Author: Madyson Russell

We Love Our H-E-B!

This blog was written by Director of Corporate Relations Erica Abbenante On August 3rd, our incredible community partner H-E-B officially launched its 2020 United Way employee giving campaign with almost 20,000 employees (Partners!) across 59 locations in the Central Texas area. Kicking off the festivities for the first time was Cathy Harm, recently named Regional Vice President for H-E-B and our brand new United Way ATX Board of Directors member! Cathy took on her new role in early 2020, and not long after settling in, we welcomed her to our Board of Directors. We’re thrilled to have her leadership! H-E-B and United Way have been close community partners for over 20 years. Since 2016, H-E-B Partners have consistently raised more than $1 Million every year for the Greater Austin community—last year’s record-setting campaign raised more than $1.4 Million! It’s not an understatement to say that H-E-B’s continued support and commitment to their communities has helped us to positively impact thousands of lives. When COVID-19 hit our community earlier this spring, H-E-B responded quickly and powerfully, working around the clock to make sure Central Texans had safe access to food and supplies while managing an unimaginably complex supply chain and public health puzzle. Not only did they focus on keeping their stores stocked and safe—they also quickly launched their “Texans Helping Texans” program to help seniors get supplies delivered to their door, supporting local restaurants by selling their food in stores, and donating millions to organizations providing relief. In June, we […]

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Family Leadership Council: Your story matters

At United Way for Greater Austin, we bring people, ideas, and resources together to fight poverty. We know that real change happens when we Live United and we value the lived experience and extensive expertise of parents & caregivers. One of the ways we make this happen is through our Family Leadership Council led by Paola Silvestre Porras, Director of Family Pathways at United Way ATX. The Family Leadership Council aims to create a pipeline for parents with lived experience to become community leaders and serve on commission boards, city council, and more. It is important for parents to be part of the decision-making process that affects them directly. The Family Leadership Council is designed to help these parents be agents of change in their own communities.  One of these parents from the inaugural cohort of the Family Leadership Council is Amina Makamba. Immigrating from the Congo in 2016, Amina gave birth to her triplet daughters three months early, the very next day after arriving in Austin, Texas.  “I came here in December of 2016. When I got to Austin, the next day I had the triplets. One of my girls was one pound when she was born and stayed in the hospital for five months,” Amina said. “When my kids were born I didn’t have any family here, so I had to stay in the shelter and work to go through the [social service system].” Parents are nominated to participate in the Family Leadership Council by our Community Investment […]

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Embodying grace: A Tribute to Jacquie Porter

Written by// Sue Carpenter, Chief Programs Officer Over the weekend, I learned about the passing of Jacquie Porter, Austin’s beloved early learning leader. This week has been a profoundly sad one, but I can’t help but reflect on the many wonderful experiences that I – and everyone in the Austin early education community – shared with this extraordinary colleague and friend. I first met Jacquie over a decade ago, when she was the Principal of AISD’s Lucy Read PreK Center. Even though her focus was on building and growing an exemplary early learning model for the district, she immediately stepped into a leadership role for the broader community coalition focused on school readiness. Having Jacquie at the table meant everything. If I could sum her up in one word (impossible!) – it would be “grace.” She was incredibly kind, thoughtful, and unstinting in the amount of time and counsel she was prepared to give to make our community better for young children and families. Very few people are both visionary and practical, but Jacquie dreamed of what could be and figured out the steps needed to make the vision a reality. One of my first conversations with her was about how the district could partner with community-based child care centers to deliver high-quality pre-K. She listened, asked questions, and then created plans to put this into action. Several pilot projects followed until the model was truly functioning, but she persisted across years despite all the challenges. Today, because of her […]

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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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We all have a part to play: Meet Emerging Leader Emily Gonzales

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 Emily Gonzalez, an Emerging Leader, and amazing community advocate! What do you love most about Austin? The diverse and spirited people! Austin is overall a great environment for young professionals to thrive. The city offers a vibrant space to be creative and do good. As an Emerging Leaders Executive Committee member, what do you hope the group will accomplish in the next year? Our shared goal is to grow our membership and a positive influence throughout Austin. I believe mentorship opportunities with United Way partners such as Family Pathways are a great way to achieve a strong community impact. What has been your favorite volunteer project with United Way?  I’ve enjoyed all of our projects! I’d say my favorite has been the MLK Day of Service because it allowed me to meet other volunteers while getting some fresh air cleaning up East MLK Jr Blvd.

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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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