Author: Madyson Russell

Lyfting The Community

2-1-1 is Austin’s front door to community resources. United Way for Greater Austin’s call specialists connect people in need with the services that can help – health care, food, housing, counseling, substance abuse services, job training, services for older adults and veterans, transportation and more. Cities are changing. Because of this, individuals and families with low-income tend to live outside of the urban core, away from essential services. Consequently, access to transportation for vital services is now an even greater challenge. For example, an older adult living outside of the city in need of dialysis has no way to get to her appointment. An unemployed father does not transportation to get to a job interview. 2-1-1 call specialists help callers navigate the complex, and often times confusing, social services system, especially when it comes to qualifying for transportation services. “The Lyft calls I take are distinct. Some of the individuals calling are not disabled enough to qualify for special transportation or they are not old enough. They are caught in the middle,” 2-1-1 Call Specialist Arnoldo Longoria said. “Some of their appointments are really far away, where the bus system wouldn’t be helpful and because of barriers like that, they are more likely to cancel a medical appointment because it is too far or it takes up too much time in their day. I think this program is filling a gap.” Lyft recognized that there is unmet transportation need for many Americans and has partnered with United Way Worldwide to […]

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When Dog Days Turn Into Summer Shade

The sun beats down as children from Sweetbriar Child Development Center file outside to the playground. The students, ranging in age from 18 months to five-years-old, scurry to the fence line instead of onto the playscape. Fighting for refuge from the sun’s rays, those who do not fit in the sliver of shade, provided by large oak tree branches that sag over the black iron fence, huddle under the play structure. This routine has been on repeat twice a day for more than two summers.   “We don’t want to go outside, it’s too hot,” is their rally cry. It’s something we can all relate to in the Texas summer heat.   According to an Austin American Statesman article, July in Austin was a scorcher. With 17 triple-digit days on record, the average temperature for the month of July came in just shy of 100 at 99 degrees. The last two weeks have been particularly brutal, with all 14 days in the triple digits.   “One afternoon we came to pick up our son,” Joshua Mauk, Sweetbriar parent shared “and he was huddled under the play structure because it was really hot and that was the only shade available.”   Something had to change but parents, teachers and even the Center Director alike did not know where to begin.   The Background and Beginning   Sweetbriar Child Development Center is located in the 78744 neighborhood that Go Austin Vamos Austin (GAVA), a resident-led coalition focused on community health and well-being, […]

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Company Culture that Creates Change: Texas Mutual

“Now let me start from the beginning,” Teresa Martinez, Texas Mutual Project Management, and Analysis Supervisor said. After leaving home at a young age Teresa found herself, a 17-year-old who didn’t finish high-school, working at Target with a young son at home and looking for more.   “I happened to notice a sign that read if you’re a youth and you are interested in something more than just your average job, call this number,” Teresa said. “So, I called the number on the sign and after going in and talking with counselors at the program, I called Youth Employment Services and found out that I qualified for help.”   Youth Employment Services, at the time, was a funded partner of United Way. The program helped her work towards her GED, obtain a driver’s license and most significantly, helped her get her son into childcare with Any Baby Can – a United Way affiliated partner. “That was my first introduction to United Way,” Teresa said.   Change-maker   As a 19 year Texas Mutual veteran, Teresa has eight years of United Way campaign coordination under her belt and has once again returned to the campaign as 2017 co-chair. Teresa was the volunteer special events coordinator for the United Way Campaign at Texas Mutual from 2007 – 2013 and during that time, along with the help of passionate coworkers, she organized fundraising events that allowed Texas Mutual Employees to give back to their community in a fun and rewarding way.   In […]

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Building Better Brains: The Importance of Early Childhood Educators

It’s a hot summer afternoon around three o’clock when we pull into the parking lot. Cars and parents scattered across the drive as they mosey inside to pick up their children. Upon opening the front door of the medium-sized brick building, a wave of cold, clean air, smelling slightly of finger paint and crayons, crashed over our faces. Bright white tiles reflect the sunlight coming through the big open front window causing the colorful artwork on the walls to shimmer and dance. There is no doubt that we have entered a childcare center.

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5 Immediate needs you can meet this summer…

Everyone talks about beating the heat when it’s time for summer, but do we ever stop to think about those in our community who can’t? Being raised by parents working in the social service sector means volunteerism is both an inherited and a learned trait. Read the post below to learn about the five simple ways I hope to make a difference in Austin this summer.

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United Way & Partners Award $781,000 To Six Local Organizations

When Hurricane Harvey made landfall nearly a year ago, nonprofits and businesses across Texas stepped up. In order to meet the needs of Central Texans who fell victim to the turbulent storm, United Way for Greater Austin partnered with MFI Foundation, Capital Factory, Entrepreneurs Foundation and Austin Community Foundation to coordinate efforts in the philanthropic community. On July 2, 2018 the collaborative announced grants to six community organizations totaling $781,000.

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In Good Hands, From Day One

It’s not news to us that Austin is growing at an astounding rate, with more than 150 people moving here daily. But there are other challenges that come with rapid growth, besides the traffic. A large number of those newcomers are moving here for job opportunities, and often early in their careers. This strong flow of young transplants means that many people living in Austin are far from their traditional support structures such as family and friends. When they start their own families in Austin, they’re unlikely to have access to the helpful community they’re used to leaning on.

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The Austin Summer Survival Guide, and Not the One You Would Think…

This is not your average summer survival guide. I am not here to talk about Float Fest or Amy’s Ice Cream. While both are great summer staples, the purpose of this survival guide is to provide our community with a list of resources that will make sure everyone gets the best out of their summer vacation.   Remember that you can call 2-1-1 24/7 for community information and resources. Connect with a compassionate call specialist, like Arnoldo who has been on staff for more than six years.   “2-1-1 is the most effective way of getting resources out into the community.” Arnoldo, 2-1-1 Call Specialist said. “It is a gathering of many people, many facets, that create one big jewel.”   STAY FED From breakfast to lunch to after-school snack, many kids in Austin rely on school meal programs. Often times the meals they are fed at school, are the only thing they will eat all day. According to Feeding America and the Community Advancement Network Dashboard for Travis County, 25 percent of children in Travis County are food insecure. That means more than 63,000 kids in Austin often go hungry when school is out.     Thankfully, through the Summer Food Service Program, Austin ISD will continue to serve FREE breakfast and lunch to local children and teens ages 18 and younger. Your child can get FREE meals even if they don’t attend AISD, regardless of economic status. No registration or identification is required.    To access FREE summer […]

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MENTAL HEALTH & MIGRANT CHILDREN

MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS Our School Readiness Action Plan (SRAP) provides a strategic and data-driven roadmap to making sure our community, parents, caregivers and educators are ready and prepared to support the mental and physical health and development of our children. Our SRAP goals include ensuring that all children receive early and regular developmental screenings, have access to basic needs and mental health services as well as increasing the number of family-serving agencies that are trauma-informed. Ninety percent of the brain develops by age five and a child’s mental health is the most important aspect of their social and cognitive development. Research shows that the earliest years of life can set the stage for lifelong mental health outcomes. “Early childhood trauma has been associated with reduced size of the brain cortex. This area of the brain is responsible for many complex functions including memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thinking, language and consciousness. These events may affect IQ and the ability to regulate emotions, and the child may become more fearful.” National Alliance on Mental Illness research shows that early intervention and treatment can minimize and prevent the loss of critical developmental delays. The more the community is prepared to identify, evaluate and, if necessary, treat the mental health of our children, the less we have to spend on healthcare, involve the juvenile and criminal justice system and fight to keep children from dropping out of school.   WHAT IT MEANS FOR MIGRANT CHILDREN TOXIC STRESS Doctors Concerned About ‘Irreparable Harm’ To Separated […]

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Investing Early Matters

Why focusing on the current and future workforce is imperative for the economic health of Austin and the long-term success of our children.   WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW   Our current workforce depends on childcare. It is as simple as that.   Do you have kids? If so, think about what kind of childcare are they receiving and what it costs you. Are either you or your partner able to stay home to take care of your children? If not, take some time to reflect on your experience with the childcare system.   For two working parents to support two children in childcare, a typical family needs to earn $61,356 per year. A family earning the median household income would spend 18 percent of it on childcare and for a single parent earning minimum wage, care costs about two-thirds (64 percent) of their earnings. When childcare costs are on par with tuition at a state university, many working families can’t afford to stay home.   Right now, U.S. businesses lose three billion dollars annually from employee absenteeism due to breakdowns in the childcare system. And these breakdowns disproportionately affect low-income families.   WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?   The current workforce is inhibited by the lack of accessible and affordable childcare and businesses are suffering due to the lack of a prepared workforce.   WHAT WILL CONTINUE TO HAPPEN IF THINGS DON’T CHANGE   While the current workforce is suffering due to a fragmented childcare system, our focus should be on preparing […]

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