Author: Ashley Haustein

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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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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Meet Patrick, a member of Emerging Leader passionate about connecting with our community

Photo: Patrick Mercer, Dr. Alison Bentley, and Sara Reeves.  This week we caught up with Patrick Mercer, a member of the Emerging Leaders Executive Committee and Assistant Vice President, Wellness Director at Frost Insurance Agency. Patrick is passionate about connecting with our community and giving back to the Greater Austin community that has given him so much. Check out our interview with Patrick to learn more about his “why” for joining Emerging Leaders and being involved with United Way ATX. “[I am involved with United Way] first and foremost because of the people,” Mercer said. “It seems like everybody that I have met, whether it is a staff member or a volunteer, has a heart for service and giving back. They have a heart for creating opportunities for people.” Want to know more about Patrick? How long have you lived in Austin? 15 years! What is your favorite thing about Austin? Weather allows most outdoor activities to be enjoyed year-round. What is a fun fact about you that you wish everyone knew? I’ve been attacked by a mountain lion. “Patrick has been a dynamic and essential member of the Emerging Leaders Executive Committee for the past two years, leading the effort to relaunch this group and make an impact on the lives of so many here in Central Texas. Patrick also always has an incredible story to tell and is such a joy to be around.” – Jennifer Woods| Donor Relations Manager, United Way for Greater Austin To learn more […]

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It’s 2/11: Celebrate 2-1-1 front line heroes with us!

When COVID-19 hit Central Texas, the team here at United Way responded quickly. Almost a year later, our 2-1-1 team is still responding to increased calls for questions and help around COVID-19, and help in general. (At times in the first few months of the pandemic, our call volume was 10x the average.)  The Governor has said that 2-1-1 is THE place to go for information on COVID-19. Now more than ever, people need to know where to go for food, information on testing, health services, and so many other needs. Our 2-1-1 team is working around the clock to make sure callers seeking help are connected to accurate and up-to-date information. We know the whole community is thankful for our 2-1-1 front line heroes, and we couldn’t be happier to celebrate our team this 2-1-1 Day. Meet Stephanie Lyon, Statewide Community Information Coordinator, and learn all about the importance of 2-1-1. Want to know more about Stephanie? What brought you to United Way ATX? I came to United Way in the very beginning of September 2020, as a contract worker. I had been searching for meaningful, challenging, community-related social services work in the nonprofit sector for a few months. Due to being in the middle of a global pandemic and tough job market, I was incredibly fortunate to be contacted by a recruiter. I went through the interview process, and was grateful to land the position of 2-1-1 Navigation Specialist.  How long have you been working with the Nav […]

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Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences through collaboration

Have you heard of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)? If not, don’t worry! We are here to help fill you in.  United Way for Greater Austin is excited to announce the launch of the PACES program, Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences through getting the Earned Income Tax Credit into the hands of more eligible families in the Greater Austin area. Only 20% of eligible families are currently taking advantage of this tax credit that is arguably the largest federal anti-poverty program there is and that’s where PACES comes in. The program is a collaboration between Foundation Communities, The Child & Family Research Partnership out of The University of Texas at Austin, and United Way.  Gabriela Mordi, Project Manager at Foundation Communities, will lead the outreach efforts with the help of United Way ATX’s PACES Coordinator Francisco Gallegos. Monica G. Navarro, Research Associate at The Child & Family Research Partnership, will support the project through data collection and analysis. “The Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC, is a refundable federal tax credit for working families of low and moderate income,” Navarro said. “In other words, the EITC lowers a family’s tax bill or provides a refund if they do not owe taxes, increasing the family’s overall income. By improving the financial security of families with low income, the EITC can reduce the environmental and economic conditions that put children at risk of experiencing ACEs and promote overall better family and child outcomes.” Watch the video below to learn more about the […]

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All Together ATX Final Round: Announcing $3.5 Million to 111 Local Nonprofits

We are excited to announce grant funding from All Together ATX in the amount of $3.5 million to 111 local nonprofits. This third and final round of grants provides funding for basic needs and support for nonprofits that are meeting other critical needs and/or facing operational impacts due to the pandemic. Since March, we have been honored to partner with Austin Community Foundation on this community-led philanthropic fund that provides flexible resources to nonprofit organizations working with communities that are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and the economic consequences of the outbreak.  The nonprofits receiving grants are working to address basic needs and the sustainability of the nonprofit sector. The grants range in size from $125,000 to $1,000 and will be distributed electronically by December 24. Meet the grantees here. We are so grateful that the $3.5 million to be distributed includes a generous matching gift from the Sheth Sangreal Foundation. Every donation made between October 1 and November 16 was matched dollar for dollar by the Sheth Sangreal Foundation. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disproportionately impact communities of color in Central Texas. Black and Latinx families are bearing the brunt of the economic and health consequences of the coronavirus. With this in mind, equity was a guiding principle in the All Together ATX grant-making process. Out of 111 nonprofits receiving grants, 81 organizations are led by Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC) and more than 50 percent of staff at these organizations are BIPOC. All Together ATX distributed two […]

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