Blog

History of Children’s Optimal Health

This blog was written by COH/Model Community Backbone team member Dan Brown . In early 2008, thirteen lead community agencies and institutions organized as the Charter Members of Children‘s Optimal Health (COH) and formed a Texas Unincorporated Non-Profit Association (TUNA). Five of the Charter Member organizations committed to the initial funding of COH, while others committed data, time, and their knowledge surrounding the Central Texas community. The COH Board of Directors reflected the diverse organizations that impact children’s lives: healthcare, housing, education, economic development, and agencies addressing social and emotional development. This variety in Board representation allowed COH to look at a broader definition of health that included educational factors as well as the social determinants that play an important role in shaping outcomes for children. COH was created as a “Utility” to help our community visualize issues related to children’s well-being. Partners included municipal entities, healthcare organizations, non-profits and corporations. With the neighborhood-level geographic (GIS) maps of locally held data that COH produced, the community was able to gather together to study issues and find solutions to the problems we face in ensuring children are healthy. COH joined the Urban Institute’s National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership as part of a learning community focused on increasing visibility and action around neighborhood disparities. COH served as a collective leadership initiative that united the efforts of Central Texas organizations in promoting community change to help our children reach a brighter future. COH strived to give agencies and communities access to proprietary data by […]

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United Way for Greater Austin and Children’s Optimal Health have merged!

United Way for Greater Austin and Children’s Optimal Health (COH) have joined forces and merged! Through this merger, we are streamlining our business and operational infrastructure to more efficiently serve the Greater Austin community. This will allow us to focus more on research and evaluation, and ultimately increase our impact as a data-driven organization. Both organizations share a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the necessary restructuring of power to ensure that the voices of those with lived experience guide our work. Together, we can do more. This merger will support Model Community, a structured collaborative building a more effective, person-centered system of health, education, and social services. The goal of Model Community is that everyone in our community has the opportunity to be healthy and thrive, organizations can more effectively serve clients, and the community achieves equitable health and wellness outcomes. COH team members will be supporting the development of a cross-sector community information exchange (CIE), a crucial part of Model Community, allowing our community to shift to more proactive, holistic, and person-centered care. COH Board member Dr. Anjum Khurshid, formerly with Dell Medical School and currently with Harvard Medical School, has joined the United Way Board. The COH Board included local leaders across our health, education, and social services sectors. These partners will continue to provide guidance to United Way as the CIE Community Advisory Board. Since the onset of COVID-19, COH has been creating monthly community needs reports and maps with data from 2-1-1, a program run […]

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PACES helps nearly 11,000 local families access life-changing tax credits

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is the largest federal anti-poverty program in the country, yet one in five eligible families with low income in our community are not receiving it. Alongside our partner Foundation Communities, United Way for Greater Austin is helping thousands of local families take advantage of this credit and reducing hesitation around tax filing through PACES.

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Real people … real impact

So many of our neighbors are working hard, but struggling to make ends meet; having to choose between paying for food, rent, gas, or medicine for their children. Inequitable systems make it nearly impossible for families to break out of the cycle of poverty. But, the collective generosity, love, and compassion of caring people like YOU is making an impact, changing these systems and improving the lives of local children and families. Together with generous neighbors like you, here are some of the things we accomplished in the past year across the Central Texas region, including Travis and Williamson counties. $15,470,491 invested directly into our community 91,874 children and individuals impacted through our strategic work in education, health, and financial stability 301,831 requests for help answered through our Navigation Center These are more than just numbers; these are lives forever changed. Amina immigrated to Austin from the Congo, and – less than 24 hours later – she gave birth to premature triplets. Alone in a new country, she didn’t know where to turn. She searched high and low for her village.Thankfully, Amina was connected to incredible community resources, funded by United Way, that helped her find housing, navigate the confusing social services system, and enroll in school. United Way had created that village of support Amina so desperately needed.Amina is now working as an Accountant Technician, and furthering her education at Austin Community College. Her triplets, Divine, Gift, and Testimony, are now five and though they are too young to understand how much their mom has fought […]

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More than 140 volunteers come together for Summer Day of Caring

On Friday, June 3, over 140 volunteers at 12 different locations across Travis and Williamson counties rolled up their sleeves at United Way for Greater Austin’s Summer Day of Caring, a community-wide volunteer event. Volunteers worked on a range of projects, from cleaning up local parks to painting jungle gyms at child development centers to gardening at local nonprofits – and more!  “These Days of Caring are so important. It connects us with each other, it connects us with the community, and it connects us with the truth that when one of us suffers we all suffer, and when one of us celebrates we all celebrate,” said United Way for Greater Austin CEO David C. Smith while at a volunteer location in Leander (pictured below).  “Volunteering with United Way makes a difference,” shared Terry Cook, Commissioner of Precinct 1 in Williamson County. Terry and her team volunteer every year, and choose to support United Way for Greater Austin because “the tasks chosen by United Way are very impactful.”  Events like Summer Day of Caring are a crucial part of United Way’s mission to fight poverty. Volunteering makes a direct impact on our community in a powerful way. Community events like these aren’t possible without the help of our amazing volunteers and sponsors. A big thank you to H-E-B, JPMorgan Chase, QuikTrip, Superior HealthPlan, and Texas Gas Service for their support in making Summer Day of Caring a success!   Check out the full photo album for Summer Day of Caring here. […]

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United Way for Greater Austin Awards $2.2 Million to 68 Local Organizations

United Way for Greater Austin awarded a total of $2.2 million in strategic grants to 68 nonprofits in Travis and Williamson counties. The recipients represent a diverse set of community leaders collectively serving over 13,000 local children and families in the areas of education, health, and financial stability.  As an organization committed to changing inequitable systems and embracing inclusivity, United Way approached the grant selection process with these values in mind. In total, 66 recipients focus on clients who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC), and 25 recipients have BIPOC leaders.  “We are grateful to every donor who makes these strategic investments in our region possible,” said David C. Smith, CEO of United Way for Greater Austin. “Every dollar goes a long way to ensure everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential. United Way is proud to support and work with such outstanding partners, and we look forward to changing lives the only way we know how: United.”  In January 2022, United Way for Greater Austin and United Way of Williamson County joined forces and merged into a regional organization supporting children, families, and individuals in Austin, Travis County, and Williamson County. This funding represents a continued investment in both counties. Because United Way brings local solutions to local issues within each community across the region, grants will support strategic priorities specific to each county.  In Travis County, the grants will advance the goals of two community coalitions powered by United Way: The Success By 6 […]

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Austin-based Superior HealthPlan Filling a Need with Hygiene Closets

This blog was written by Superior HealthPlan Director of Communications Michael Cation. Superior HealthPlan is a long-time corporate partner of United Way for Greater Austin and a pillar of our community. Together with our partners like Superior, we’re making a real difference for children and families across our Austin region.  Shampoo. Toothpaste. Feminine hygiene products. These are just a few of the items individuals from lower-income neighborhoods often struggle to buy. That’s why Superior HealthPlan, a leading managed care organization in Texas, has been working with schools and nonprofits in Austin and beyond to launch hygiene closets. As part of this initiative, which kicked off in 2020 during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Superior provides grants to community-based organizations to help stock these closets for individuals in need. “We’re excited to support the Austin community as well as many others in Texas by providing families access to personal care items,” said Mark Sanders, President, and CEO of Superior HealthPlan. “Combined with the many other community programs and family services we offer, hygiene closets allow us to help Texans right where they are.” The initiative began by partnering with 6 organizations that support the disability community. Following a wealth of positive feedback, Superior decided to expand the program in 2021 and has supported even more organizations this year. To date, Superior has provided more than $300,000 in funding to more than 70 organizations and schools in Texas, including more than $20,000 to the following in the Austin area: Austin […]

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Early Matters Greater Austin advocacy win: Paid parental leave in Travis County

On May 3, the Travis County Commissioners Court unanimously voted to offer Travis County employees eight weeks of paid parental leave! The resolution was sponsored by Travis County Judge Andy Brown and Precinct 1 Travis County Commissioner Jeffrey Travillion, and advocated for by the Early Matters Greater Austin Steering Committee.  Powered by United Way for Greater Austin and E3 Alliance, Early Matters Greater Austin (EMGA) is an alliance of current and retired business professionals focused on the critical relationship between access to high-quality early education and our State’s long-term economic success. A significant aspect of the group’s work — known as Best Place for Working Parents® — is advocating for family-friendly workplace practices that are research proven to benefit families and have a positive impact on a businesses’ profitability. The EMGA Steering Committee’s advocacy for Travis County expanding family-friendly policies for their 5,000+ employees, is an example of that work.  After the unanimous vote to implement paid parental leave, EMGA Steering Committee member Tom Hedrick spoke about the positive impact family-friendly policies have on families, businesses, and our larger economy.  Travis County is proving family-friendly is business-friendly  While family-friendly policies have a direct impact on working parents, local and national research proves that there is also a serious business case to being family-friendly: 83% of millennials would leave one job for another with stronger family-friendly supports Replacing an employee costs an employer six to nine months of that employee’s salary Over 60% of working parents said child care issues have […]

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A “Rawr-some” Literacy Night with the Greater Austin Reading Coalition

On April 28, more than 200 children and families gathered for the Greater Austin Reading Coalition’s first-ever Family Literacy Night at Sanchez Elementary School with coalition member Communities in Schools. Hosting family literacy nights and distributing culturally-relevant books are critical parts of the coalition’s work to ensure that all children are reading on grade level by the fourth grade.  At the literacy night, students had a blast getting their faces painted, picking out a book to take home, listening to a monster-themed storytime, and letting out their best monster roar! At the end of the event, they received a backpack filled with school supplies courtesy of Deloitte. Additionally, parents and caretakers were provided with resources to support their child(ren)’s reading development, including our new Guilt-Free Reading Calendar. It was a “rawr-some” night!    Special thanks to Communities in Schools, Deloitte, Sanchez Elementary, and the coalition’s Parent-Caretaker Working Group for making this literacy night a huge success. We can’t wait for the next one!   The Greater Austin Reading Coalition is convened by United Way as part of our collective impact work to fight poverty. Since launching in January 2021, the coalition has gotten 50,000 books (and counting!) into the hands of young readers. You can follow the coalition’s journey here. 

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