Author: Jenan Taha

United Way for Greater Austin and Children’s Optimal Health have merged!

United Way for Greater Austin and Children’s Optimal Health (COH) have joined forces and merged! Through this merger, we are streamlining our business and operational infrastructure to more efficiently serve the Greater Austin community. This will allow us to focus more on research and evaluation, and ultimately increase our impact as a data-driven organization. Both organizations share a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the necessary restructuring of power to ensure that the voices of those with lived experience guide our work. Together, we can do more. This merger will support Model Community, a structured collaborative building a more effective, person-centered system of health, education, and social services. The goal of Model Community is that everyone in our community has the opportunity to be healthy and thrive, organizations can more effectively serve clients, and the community achieves equitable health and wellness outcomes. COH team members will be supporting the development of a cross-sector community information exchange (CIE), a crucial part of Model Community, allowing our community to shift to more proactive, holistic, and person-centered care. COH Board member Dr. Anjum Khurshid, formerly with Dell Medical School and currently with Harvard Medical School, has joined the United Way Board. The COH Board included local leaders across our health, education, and social services sectors. These partners will continue to provide guidance to United Way as the CIE Community Advisory Board. Since the onset of COVID-19, COH has been creating monthly community needs reports and maps with data from 2-1-1, a program run […]

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PACES helps nearly 11,000 local families access life-changing tax credits

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is the largest federal anti-poverty program in the country, yet one in five eligible families with low income in our community are not receiving it. Alongside our partner Foundation Communities, United Way for Greater Austin is helping thousands of local families take advantage of this credit and reducing hesitation around tax filing through PACES.

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United Way for Greater Austin Awards $2.2 Million to 68 Local Organizations

United Way for Greater Austin awarded a total of $2.2 million in strategic grants to 68 nonprofits in Travis and Williamson counties. The recipients represent a diverse set of community leaders collectively serving over 13,000 local children and families in the areas of education, health, and financial stability.  As an organization committed to changing inequitable systems and embracing inclusivity, United Way approached the grant selection process with these values in mind. In total, 66 recipients focus on clients who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC), and 25 recipients have BIPOC leaders.  “We are grateful to every donor who makes these strategic investments in our region possible,” said David C. Smith, CEO of United Way for Greater Austin. “Every dollar goes a long way to ensure everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential. United Way is proud to support and work with such outstanding partners, and we look forward to changing lives the only way we know how: United.”  In January 2022, United Way for Greater Austin and United Way of Williamson County joined forces and merged into a regional organization supporting children, families, and individuals in Austin, Travis County, and Williamson County. This funding represents a continued investment in both counties. Because United Way brings local solutions to local issues within each community across the region, grants will support strategic priorities specific to each county.  In Travis County, the grants will advance the goals of two community coalitions powered by United Way: The Success By 6 […]

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Meet Susan: 2-1-1 Navigation Specialist and community champion

National 2-1-1 Day, celebrated on February 11, recognizes the more than 200 2-1-1 helplines located across the country.  For the past 20 years, United Way for Greater Austin’s 2-1-1 helpline has connected thousands of Central Texans to local, statewide, and national resources such as housing, food, health, child care, education, employment, transportation, counseling, disaster information, and more. This year, we are celebrating 2-1-1 Day by recognizing our compassionate Navigation Specialists, who power this service and work around the clock to answer the call for members of our community. Just last year, our 2-1-1 Navigation Specialists answered 157,514 calls for help in our region. One of these specialists is Susan Martinez. She began working at United Way last year because she believes everyone in our community deserves to have their basic needs met.  “There’s a real disparity in wealth here that’s getting bigger and bigger,” Susan said. “We all have to do what we can to close that gap. I feel like it’s our duty as humans to help out and do our part, however small that may be.” Read more about why and how Susan answers the call day in, day out to support fellow Texans – and how each and every call advances our mission to fight poverty. What brought you to United Way? I’ve always been involved in some sort of volunteer work in nonprofits since my 20’s. I liked that the mission of United Way is to end poverty because it’s such a huge problem all over […]

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United Way Launches Model Community Initiative for Greater Austin Area

Zip code shouldn’t determine what opportunities are available to families, such as jobs, grocery stores, child care, schools, and safe housing–but in our current reality, it does. To support more equitable access to social services for everyone, we are launching a Model Community initiative, a person-centered framework that brings together various agencies, community clinics, and education institutions to offer more holistic delivery of social services. Funded by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Episcopal Health Foundation, and St. David’s Foundation, Model Community allows service providers–from health clinics to schools and community-based organizations–to develop a comprehensive view of an individual’s needs, in an effort to coordinate cross-organizational support to improve their quality of life outcomes. Research from the World Health Organization shows that social determinants of health–the non-medical factors and systems that shape one’s quality of life–can have a significant impact on health outcomes. Determinants such as access to education, housing, and healthcare account for between 30-55% of health outcomes. “Our goal is to bring together partners from all sectors including policy makers, health care entities, those with lived experience, funders, grassroots advocates, and community-based organizations to create a more efficient, proactive, human-centered path to connect individuals to social services and therefore improve overall health in the the Greater Austin area,” said Stephanie Cerda, Director of Model Community at United Way. “This work must be informed, led, and owned by the community.” As part of the initiative, our ConnectATX platform currently serves as one of the public-facing access points for the Model […]

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United Way partners provide children’s vaccines in Greater Austin

When the CDC first recommended the COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11 in early November, United Way for Greater Austin jumped into action alongside eight of our community partners to provide children’s vaccines in Austin and the Central Texas region. To date, we have vaccinated over 3,000 children, and will continue our efforts through June 2022. Since Spring 2021, United Way has partnered with St. David’s Foundation and Austin Community Foundation to support 19 community-based organizations with funding to address COVID-19 vaccine confidence and equitable access among people with low income, Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), and other groups that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Now, eight of our partners in 2022—including VaxTogetherAustin, Eikon Church, Where We Thrive, Central Texas Allied Health, Latino Health Care Forum, Del Valle Community Coalition, Hays Latinos United, and COVAC Ops—are focused on providing children’s vaccines in Austin through pediatric clinics by partnering with school districts across Travis, Williamson, Bastrop, Caldwell, and Hays counties. Our partners have worked tirelessly to provide the best children’s vaccination experience for families, with strategies like VaxTogetherAustin’s onsite therapy dogs to help kids stay calm. We know that 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.  Here are three ways YOU can help advance vaccine equity: Talk to your children and loved ones about the vaccine Share resources such as vaccine clinics in your area and transportation support for […]

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United Way for Greater Austin and United Way of Williamson County Join Forces

United Way for Greater Austin and United Way of Williamson County, who combined serve 10 counties in the Central Texas region, have joined forces! David C. Smith, CEO of United Way for Greater Austin, will serve as CEO of the newly merged organization. The expanded organization will be named United Way for Greater Austin, with a mission to “bring 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 our regional community, while expanding and deepening our impact for our neighbors who are working hard but still struggling to make ends meet. Together, we can do more.” The merged organization offers services that: Ensure families with young children are financially stable Provide quality early learning opportunities for children and students Connect people to resources for food, health, housing, transportation, and more This merger will allow for programs across our region to be upgraded, updated, and strengthened. “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. “This is an exciting growth […]

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Free December holiday meals and events in Greater Austin

Every holiday season, United Way’s Navigation Center helps local families access free or low-cost meals and holiday events across the Greater Austin area. To make it easy for community members to find these seasonal events, we’ve compiled a calendar of meals and celebrations happening throughout the month of December.  From drive-thru light trails and gift giveaways for kids, to holiday festivities with Santa Claus, each event is open to the public. Check it out below! Know someone looking for assistance with food, transportation, housing, or other resources? Tell them to give us a call at 2-1-1 to get connected to help in our community. 2-1-1 is free and available 24/7.

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Ten Free Thanksgiving Meals in Greater Austin

Each year, United Way’s Navigation Center sees a spike in calls during November and December, many from people looking for a warm meal for the holidays. To help our Central Texas community find these resources, we’ve created a calendar of free Thanksgiving meal distributions happening throughout the month. These meals are open to the public on a first come, first serve basis. This year’s events include dine-in and drive-thru Thanksgiving meals, packaged food distributions to help people prepare a Thanksgiving meal at home, and more.  For more than 25 years, United Way for Greater Austin’s Navigation Center has helped people navigate the complex system of health and human services in Central Texas. Anyone can contact the Navigation Center by dialing 2-1-1. Know someone looking for assistance? Tell them to give us a call to get connected to resources in our community.

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