committee for the past year. Her light, drive, and tireless advocacy are just a few of the reasons we think you should get to know her too.  Arielle is passionate about making sure everyone in our community has a “fighting chance” to meet their full potential. Learn from Arielle herself  why she is proud to be a member of Emerging Leaders: Q&A with Arielle Sadler Why is fighting poverty important? My dad was homeless at one point and the continuous impact that has had on his life and mine is significant. Giving people the opportunity to have a fighting chance – to not have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, where they are going to lay their heads down at night – so that they can focus on educating themselves and their children means a better community for us all.  Describe your favorite volunteer opportunity with United Way for Greater Austin. My favorite opportunity with United Way came in Summer 2019. I was part of Texas Mutual’s Employee Engagement committee and volunteered to lead a back-to-school drive with United Way. I’d been volunteering with several organizations for years, but I’d never had the chance to lead an initiative. I arranged to have members of our call center decorate and […]

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We did this, All Together ATX

Back in March of 2020 we had no idea the amount of good we would do when we worked together to help those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. With so many in our community facing economic, social, and health hardships, the pandemic disrupted life as we knew it,  we just knew we had to do something. That’s why, in an effort to support the community, United Way for Greater Austin partnered with Austin Community Foundation to create All Together ATX. Now here we are, nearly a year later, celebrating more than $7.7 million in funding raised by 3,149 donors that helped 210 local nonprofits provide support to our community members most in need. Check out the full report to learn more! For nearly 100 years, United Way for Greater Austin has been dedicated to those in our community who are suffering and creating opportunity for all people, children, and families. The work we’ve been doing all along prepared us for this moment of unprecedented need. Needs will continue to evolve, and we will be here.  Together, we can provide stability today and create long-term solutions for the future, for all.     

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Join us for Blue Sunday

Blog by Caitlin Oliver, Success By 6 Intern, United Way for Greater Austin The Success By 6 Coalition is a community wide collaboration of child and family advocates – providers, parents, policymakers, civic leaders, and experts – with a shared goal to ensure every child born in the Austin area receives the support and care they deserve during their essential first 2,000 days. United Way for Greater Austin is the convener of this work in Austin/Travis County. The Success By 6 Coalition (SX6) is made up of community stakeholders collectively creating a future in which all children in our community enter Kindergarten healthy, happy, and ready to succeed in school and life. To prepare all our youngest Austinites for school readiness, we partner with nonprofits in the community to deliver impactful services through four focus areas: Healthy beginnings Supported families High-quality care & education Safe & stimulating communities Together with our partners, we are building a stronger foundation for Austin so all families can thrive. This year we are expanding our support of whole families by participating in Blue Sunday and raising awareness of Child Abuse Prevention Month.  Blue Sunday is a day in which faith communities join together in prayer for children experiencing abuse and neglect. Each year this day of prayer falls on the last Sunday in April, which is recognized as Child Abuse Prevention Month. This year, Blue Sunday is April 25, 2021. Child abuse and neglect statistics in Travis County and Texas are heartbreaking: In Travis […]

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