Author: Madyson Russell

Incoming, United Way for Greater Austin Welcomes A New Class of Board Members

AUSTIN, Texas – 2019 is off to a great start for United Way for Greater Austin. United Way is excited to announce the addition of six new Board Members; Kristie Gonzales, Kristin Marcum, Scott Rust, Amy Simmons, Charles Thornburgh and Jeffrey Vernor. These six key community leaders will provide invaluable leadership with their wide variety of professional skills and set policies for United Way. “I am excited about the direction and future of United Way for Greater Austin and am honored to Chair the Board and welcome this incoming class of influential, local business leaders who have joined in United Way’s fight to end poverty. We are excited to continue to grow an engaged and active Board with a deep desire to provide families and individuals in need with the tools and resources needed to thrive.”  -Mason Ayer, CEO of Kerbey Lane Cafe & United Way for Greater Austin Board Chair Kristie Gonzales joined KVUE as President and General Manager, leading one of the top television stations in Central Texas. She manages a staff of more than 125 employees who produce 33 hours of award-winning live news and programming each week. Under her leadership, KVUE became the most-watched news station, winning five out of seven weekday news time periods among the coveted demographic of adults aged 25 to 54. Gonzales is also incredibly committed to her professional and personal communities, she is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and serves on the board of directors for the Greater Austin Chamber […]

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42 Percent Of Households In Austin Are Struggling To Pay Their Bills, Report Says

A new report says a third of households in Travis County struggle to make ends meet; in Austin, that number was higher, at 42 percent. Travis County’s cost of living was significantly higher than the statewide average, according to the analysis by United Way. The snapshot found it costs nearly $66,000 to raise a family of four in Travis County, compared to the statewide average of $53,000 a year. The study’s author, Stephanie Hoopes, says the study found an overall disparity in costs of living and wages across the state – despite low unemployment numbers in Texas. “In all these places, we’re finding a mismatch between that basic cost of living and what wages in that area pay,” she said. Hoopes says it’s the first time the study has been rolled out in Texas, and that it has given insight to 18 other states into the number of people under the federal poverty limit (FPL) – but also highlight the number of workers with low wages and little to no savings. Stephanie O’Banion, president and CEO of United Way Central Texas, says she hopes the study can increase and inform affordability-minded policy in the region. “[These people are] basically one kind of emergency away from falling into some sort of financial crisis that would cause them to not really be able to regain their sustainability and potentially just fall into poverty,” she said. In Travis County, the minimum income to meet basic needs for a family of four needs to be […]

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United Way for Greater Austin Hosts Film Screening of No Small Matter Documentary

AUSTIN, Texas – In a 2017 poll by the First Five Years Fund, more than 90 percent of Americans agree that our elected leaders should work together to make quality early childhood education more accessible and affordable to low- and middle-income families. But the simple truth is that making high quality early learning available to every American family actually has the power to solve so many of the challenges facing our country today, from poverty to mass incarceration to health disparities.   Tuesday, January 22, 2019, United Way for Greater Austin will facilitate a conversation around early childhood care and education by hosting a film screening on No Small Matter, the first feature documentary to explore the most overlooked, underestimated, and powerful force for good in America today: early childhood education. The screening will be held at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar at 6:30 p.m. followed by an Early Learning Panel Discussion with key community leaders including Austin City Council Member Delia Garza.   United Way leads the Austin/Travis County’s collective impact efforts to improve access to high-quality early childhood education. As the leader and backbone organization of the Success By 6 initiative, United Way brings together a coalition of school, city and county officials, nonprofits and parents to improve the network of support systems for children. Together they’re ensuring our youngest community members start our life on an even playing field.   Through poignant stories and surprising humor, the film lays out the overwhelming evidence for the importance of […]

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Where Hope Takes Root

More than 70,000 children in Central Texas live in poverty and face challenges that stand in the way of learning, like hunger, trauma, homelessness, poverty and poor health. Without community support, they are more at risk for missing school, dropping out and failing to earn a high school diploma. Community In Schools (CIS) sees potential in every student, and they are committed to helping students believe in their own ability to achieve.   CIS are experts at bringing communities together for students. They collaborate with school districts and schools, deliver resources, work with local businesses, social service agencies, healthcare providers and volunteers to support students and families in overcoming obstacles and roadblocks to success. Thanks to this collaborative network, our community is a better place for students in need. United Way for Greater Austin is proud to fund the ASPIRE program run by CIS, and we are thrilled to see the convening of different entities committed to creating bright futures for all our neighbors.   ASPIRE (Achieving Success through Parental Involvement, Reading and Education) breaks the cycle of illiteracy and poverty within families by providing comprehensive, integrated literacy services for the entire family. This dual-generation (or 2-Gen) program brings parents and children together for educational success. School Readiness is the result of a process that starts at birth and relies on the home environment and parental involvement to help them achieve Success by 6. ASPIRE serves families with children that are living in poverty in Travis County. Parents experiencing poverty face […]

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Baker Botts’ Austin Office To Support United Way for Greater Austin’s Family Connects Initiative

AUSTIN, September 6, 2018 – Baker Botts L.L.P., a leading international law firm, is pleased to announce its Austin office is supporting United Way for Greater Austin’s Success By 6 program and its newest initiative, Family Connects. The three-week campaign, which includes a supply drive, e-pledges, and a Build-a-Bike activity, along with participating in UWATX’s Fall Day of Caring, begins on September 7th. Baker Botts is pairing up with United Way for Greater Austin to support the launch of Family Connects, an early childhood development program which provides support to new mothers in Austin and Travis County. Family Connects is a partnership between United Way for Greater Austin and the Austin Public Health Department to offer every family with a newborn at least one home visit from a registered nurse. “We are proud to join with the United Way for Greater Austin to help launch this exciting new initiative that will help new and expanding families flourish in Austin and Travis County,” said Mollie Duckworth, Partner-in-Charge of Baker Botts’ Austin office. “As a mother of two, I know how challenging the first few weeks at home with a new baby can be. Our support of UWATX and Family Connects will ensure that new parents throughout our community are matched with the resources they need to help navigate their children’s first year of life,” said Ms. Duckworth. About Baker Botts L.L.P. Baker Botts is an international law firm of approximately 725 lawyers practicing throughout a network of 14 offices around the globe. Based on our […]

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United Way for Greater Austin Announces Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service

AUSTIN, Texas – It’s the season of New Year’s resolutions and at United Way for Greater Austin we are always looking for ways to give back to our community. In partnership with Keep Austin Beautiful, United Way invites the community to join us in cleaning up MLK Jr. Blvd. from I-35 to 183. The day will begin with a visit from Daniel Segura-Kelly, on behalf of newly elected City Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison City Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison and State Representative Sheryl Cole, whose districts (1 and 46 respectively) include the entire stretch of road that we will be cleaning. Both elected officials’ platforms closely align with United Way’s own mission and values of ending poverty by providing families and individuals in need with the tools and resources to thrive.   WHO: United Way for Greater Austin, Keep Austin Beautiful, Daniel Segura-Kelly, State Representative Sheryl Cole   WHAT: Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service   WHEN: Saturday, January 19 from 9-11 a.m.   WHERE: 2000 East MLK Jr. Blvd. Austin, TX, 78702   For more information visit: https://volunteer.uwatx.org/special-event/a0M1H00000VHhJAUA1 Have questions? Email Madyson Russell at madyson.russell@uwatx.org

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Travis Co. Residents Offered Free Lyft Rides To Enroll In Health Insurance

AUSTIN, Texas — With less than a month left to enroll in a health care plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace, Central Health and United Way for Greater Austin have teamed up to ensure residents have a ride to and from enrollment sites in Travis County. • 2019 Open Enrollment Period runs from November 1 to December 15 • Residents should call 211 to schedule a free appointment • Only Travis County residents are eligible for the free Lyft rides The 2019 Open Enrollment Period runs from November 1 to December 15. Central Health wants to ensure residents have the help they need to get health insurance by offering free enrollment and transportation assistance. Residents can call United Way at 211 to schedule a free appointment with an enrollment counselor at a location closest to them from 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m. every Monday through Friday until December 14. When calling that number, people can also schedule a ride with local rides-haring company Lyft to and from their appointment. Central Health has agreed to reimburse United Way for the cost of the rides, but not to exceed $10,000. Only Travis County residents are eligible for the free Lyft rides. Bilingual enrollment specialists are available to assist Spanish-speaking residents. View the article in Spectrum News. 

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Most Austin Families Cannot Access High-Quality Child Care, Leaving A Majority Of Children Unprepared

When 2-year old Juniper Smith arrives at Sweet Briar Child Development Center on Thursday morning in November, after kissing her father goodbye, she and her 10 other classmates discuss their “feeling faces.” An assortment of expressive, paper faces—happy, sad, excited, angry—lay scattered before the children. One by one each child chooses the face he or she relates to that morning. Altogether the class practices the facial expressions.  Through the exercise, the children learn increased control and awareness of their emotions. Afterward, the class plays “I Spy,”  discusses the changing colors of the autumn leaves, and eventually gathers around a table for a family-style lunch, during which the children pass each other dishes and practice table etiquette. By the time Juniper turns 5, unlike 54 percent of her Austin peers, she will likely be ready for kindergarten. Because she’s at the appropriate learning level by the start of kindergarten, Juniper will be four to five times more likely to pass her third-grade STAAR test—the first standardized test issued to Texas public school students—according to the regional education data organization E3 Alliance. And with success on the exam, the likelihood of Juniper’s future academic achievement, statistically speaking, substantially increases. All this, experts say, because she attended a high-quality child care center leading up to kindergarten, one that focuses on education and emotional growth through curriculum rather than simply daycare. This builds off recent discoveries in child brain development, said Cathy McHorse, vice president of United Way Austin’s Success by Six program. “About […]

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New Apple Campus Could Burden Sparse Northwest Austin Child Care Market

The announcement of an estimated 5,000 to 15,000 new Apple employees entering to the Robinson Ranch area in Northwest Austin in the coming years was met with concern by Teri Burchfield, owner, and director of Four Seasons Community School, local daycare. “We turn people away every day,” Burchfield said of those looking for child care without a waitlist. Apple announced plans Dec. 13 to invest $1 billion to expand its Northwest Austin operations center by building a second campus. The decision has been lauded by city and county officials for being beneficial to economic activity and local tax levies. However, the influx of new residents could stretch Northwest Austin’s already sparse child care resources even thinner. In Austin City Council District 6, where the new campus will be located, there are currently 10 child care centers and a population of 8,569 children, according to a United Way of Austin report. “There are long waitlists even for those who can pay for infant and toddler care,” said Cathy McHorse, vice president of United Way of Austin’s Success by Six programs. “We have an insufficient supply to meet the needs of our population. That is likely to present a challenge, especially in [Northwest Austin] as the population booms out there.” Four Seasons Community School is just two miles away from Apple’s current Northwest Austin campus and about 3 miles away from the site of its second campus, set to be completed in 2021. Burchfield said the daycare center’s close proximity to large tech companies such as National Instruments, Dell and […]

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Grumet: Parents Don’t Have To Embark On Day Care Search Alone

In the downtime between giving birth and leaving the hospital, new moms get a crash course in life with a newborn. Nurses explain how to feed a baby. How to safely put a baby down for a nap (always on the child’s back). How to make sure the car seat is secure and the house is babyproofed. How a mother can get help for postpartum depression. What precautions she should take if the doctor prescribed an opioid medication after a Caesarean section. “We realize it is so much information, we can’t just give them a list and say goodbye,” Laura Evans, the director of women’s services at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, told me. Rather, the nurses provide the information in installments throughout a new mother’s hospital stay. It’s impossible to cover everything. Among the things, new parents don’t learn before leaving the hospital: How to find a good daycare. I’ve been thinking about that a lot since reading the Unwatched series produced by the American-Statesman’s investigative team. The series pointed to alarming holes in the state’s oversight of day care facilities, and our editorial board has rightly called on Texas lawmakers to step up enforcement efforts and provide better information to the public. But state agencies aren’t the only ones in this ecosystem. And this is an area where new parents could use some help — not only to learn how to navigate the database of daycare facilities’ violations but to understand the distinctions between licensed, registered and listed child care facilities. (It matters if you […]

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