Blog

Emerging Leaders member Jose Lopez: “I Live United because I want to make a difference.”

After serving as a loaned executive for United Way’s biggest employee giving campaign two years in a row, H-E-B manager Jose Lopez joined our Emerging Leaders donor network to stay involved in the Austin community and be an advocate for United Way’s mission of fighting poverty. During his time with United Way thus far, Jose has led dozens of H-E-B store campaigns with more than 20,000 people and raised over $1 million for the Greater Austin community each year. Jose says he wants to help make his Austin community a more equitable place for everyone. As a member of Emerging Leaders, he aims to learn more about issues facing local communities and get involved in delivering impactful solutions. Watch more about Jose’s work and read the full story in his own words below. Why did you join Emerging Leaders?  I joined because I want to make a difference. A lot of the work being done [at United Way] personally resonates with me. Growing up with a single mom raising six boys, it was always a struggle. It was definitely a path that taught me a lot in life. But I don’t think everyone should have to go through that. It’s much better to help and connect folks to resources and put them on a better path.  Seeing the work that gets done with nonprofits has always been intriguing. I want to see what happens behind the scenes and not just that but how I can make a difference. So Emerging […]

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Hispanic Heritage Month: How we celebrate united

Here at United Way for Greater Austin, we value the beautiful diversity of our community. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we want to celebrate that beauty with you! Join us in recognizing and honoring the rich culture and diversity of the Latino community.  This year, we asked our United Way team to share what Hispanic Heritage Month means to them and how they celebrate their roots. Natalie Obregon, Development Operations Associate Francisco Gallegos, PACES Project Coordinator  Paola Silvestre, Director of Family Pathways  Clarena Tobon, Director of Resource Development, United Way WilCo  Jose Lopez, H-E-B United Way Executive     Thank you Natalie, Francisco, Paola, Clarena, and Jose for sharing your stories. Everyone’s roots may be different, but one thing is for sure, food connects us all! We wish everyone a happy Hispanic Heritage month. When you celebrate united, you Live United. 

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First guaranteed income program in Austin helps parenting students advance their careers

Meet Katie Gonzalez, a parent of six young kids. As one of 34 parents in our Expanding Opportunities for Young Families pilot program, Katie recently earned a phlebotomy certificate from Austin Community College, advancing her career opportunities while also receiving access to vital wrap-around services for her family. Expanding Opportunity for Young Families (EOYF) is a collaborative community program coordinated by United Way for Greater Austin that helps parents overcome barriers to completing their degree, such as challenges finding child care and financial pressures. The program, which takes a 2-Gen approach of serving parents and children simultaneously, works to increase young parents’ successful academic enrollment and completion so they can access middle-skill jobs.  The goal of the program is to increase the financial stability of young parents age 18-29 while improving the well-being of their children, and is the first guaranteed income program in Austin. Together with local community partner organizations, young parents from our Link Up Austin group are co-leaders of this work to advance the well-being and economic mobility of their families and the community. Katie says participating in the program allowed her to support herself financially while studying to achieve her dream role as a phlebotomist. “It’s a good opportunity for a lot of families,” she said. “Especially those who are in need and are wanting to go back to school and get educated, so they can have a career for themselves, their kids and their families.” How it works United Way partners with Workforce Solutions (WFS) […]

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Meet Laura Gentner: Living life with kindness, honesty, and support for the dignity of everyone

Women United is a diverse, vibrant donor network supporting United Way for Greater Austin. Members are committed to creating a powerful, female-driven philanthropic force to fight poverty in Greater Austin. As one of this year’s Women United Co-Chairs, Laura Gentner is helping to create change in our community, so that everyone can share in the promise of Austin!  “I Live United because we are living and experiencing this world together, so let’s do that with kindness, honesty, and support for the dignity of every person.”  – Laura Gentner, Women United Co-Chair Why does United Way’s mission to fight poverty resonate with you personally?  Fighting poverty is an effort to change a person’s life cycle and what the next generation will inherit. It’s getting to the root of the poverty issues in our communities and creating solutions that have longevity. Growing up, we teetered on the poverty line, and I know how easily one can fall into a sudden, difficult place in life. I love that United Way is focused on finding solutions to such a complex challenge. It’s not easy, and the success isn’t immediate, but I’m glad United Way is front and center fighting for Greater Austin.  What is your favorite part about being a member (co-chair!) of Women United? Activism! We just had our first Women United meeting for 2021-22, and it’s very obvious these are women ready to make change and impact in our work for early childhood education and the fight against poverty. It’s my privilege […]

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Announcing $21,000 to 4 Nonprofits: Supporting Children in Their First 2,000 Days of Life

This summer, United Way for Greater Austin awarded a total of $112,000 in one-time grant funding to 23 qualified community organizations delivering effective programs and services that advance the goals of the community coalitions we convene as part of our collective impact work to fight poverty.  Here at United Way for Greater Austin we’re working hard alongside our community partners to ensure that all children in Austin/Travis County enter Kindergarten happy, healthy, and prepared to succeed in school and beyond. That’s why we lead the Austin/Travis-County Success By 6 Coalition (SX6), 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. To help advance this goal, United Way put out a call for proposals to fund programs and services that are advancing SX6’s goals with a focus on efforts that build capacity to deliver prenatal and postpartum health services that are culturally responsive and support BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) women and infants, and elevate family voice as part of the planning and decision-making processes of community-based organizations serving children and families birth to age five.  We’re thrilled to announce that the following organizations were awarded mini-grants, up to $7,500, to support their programs and services that are supporting our littlest Austinites!  Culturally responsive prenatal and postpartum support  Catholic Charities of Texas: support the St. Gabriel’s […]

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Fall Day of Caring: A Bookspring, Enterprise, and Onnit Collaboration

COVID-19 has impacted all of us, including young kids. As the reality of the pandemic set in, and schools closed abruptly to keep students and their families safe — many students were navigating the challenges of remote learning for several months. It’s no surprise that education professionals have witnessed a stall in reading skills among young students since the pandemic began in early 2020. That is why, this year, our annual Fall Day of Caring took form as a book extravaganza! On Thursday, September 30, the Greater Austin Reading Coalition , convened by United Way, partnered with BookSpring to distribute 5,000 books to local community organizations supporting families with children ages 5-12.  Special thanks to our partners at Enterprise and Onnit who volunteered their time and effort to distribute all of the books throughout the region! At United Way, our mission is to fight poverty, and we know that reading is a crucial skill to help future generations win. Currently, only 30% of children from families with low income are reading at grade level by 4th grade. Our goal is that all children in Greater Austin reach that level. By increasing access to quality out-of-school learning opportunities, culturally relevant books, and building a community culture of reading, we can move the needle on grade-level reading rates in our community and create greater opportunity for local children and families. We’re honored to get 5,000 more books into the hands of young readers. Thank you to our partners, Bookspring, Enterprise, and Onnit, for […]

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Announcing $21,000 to 5 Nonprofits: Helping Improve Families’ Economic Opportunities

This summer, United Way for Greater Austin awarded a total of $112,000 in one-time grant funding to 23 qualified community organizations delivering effective programs and services that advance the goals of the community coalitions we convene as part of our collective impact work to fight poverty.  Here at United Way for Greater Austin we’re working hard alongside our community partners to ensure that all families are financially stable. That’s why we lead the 2-Gen Coalition, a coalition of service providers focused on increasing economic opportunity for whole families and ensuring that families with children in Travis County are financially stable. A 2-Gen approach to social services serves parents and children simultaneously and leads to better financial outcomes for both generations.  To help advance this goal, United Way put out a call for proposals to fund programs and services that are advancing the 2-Gen Coalition’s goals with a focus on racial justice transformation and digital equity. We’re thrilled to announce that the following organizations were awarded mini-grants, up to $7,500, to support their programs and services that are creating greater opportunity for children and families in our community!  Racial Justice Transformation  American Youthworks: engage YouthBuild participants in co-creating collaborative power-sharing structures, designed and run by youth and adults Austin Voices for Education and Youth (AVEY): as part of the St. John Equity in Education Project, AVEY will survey parents, teachers, and community partners about the strengths and challenges they see in their local schools, hold a series of community planning dinners, […]

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Parents are Powerful: Meet Sasha Salinas

Welcome to our blog series all about shining a spotlight on the ways that parents are using their voices to build a better, brighter Austin. In the first installment, we introduced you to two parent leaders who serve on the 2-Gen Leadership Council.  Today, we’re excited to introduce you to Sasha Salinas, a member of the Greater Austin Reading Coalition’s Parent Advisory Council. A mom of two girls, ages 6 and 8, Sasha uses her voice to advocate on behalf of the children and families in her community.  Check out what she had to say to parents looking for ways to support their child’s reading development!  How did you get involved with the Greater Austin’s Reading Coalition’s Parent Advisory Committee?  I am a Parent Champion through Families as Partners, a program within Austin ISD. Maria Rosas who runs the program reached out to several of us moms who are heavily involved in our community and have a passion for engaging others and advocating for children.  What are some of the barriers you see for parents in trying to access resources for their children’s reading development?  The biggest barrier is finding the information that is age appropriate and in their preferred language. That was my hardest part, especially as my kids get older. A lot of information is geared towards younger ages and, with my kids being 6 and 8, I don’t always know where to look for material that is appropriate for them.  The Greater Austin Reading Coalition’s Parent Advisory […]

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Announcing $70,000 to 14 Nonprofits: Increasing Grade-Level Reading Rates in Greater Austin

This summer, United Way for Greater Austin awarded a total of $112,000 in one-time grant funding to 23 qualified community organizations delivering effective programs and services that advance the goals of the community coalitions we convene as part of our collective impact work to fight poverty.  Here at United Way for Greater Austin we’re working hard alongside our community partners to ensure that all children are reading on grade-level by 4th grade. That’s why we lead the Greater Austin Reading Coalition, a diverse coalition of nonprofit and community leaders, librarians, teachers, and parents working to ensure that all children are reading on or above grade level by the fourth grade. To help advance this goal, United Way for Greater Austin put out a call for proposals to fund programs and services that are advancing the Greater Austin Reading Coalition’s goals, including building a community culture of reading, engaging parents and caretakers in their child’s reading development, and making quality, enriching out-of-school-time services accessible to all children.  We’re thrilled to announce that the following organizations were awarded mini-grants, up to $5,000, to support their programs and services that are improving early grade reading outcomes for local children!  Build a community culture of reading  100 Black Men of Austin, Inc.: provide culturally-relevant books to local teachers to share with their students in the classroom AKA Association For Community Development, Inc.: implement Project G.R.E.E.N. at Oak Springs Elementary School, facilitating reading programs and book distributions for Oak Spring students Capital Area Alliance of […]

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United Way for Greater Austin & United Way of Williamson County are joining forces!

We are excited to announce that United Way for Greater Austin and United Way of Williamson County are joining forces! Our two organizations have signed a management contract with intent to merge, and we are engaged in a due diligence process as the final step in the merger process.  Together, we will have one mission: Bringing people, ideas, and resources together to fight poverty in our community.  “As the Austin metro area grows, the boundaries between Travis and Williamson counties continue to blend; many people work in one and live in the other,” said David C. Smith, CEO of United Way for Greater Austin. “For our communities biggest challenges, more and more people are finding regional solutions optimal. This merger will help us better and more efficiently serve the Greater Austin community, while expanding and deepening our impact with a regional approach. Together, we can do more.” The Boards of Directors for both organizations approved the move in June 2021. The due diligence process is expected to be complete by the end of the year, with a further vote by both organizations’ Boards at that time. Until then, United Way for Greater Austin has a managing agreement with United Way of Williamson County and is thoughtfully integrating the two organizations into one. “Integrating the services and expertise of our two organizations will help us better and more efficiently serve our community, both in Williamson County and the region,” said Jodee O’Brien, former CEO of United Way of Williamson County and […]

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