Author: Morgan Messick

Join us for Spring Season of Caring

Live United with us during Spring Season of Caring! Join us on Earth Day (Thursday, April 22) for the kickoff of Spring Season of Caring, our annual tradition of gathering with neighbors in service of our community. Our mission here at United Way for Greater Austin is to bring people, ideas, and resources together to fight poverty in our community. Keeping that mission and COVID-19 safety in mind, this year we are hosting a virtual gathering of community, and we have curated some self-guided, socially distanced opportunities for any individuals or groups to get involved. United together, we’re building a better Austin for everyone. Here’s how to join us: Spring Season of Caring, virtual gathering Thursday, April 22 12:30 – 1:00 p.m. A Zoom link will be shared via email with all who register. Join us on Earth Day for a community moment, reflection, and a game to find out how well you know your city. Join us at our virtual gathering Spring Season of Caring, socially distanced activities Live United and take pride in your community! We encourage you to take part in any of these self-guided community beautification activities on your own time throughout Spring Season of Caring. How does it work? Pick one of these curated Community Beautification Routes that piques your interest. Spend an hour volunteering, learning, exploring, and collecting trash. We’ve curated a few different locations around town to help you get to know Austin’s past and present. Sharing your photos on social media? Make […]

Read More

Join us for Blue Sunday

Blog by Caitlin Oliver, Success By 6 Intern, United Way for Greater Austin The Success By 6 Coalition is a community wide collaboration of child and family advocates – providers, parents, policymakers, civic leaders, and experts – with a shared goal to ensure every child born in the Austin area receives the support and care they deserve during their essential first 2,000 days. United Way for Greater Austin is the convener of this work in Austin/Travis County. The Success By 6 Coalition (SX6) is made up of community stakeholders collectively creating a future in which all children in our community enter Kindergarten healthy, happy, and ready to succeed in school and life. To prepare all our youngest Austinites for school readiness, we partner with nonprofits in the community to deliver impactful services through four focus areas: Healthy beginnings Supported families High-quality care & education Safe & stimulating communities Together with our partners, we are building a stronger foundation for Austin so all families can thrive. This year we are expanding our support of whole families by participating in Blue Sunday and raising awareness of Child Abuse Prevention Month.  Blue Sunday is a day in which faith communities join together in prayer for children experiencing abuse and neglect. Each year this day of prayer falls on the last Sunday in April, which is recognized as Child Abuse Prevention Month. This year, Blue Sunday is April 25, 2021. Child abuse and neglect statistics in Travis County and Texas are heartbreaking: In Travis […]

Read More

United together, we can weather every storm

Fighting poverty means fighting to change broken systems, and last week every member of our community felt the weight of broken systems. No one in Texas was safe from the statewide systems failure that caused millions of Texans to be without power, heat, clean drinking water, and access to food and resources when needed. It was a terrible week, and our community will feel the weight of tragedy and trauma for years to come as we rebuild together. As setbacks mounted many felt hopeless, but in the wake of the disaster something beautiful happened. While systems let us down, our neighbors came together to find their own solutions. United together in community, we helped each other make it through. There are many bright stories from across the city of grassroots organizations, volunteers, and individuals who made sure neighbors had some way to stay warm and fed, and that they had access to water. The team at United Way for Greater Austin saw an opportunity to bring together our friends and partners to help with the water crisis, and quickly jumped into action.  Last Friday (February 19), reports of city-wide water outages and clean water concerns surfaced. United Way ATX’s Madison Mattise (Director of Pre-K Partnerships) and Cathy McHorse (VP of Success By 6) wanted to ensure that Austin families with young children had access to the clean water they needed to weather this crisis. They immediately began connecting with the greater United Way ATX team, partners, and local child care […]

Read More

5 organizations to celebrate, and 1 thing to do

Happy Black History Month! There are many incredible organizations in Austin fighting for social justice, racial equity, and preserving and furthering Black culture in our community. Here are 5 organizations you can celebrate this month, and one easy way to support them today: DONATE.  1. African-American Youth Harvest Foundation “Through our programs, nearly 9,000 youth and adults have received services at our flagship African American Youth Resource Center. We have also helped 49 juvenile offenders enroll in our mentoring program, and nearly 2,000 youth and adults have attended our conferences, where we seek to improve our community by focusing on supporting and strengthening the family unit and addressing preconceived notions of minority youth.” Their mission: To effectually address disparities and ensure low-barrier access to vital educational, economic, and enrichment resources to underserved, at-risk youth and their families on their path to self-sufficiency. DONATE to African American Youth Harvest Foundation to improve our community by elevating our minority youth.  2. Austin-Area Urban League The Austin Area Urban League is a historic civil rights organization dedicated to providing economic empowerment, educational opportunities and the guarantee of civil rights for African Americans and other underserved/underrepresented populations in the Austin/ Central Texas region. Their mission: To enable African Americans and other underserved urban residents to secure economic self-reliance, parity, power, and civil rights, and to provide tools for them to build a foundation for social and economic equality. DONATE to Austin-Area Urban League to help build healthy foundations for equity in our community. 3. […]

Read More

Partner spotlight: WIC innovates to safely serve our community during COVID-19 and beyond

Blog contributions by: Diana Flores, WIC Community Engagement Coordinator and Annette Phinney, Public Health Division Manager Our Success By 6 Coalition is a collective of strong partnerships in the Greater Austin area serving our community. We have one holistic mission to ensure all kids are happy, healthy, and ready to succeed in school and beyond.  The work of all of our partners feeds into our 4-pillar approach of striving for: high-quality care and education, healthy beginnings, supported families, and safe and stimulating communities. One of these amazing partners with boots on the ground in ATX is The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, popularly known as WIC. You’ve probably heard about the work WIC does, but how much do you really know? Our team did a Q&A session with the local Austin Public Health WIC team to learn more about how they are pivoting services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tell us about WIC and which areas of Greater Austin are being served. WIC is a nutrition program for pregnant, breastfeeding people and families with children younger than five. WIC provides: nutrition education and counseling nutritious foods breastfeeding support referrals to healthcare and social-service providers Our local WIC agency serves Travis and Bastrop county and we are part of the Austin Public Health department. What issues did WIC face with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020? The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many challenges to our traditional processes of providing benefits for WIC participants and new […]

Read More

Honor MLK Jr.’s life and legacy with us

MLK Jr. Day of Service celebrates the civil rights leader’s life and legacy through service. Observed each year on the third Monday in January as “a day on, not a day off,” MLK Jr. Day is one of only two federal holidays designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities.  Historical and systemic racism drive racial inequities in our country, and in our own community. We partner with you in building a Greater Austin that works for everyone. Celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. King is central to United Way for Greater Austin’s community volunteerism because it helps us reconnect with our mission to fight poverty in our community, and reminds us that together we can enact the change we want to see. While this year looks different from our previous community gatherings, we invite you to join us for a socially distanced celebration, and a virtual gathering full of reflection and motivation on how to carry on Dr. King’s legacy of anti-racism, justice, and equity. We have opportunities for individuals, families, and groups of friends. MLK Jr. Day of Service Monday, January 18, 2021 Socially distanced: Park at the United Way ATX office and follow our pre-mapped 3.3 mile round-trip self-guided tour of historical landmarks celebrating Black culture on the East Side. Virtual: Celebrate the life of Dr. King by viewing Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, engaging in discussion around his life and legacy, and taking a […]

Read More

Equity is at the center of the Success By 6 ATX Coalition vision

Co-authored by Jelina Tunstill (CAN) and Laura Olson (GAVA), members of the Success By 6 Leadership Team and Success By 6 Equity Team. United Way for Greater Austin proudly serves as the convening organization for the Austin/Travis County Success By 6 Coalition. The first five years of a child’s life are a critical period when 90 percent of all brain development occurs. What happens in these early years has a lasting impact from birth to Kindergarten readiness, to high school graduation and beyond.  In 2012, Success By 6 ATX formed a coalition to transform Austin/Travis County’s early childhood system through a Strategic Plan (originally called the School Readiness Action Plan). Today, the Success By 6 ATX Coalition (SX6) has grown and continues to make progress on the goals we have set. We are coordinating programs and actions to ensure that every child born in the Austin area receives the support and care they need during the first 2,000 days of their life, an essential time for development. We seek to ensure success not only for children, but also for the long term economic health of our community.  In 2021, SX6 will be leaning into race equity work as a priority for our coalition. To get beyond the buzzwords of racial equity and put real action behind intention will require alignment with our coalition, state leaders, funders, and local decision-makers to affirm: When it comes to the much-touted ideal of “child-centered” planning, supports, and care, children and families of color count […]

Read More

Supporting our littlest Austinites, together

Family Connects Texas recently celebrated its second birthday, and the program is striding forward, full steam ahead with plans for growth. We are so proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish over the last few years serving families at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, and we are committed to serving even more families in the years to come. We have a bold goal: to make sure that all babies born in Austin/Travis County have the best possible start in life. “We really enjoyed our nurse home visit with Family Connects, and our nurse was fantastic! She provided wonderful resources, and a lot of important information for parents. Even though we already have a two-year-old, there were a lot of things that we learned from our visit, and we were impressed that the nurse checked on the health of the family in general. We would definitely recommend a nurse home visit with Family Connects for all parents.” — Brandon C. It takes a village to raise a baby, and for many families in Austin, Family Connects is that support structure. In just a few short years, we’ve made great progress on our goal to serve families in Austin. Already we have: Served over 1,300 families in Austin/Travis County Successfully connected 78% of families who indicated a need with support services, from food assistance programs to family support groups to lactation consulting Addressed some need or concern — either during the nurse visit or through a outside connection — for […]

Read More

Child care advocacy in action

When 2020 began, child care was already facing a tough dilemma. Teachers were underpaid and stretched thin, families were struggling to afford high-quality care, and child care programs were surviving on budgets with razor-thin margins. The pandemic has only worsened these strains. The problems were always there, but 2020 became the year that the world noticed that child care is in crisis. As schools and businesses shut down in March, Governor Abbott asked child care centers to stay open to serve the children of essential workers. Many local programs heeded that call to action despite the many unknowns about virus mitigation, transmission, increased costs, decreased revenue, and long-term sustainability. At the same time, our Success By 6 Coalition (SX6) began advocating for relief funding by contacting local officials, providing comment and testimony at meetings, and more. Many coalition members responded to the call for advocacy, and many leaders of local child care centers also emerged as leaders in advocating for their staff and families. The Austin City Council, in turn, allocated $5M+ child care relief funds, recognizing child care as a vital economic sector of the Austin economy. Austin is one of the only cities in the state providing substantial relief with local dollars for child care, thanks in part to powerful testimony from these local leaders.      Patsy Harnage has continued her advocacy, and was recently featured in an interview with KXAN sharing her support for essential child care workers receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Our advocacy has helped […]

Read More

Meet Natasha Martin: A champion for change with Women United

‘Tis the season to be grateful, and our cups are overfilling with gratitude for our Women United Executive Committee members who support the work of United Way ATX. These women are champions for change and innovation in our community, and they are committed to helping our youngest Austinites reach their full potential. We couldn’t do our work without our Executive Committee, and we’re thrilled to introduce you to one of them! Meet Natasha Martin! Natasha supports Women United because she knows how important our early childhood education work is. Learn more about Natasha and why she joined Women United. How long have you been in Austin? “I’ve called Austin home for about 14 years.” What is your favorite thing about Austin? “I like the many recreational activities Austin has to offer. Over the last several months I have grown to love the regional parks in and around Austin. My family and I started hiking and bird watching more during COVID and there are so many perfect places in our city for these activities. Before COVID, one of my favorite things about Austin was catching live music or spoken word poetry in the more settled venues in East Austin.” What is one thing you want everyone to know about you? “Maybe I shouldn’t say this but I want to be known for having an open heart. I try to dial this back in my practice of law, but in church and in the community, I want to be known for letting […]

Read More