Blog

A First Look at Our Newest Initiative: K-12 Education

The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation recently approached United Way for Greater Austin with an opportunity to expand our work beyond early childhood education and into the K-12 space. The Foundation offered funding because they’ve seen proof of our impact as a convening organization with both the Success By 6 and 2-Gen Coalitions.  We’re honored to serve as a convener within the K-12 space, partnering with dozens of organizations to amplify our collective impact and create greater equity for students in our community.  This year, our K-12 work will focus on bringing together a diverse coalition of literacy advocates, including nonprofit leaders, librarians, teachers, and parents, to work towards a shared vision of supporting children to ensure they are reading on grade level by the 4th grade. We’re excited to give you a behind the scenes look at what goes into building a coalition to create equitable systems changes in our community.  We all know that a good story highlights the who, what, where, when, why, and how. But, these are also critical questions and factors that we engage with in our systems change work. Today we’re going to look at “the why”. Why is United Way for Greater Austin expanding into the K-12 space?  Currently, our focus on education is centered around ensuring that ALL children in our community are Kindergarten-ready. But we know the work doesn’t stop at age six. The increased earning potential of an individual who attains a high school diploma or goes on to attain […]

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A Night United 2021: Truly a night to remember

Wow, what a night! With moving stories, inspiring levels of generosity, and a sweet dance party,  A Night United was truly a night to remember. More than 500 Austinites attended, and despite not being together in the same room, it felt like a community-wide, intimate dinner party. All of us on the United Way team left the event feeling immensely grateful for our essential heroes and inspired to continue the fight against poverty here in Greater Austin. We hope everyone who attended did too!  Missed the event? You can catch up on all the fun below! Together, we surpassed our goal and raised $230,000 to create greater opportunity for children and families in our community! You can join us in the movement to build a better Austin from the ground up by making a gift here.  Thank you to our amazing co-chairs Nahid & Ali Khataw and Natalee & Charles Thornburgh; Board Chair Malini Rajput; Cornerstone Sponsor Texas Mutual Insurance Company; Jeremiah Bentley; and our three Austin essential heroes Patsy Harnage, Arnoldo Longoria, and Kathryn Treviño. Your investment in our community is inspiring, and the definition of what it means to Live United. Special thanks to our 38 dinner party hosts for generously hosting a virtual table, inviting their friends and colleagues to join and give. As David C. Smith, United Way for Greater Austin CEO, said at the event: “When Nelson Mandela moved from his prison cell to the Presidency of South Africa, he shared these words of hope […]

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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 […]

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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. […]

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Meet Patrick, a member of Emerging Leader passionate about connecting with our community

Photo: Patrick Mercer, Dr. Alison Bentley, and Sara Reeves.  This week we caught up with Patrick Mercer, a member of the Emerging Leaders Executive Committee and Assistant Vice President, Wellness Director at Frost Insurance Agency. Patrick is passionate about connecting with our community and giving back to the Greater Austin community that has given him so much. Check out our interview with Patrick to learn more about his “why” for joining Emerging Leaders and being involved with United Way ATX. “[I am involved with United Way] first and foremost because of the people,” Mercer said. “It seems like everybody that I have met, whether it is a staff member or a volunteer, has a heart for service and giving back. They have a heart for creating opportunities for people.” Want to know more about Patrick? How long have you lived in Austin? 15 years! What is your favorite thing about Austin? Weather allows most outdoor activities to be enjoyed year-round. What is a fun fact about you that you wish everyone knew? I’ve been attacked by a mountain lion. “Patrick has been a dynamic and essential member of the Emerging Leaders Executive Committee for the past two years, leading the effort to relaunch this group and make an impact on the lives of so many here in Central Texas. Patrick also always has an incredible story to tell and is such a joy to be around.” – Jennifer Woods| Donor Relations Manager, United Way for Greater Austin To learn more […]

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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 […]

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It’s 2/11: Celebrate 2-1-1 front line heroes with us!

When COVID-19 hit Central Texas, the team here at United Way responded quickly. Almost a year later, our 2-1-1 team is still responding to increased calls for questions and help around COVID-19, and help in general. (At times in the first few months of the pandemic, our call volume was 10x the average.)  The Governor has said that 2-1-1 is THE place to go for information on COVID-19. Now more than ever, people need to know where to go for food, information on testing, health services, and so many other needs. Our 2-1-1 team is working around the clock to make sure callers seeking help are connected to accurate and up-to-date information. We know the whole community is thankful for our 2-1-1 front line heroes, and we couldn’t be happier to celebrate our team this 2-1-1 Day. Meet Stephanie Lyon, Statewide Community Information Coordinator, and learn all about the importance of 2-1-1. Want to know more about Stephanie? What brought you to United Way ATX? I came to United Way in the very beginning of September 2020, as a contract worker. I had been searching for meaningful, challenging, community-related social services work in the nonprofit sector for a few months. Due to being in the middle of a global pandemic and tough job market, I was incredibly fortunate to be contacted by a recruiter. I went through the interview process, and was grateful to land the position of 2-1-1 Navigation Specialist.  How long have you been working with the Nav […]

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Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences through collaboration

Have you heard of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)? If not, don’t worry! We are here to help fill you in.  United Way for Greater Austin is excited to announce the launch of the PACES program, Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences through getting the Earned Income Tax Credit into the hands of more eligible families in the Greater Austin area. Only 20% of eligible families are currently taking advantage of this tax credit that is arguably the largest federal anti-poverty program there is and that’s where PACES comes in. The program is a collaboration between Foundation Communities, The Child & Family Research Partnership out of The University of Texas at Austin, and United Way.  Gabriela Mordi, Project Manager at Foundation Communities, will lead the outreach efforts with the help of United Way ATX’s PACES Coordinator Francisco Gallegos. Monica G. Navarro, Research Associate at The Child & Family Research Partnership, will support the project through data collection and analysis. “The Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC, is a refundable federal tax credit for working families of low and moderate income,” Navarro said. “In other words, the EITC lowers a family’s tax bill or provides a refund if they do not owe taxes, increasing the family’s overall income. By improving the financial security of families with low income, the EITC can reduce the environmental and economic conditions that put children at risk of experiencing ACEs and promote overall better family and child outcomes.” Watch the video below to learn more about the […]

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Meet Tracy Fielder: Creating a personal legacy of moving the needle on equity

We’re excited to launch a new year with Women United. This group of incredible and passionate women are advancing equity in early childhood education through their membership and we couldn’t be more grateful.  Tracy Fielder is just one of the 210 women who are supporting our youngest Austinities. Learn more about her work in creating a personal legacy of moving the needle on equity here in Greater Austin. Learn more about Tracy and why she joined Women United. How long have you been in Austin? “My husband and I moved our young family to Austin in 1996. We feel fortunate to live in such a diverse, creative, and vibrant city.” What is your favorite thing about Austin? “I love to be outdoors, and the Lady Bird Hike-and-Bike Trail is my go-to spot. This is where I walk my dogs, connect with friends, laugh, reflect, decompress, and of course, exercise. I also enjoy live music, especially blues and old gospel, at many of our iconic venues. Throw in a yummy bite from one of our local food trucks and I’ve had an amazing day.” What is one thing you want everyone to know about you? “I’m compassionate. I care about many things, but inequities in education really matter to me. I grew up in a home where education was the key to everything. My parents set a high bar for academic achievement, but also ensured my sister and I were keenly aware of the educational divide and how fortunate we were. […]

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A Night United 2021: Building a Better Austin Together

  If 2020 showed us anything, it’s that a system with a weak foundation will break under pressure. No matter how beautiful it looks from the outside; a structure must be built with good bones from the very beginning in order to endure. It’s time to take a closer look at where we started before we can keep building. This is why the theme for our third annual A Night United event is building a better Austin together. United we can work to strengthen the solid foundation upon which better systems are built. This year, we are committed to reimagining a stronger Austin that serves everyone, built on racial justice and equity for all.  Click here to save the date for the third annual A Night United on Friday, February 26.    All proceeds will build opportunity for Austin children and families in our continued fight for equity.

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