Author: Madyson Russell

Texas Gas Service: Where philanthropy is a core component of culture

Carmen Luevanos, Community Relations Manager at Texas Gas Service, shares about how and why she is involved with United Way for Greater Austin with Corporate Account Manager, Chauncey LeGrand. Texas Gas Service has been partnering with United Way to end poverty in Austin for more than a decade. Last year alone nearly 300 employees raised more than $65,000. Texas Gas is a unique and impactful campaign because it is an organization that matches $1 for $1 when its employees donate to the United Way campaign each year – and we couldn’t be more grateful! Historically, the Texas Gas campaign lasts the entire month of October and they have various activities to raise money throughout the year with paired with fun social activities that include a chili cook-off, ice cream social, breakfast tacos, and more! Thank you Texas Gas Service, we couldn’t fight poverty without you! If you or your organization is interested in getting involved or starting a United Way giving campaign learn more here.

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United Way ATX + Race and Poverty

Hi friends, All of us at United Way for Greater Austin are grieving the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and the thousands of other black Americans impacted by recent acts of racism and violence. This cancer in our society diminishes all of us. Poverty and racism are so interconnected, we can’t address one without the other. What we can do is speak up, double down on our mission to fight poverty, and support each other every step of the way. These issues are too important for us to do anything else. Every time this happens, we all keep thinking this will be the time that people wake up and change finally comes. Together, we can be that change! Everyone deserves to live in a society where they feel safe, protected, and respected. Each and every one of us plays a role in creating that more just and equitable future. On Friday, I was in a meeting with one of the most brilliant people I know, Akasha. He is a black man, and he said, “We are shaping the future.” It was a hopeful word we all desperately need right now. May it be so. Our work fighting poverty has been about equity all along. Now we are more committed than ever, and ask that you join your hand with ours and be our partner in building a community that works for everyone. We believe that our only hope to lift up all of us is to address the systems that perpetuate inequity. Thanks to your […]

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Meet Laura, a proud advocate dedicated to ending poverty in Austin

Women United educates, engages, and empowers women in Greater Austin. Each month we will spotlight and bring you a closer look into the lives of one of your fellow Women United Members. We are proud to celebrate women as philanthropic leaders and are honored to have so many amazing women in our community. 1.    What do you love about Austin? I love our natural beauty. I love to see our community coming together to stand up against injustices and call out wrongdoing. I love seeing our community come together in peaceful protests and in support of those in need. I love feeling confident walking into any restaurant in this town and knowing you’re not going to be underdressed or overdressed, you’re going to fit in just as you are.     2.    How did you become involved with United Way for Greater Austin/Women United? When I first joined Mayor Adler’s administration, I attended the committee meetings the United Way convened focusing on the Pay For Success model for interventions supporting early childhood development and ending homelessness. I was impressed with the way they were able to gather many people and organizations focused on the same goal and help lead the group to get things done. I became more involved when a good friend, Kerry Tate, introduced me to David Smith, their new CEO. David has a passion and enthusiasm about him that draws you to help him achieve big audacious goals for our community.   3.    As a Women United leader, […]

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Meet Nico Ramsey, Emerging Leader & Philanthropy Champion

As an Emerging Leaders member, you’ll have opportunities to network and collaborate with a diverse group of influential business leaders all while making an impact. We are proud to celebrate young professionals as philanthropic leaders and are honored to have so many amazing individuals in our community — like Nico Ramsey, an Emerging Leader, and all-around rockstar! What do you love most about Austin? The feature I love most about Austin is the abundance of young people and the room to grow. As an Emerging Leaders Executive Committee member, what do you hope the group will accomplish in the next year? My hope is that we cultivate a diverse group of people who genuinely care about systemically changing our community for the better. What has been your favorite volunteer project with United Way? My favorite volunteer opportunities are the seasonal days of caring because it brings so many first-timers out, it’s inspiring.      

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3 Steps to Catalyze Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Momentum

Guest Blog by: Rachel V. Rosen, Founder of S.P.A.R.K Equity in Action. Rachel is United Way for Greater Austin’s DEI Strategist Right now, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are more important than ever.  Studies continue to illuminate the importance of prioritizing Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (DEI), yet many organizations still have not made DEI a priority, which can have big implications. With all that’s going on in our country, this is a crucial moment to make a commitment to both DEI and anti-racism in our communities.  With the discourse shifting AND changing demographics in the global workforce (51% women, 54% new workers identifying as People Of Color, 68.6% non-Christian, and 5 generations in the workplace) countless studies show that prioritizing DEI increases productivity, innovation, morale, and creativity.  This McKinsey study notes that “companies in the bottom quartile for both gender and ethnic/ cultural diversity were 29% less likely to achieve above-average profitability than were all other companies in our data set,” and “companies in the top-quartile for ethnic/cultural diversity on executive teams were 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability.” As a DEI strategist, there are two types of inquiries I receive: A. Organizations wanting quick fixes, immediate solutions, or needing to put-out fires such as:   Someone said something racist/sexist/homophobic/microaggressive   There was a complaint and it’s impacting the culture B. Proactive organizations committed to creating conditions for DEI and preventing fires   Leaders committed to innovation and creating an inclusive culture   Leaders committed to addressing root causes, learning, […]

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The power of positive teacher-child interactions

Post by: Michelle Hutson-Crawford, Success by 6 Pre-K Coaching Manager What do you love most about working with your team? In 2019, United Way ATX was selected by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to coordinate and implement a Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) observation coaching model with Pre-K educators in Austin ISD, Manor ISD, Wayside Schools, and Open Door Preschools. Getting the program off the ground was not only exciting but revealed in more ways than one, that our schools were prepared and ready to take on the challenge of increasing teacher-child interactions. I bet you are wondering what teacher-child interactions are… Well, positive teacher-child interactions can be defined by shared affection (hugs, smiles, high-fives etc.), understanding, and trust between a teacher and her students. Positive teacher-child relationships impact classroom management, learning, growth, and students mental-well being.  Children in these types of classrooms are known to take more risk, are motivated and tend to have a high self-esteem. According to research, improving teacher-child interactions build a foundation of trust, empathy, connectedness, equity, and improved child outcomes and school readiness. Not only do these connections build bridges for children and provide valuable insight to teachers, but they also create the blueprint for how local schools can continue this essential and transformative work. Throughout the course of the 19-20 school year, collectively our 33 teachers actively participated in more than 500 hours of group coaching and 260 hours of one-on-one coaching. What do all these numbers mean? Our teachers are awesome and […]

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Meet Barbara, a dedicated United Way champion

Women United educates, engages, and empowers women in Greater Austin. Each month we will spotlight and bring you a closer look into the lives of one of your fellow Women United Members. We are proud to celebrate women as philanthropic leaders and are honored to have so many amazing women in our community. Q&A with Barbara Caraway | Texas Mutual Insurance Company   What do you love about Austin? I moved to Austin from Lubbock in 2005. I love the diversity of Austin and although it is a large city, the people and vibe of the city is that of a smaller community. I marvel at the beauty of Central Texas and the vast terrain. My favorite places to take visitors are on a drive down 360 to Mount Bonnell, Wimberley and The Saxon Pub on Lamar. Some dear friends introduced us to great live music there. I also enjoyed going to Graffiti Park at Castle Hill. Austin is home to some of the most creative and talented people. How did you become involved with United Way for Greater Austin? On a personal level, both of my children went to the Boys and Girls Club of Lubbock. The Boys and Girls Club had a great after school program they both loved going to. They also participated in their basketball program. When I came to Texas Mutual in 1995 they were a huge supporter of United Way and I thought, here is an opportunity to give back.  I am entering a […]

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Quarantined Mom Life: Social-distancing self-care

This three-part series is authored by Shalyn Bravens (read part 1 here and part 2 here), Director of Family Connects Texas. Shalyn has been with United Way for Greater Austin for more than two years and launched the Family Connects Texas initiative in Austin. Shalyn received her MSSW from the University of Texas and has expertise in family support that spans beyond her time at United Way.  Shalyn is also a mom raising two young boys with her husband. Some of the tips referenced in this blog involve help from her husband and may not be applicable to everyone’s lifestyle. Take it away, Shalyn! I want to acknowledge that my ability to transfer my job to an entirely work-from-home situation is an enormous privilege. If you have lost your job or income and are struggling to meet your family’s basic needs, that comes first before anything else. There are many people and organizations in our community that have stepped up to help, and you can find them by searching on ConnectATX.org or by calling 2-1-1. I’m not the first to say that regular self-care for parents during this time will be critical to the well-being of the whole family. But let’s be honest, self-care was a challenge to fit in for most of us when our lives were predictable. We could physically go to a gym, and we could see our friends in person. The usual strategies just will not work right now, so we need to think outside the […]

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Quarantined Mom Life: Working from home edition

This series is authored by Shalyn Bravens, Director of Family Connects Texas. Shalyn has been with United Way for Greater Austin for more than two years and launched the Family Connects Texas initiative in Austin. Shalyn received her MSSW from the University of Texas and has expertise in family support that spans beyond her time at United Way.  Shalyn is also a mom raising two young boys with her husband. Some of the tips referenced in this blog involve help from her husband and may not be applicable to everyone’s lifestyle. Take it away, Shalyn! I want to acknowledge that my ability to transfer my job to an entirely work-from-home situation is an enormous privilege. If you have lost your job or income and are struggling to meet your family’s basic needs, that comes first before anything else. There are many people and organizations in our community that has stepped up to help, and you can find them by searching on ConnectATX.org or by calling 2-1-1. I want to start by saying that I’m not an expert in working at home with children. I’m a modern working mom and balancing parenting two young boys with a full time job. As you can imagine juggling working and parenting was already hard before this pandemic confined us all to our home. As many of us begin our fourth (or fifth – I’ve lost track) week of working from home, I want to share a few ideas with you that have helped me […]

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Quarantined Mom Life: Shelter in place parenting

This series is authored by Shalyn Bravens (read part one here), Director of Family Connects Texas. Shalyn has been with United Way for Greater Austin for more than two years and launched the Family Connects Texas initiative in Austin. Shalyn received her MSSW from the University of Texas and has expertise in family support that spans beyond her time at United Way.  Shalyn is also a mom raising two young boys with her husband. Some of the tips referenced in this blog involve help from her husband and may not be applicable to everyone’s lifestyle. Take it away, Shalyn! I want to acknowledge that my ability to transfer my job to an entirely work-from-home situation is an enormous privilege. If you have lost your job or income and are struggling to meet your family’s basic needs, that comes first before anything else. There are many people and organizations in our community that have stepped up to help, and you can find them by searching on ConnectATX.org or by calling 2-1-1. Children don’t come with an instruction manual, and I think many fellow parents would agree when I say that parenting is challenging even on a normal day. And that during this COVID-19 pandemic it feels like all bets are off.  Some strategies that are helping me during this time center more around how we are parenting and less about work. I heard great advice recently that went something like, “There is a lot of parenting advice out there, and so […]

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