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YLS Member Spotlights

United Way for Greater Austin’s Young Leaders Society (YLS) is a diverse network of young professionals under the age of 40 who are passionate about helping kids and families overcome economic barriers. Through unique networking events, meaningful volunteering and learning opportunities, members leverage their collective power to connect, serve and grow. Membership is open to donors giving $250 or more annually to United Way for Greater Austin. Each month, we’ll help you get to know YLS members through a spotlight! Stay tuned for member interviews each month. January 2018 Member Spotlight: Rose Ann Garza Rose Ann Garza is a longtime supporter of United Way for Greater Austin and and has been a YLS member since 2014.   What does your job entail? Ultimately, I take care of our team from start to finish-everything from ensuring we are making our new team members feel welcome to benefits and compensation, incentives, etc. The People Operations team ensures our team feels treated fairly, appreciated and that they have a safe and happy place to work in, something everyone deserves but sadly not everyone gets.   Why do you choose to support UWATX? I have always been passionate about giving back to the community in which I reside. Growing up it was part of who we were as a family-I continue to consider volunteerism a part of who I am to this day and am grateful to have been raised with such a focus on others. When I first came to Central Texas for […]

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Partner Spotlight: Foundation Communities’ Free Tax Help Returns $33.8M to Hard-Working Families

While Austin is a city brimming with opportunities, many families find simply affording our city a growing challenge, this is particularly true for families raising children. One critical provision preventing many of Austin’s low- and moderate-income families with children from sliding into poverty are tax returns bolstered by the refundable credits – the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. It can be a relatively substantial infusion of cash for families making ends meet with low or unpredictable incomes and may be the only opportunity a family has to purchase a vehicle, pay a large security deposit, or address a pressing repair. Foundation Communities is a long-time partner of United Way for Greater Austin and has been a cornerstone of this family-sustaining work. In addition to ensuring hard-working families can access their full tax returns for free, they offer a service designed to be convenient, trustworthy, and available year-round. “I’m grateful to all of our volunteers and community partners, including United Way, who make it possible for us to provide free, high-quality tax preparation services each year,” shared Kori Hattemer, Director of Financial Programs at Foundation Communities. “We couldn’t offer this vital community service without their time, commitment and energy. Our tax centers save hard-working families thousands in tax preparation fees and, this year, returned nearly $34 million in refunds to the local economy.” More than 600 volunteers dedicated their time to assisting families, coming together to achieve an incredibly tangible impact. People relying on private tax preparation […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: Jimmy, Jenny & Cristian

On Wednesday, May 17, United Way for Greater Austin celebrated the contributions of students in UWATX’s Youth Engaged in Service (YES!) program at Webb Early College Prep Academy. The YES! program has been an opportunity for students to learn about philanthropy and volunteerism while exploring careers throughout the Austin community.  Students have gone on field trips to local companies and non-profits and have completed tons of volunteer hours on projects after school. Our staff sat down with a few phenomenal Middle School volunteers to learn more about what volunteerism means to them. Jenny Dominguez (J-Dog), Jimmy Aguirre (Bigfoot) and Cristian Dominguez (C-Money) are Webb students who participated in the YES! program and were are excited to share their thoughts with you.   What was the most fun volunteer experience so far for you? Jimmy  |  I liked last week when we planted plants and helped the environment. Cristian |  Painting a giant Jenga set at the MLK Day of Service in 2015. Jenny |  Visiting the Austin Humane Society to donate toys and play with a puppy.   What is an issue that is important to you? Jimmy |  World hunger, because if we go hungry, we won’t survive! Jenny |  Getting a new phone, it freezes a lot and it’s slow. Cristian |  So many issues! I want to government to not use bombs or start wars.   What do you want to be when you grow up? Jenny |  A basketball player for the Austin Spurs. Cristian |  the President of the United States. Jimmy | […]

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Día de los Niños 2017

As part of Project HOPES, our Success By 6 Outreach Coordinator, Marilyn Manzo, led the second annual Día de los Niños event in congruence with Child Abuse Prevention Month. The event was held at Allan Elementary on April 29, 2017 and generated more than 150 referrals for early childhood programs. More than 300 attendees enjoyed a petting zoo, free face painting, healthy snacks donated by HEB & Community Sync, music, and developmentally appropriate activities. In addition, more than 100 developmentally appropriate books were given away for free to families during the event. Family Support Network and School Readiness Action Plan participants included: AVANCE, Any Baby Can, BookSpring, The Literacy Coalition of Central Texas, Communities in Schools, Vela, Mama Sana, Vroom, YMCA, Child Inc., Si Se Puede, and the Austin Public Library. The implementation, planning, and outreach for the event was truly a group effort that contributed to the success of the event. See all event photos here!   

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Celebrating Kerbey Lane Cafe

Kerbey Lane Cafe just wrapped up their fourth employee giving campaign and, thanks to their incredible team, it was huge success. Between their seven store locations, Kerbey team members donated over $37,000 to UWATX. Kerbey team members also volunteered over 650 hours giving back to the community. In addition to volunteer activities staff members, Rose Ann, Amanda and Karli, also committed months of work preparing, planning and helping to execute the first annual Ruthless Good event. Kerbey Lane volunteers are always the last to leave a project and can always be counted on to do the dirty work! If we need help, we know that we can count on Kerbey Lane to show up, never stop moving and stay until the place is cleaner than we found it. Kerbey attracts creative and passionate employees and it has been a great asset to have them in on the planning stages of major events, or to give them a paintbrush and see what they can do with a playground. Volunteers from Kerbey Lane Café can be counted on to participate in every Day of Caring that we host.  They often work on a variety of projects that support health and access to food, along with projects that support the early childhood development centers that they are so passionate about. Each Kerbey Lane location is paired with a local child development center and organizes projects to support the children and teachers at their designated center throughout the year. Over the last four years, Kerbey Lane volunteers […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: Mary Velarde

Mary Velarde is a Literacy Coach with United Way’s Success by 6 programming.  In the Literacy Coaching Project, Classroom Coaches are placed in child care center classrooms serving children ages 3-5 for the length of a school year. The coaches are trained to deliver age-appropriate, engaging early math and literacy games and activities during the day– these are usually provided in small group or one-on-one settings.  As an AmeriCorps member, Mary has dedicated this year to supporting students in this program and it’s easy to see that she will continue to have a huge impact on our Austin community when she is done.  We asked Mary about her experience as a volunteer, and she was happy to share her answers with us: Why do you think it is important to give back? I think it is important to give back to our community because it strengthens communities, improves the lives of the people we serve, and provides the tools they need to succeed in life. What inspires you to volunteer? I’m inspired to volunteer because I know I will make a positive difference in the lives of those I serve, which I believe will then have a greater impact for our community; it will strengthen our community. Another reason why I am inspired to volunteer is because it transforms my life and those I serve and it becomes a rewarding experience.  I like to encourage others to volunteer because through volunteer work, individuals are able to discover more about themselves that […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: Karli Isiyel

Karli Isiyel is the Creative Director at Kerbey Lane Cafe, and a stupendous volunteer and partner of United Way for Greater Austin!  Kerbey Lane is graciously donating all of their proceeds from their anniversary celebration on May 5 to UWATX, so consider stopping by for some pancakes to support our friends and neighbors. Karli has volunteered with United Way in many different ways. She served on our logistics committee for Ruthless Good: The Great Austin Scavenger Hunt and she helps mobilize the team at Kerbey to get involved in volunteer projects that support UWATX’s Center Project supporting early childhood education facilities that provide subsidized space for low-income children to receive quality child care. We love Karli and are grateful for her thoughts about volunteerism at Kerbey Lane Cafe and what our community means to her. How long have you and Kerbey Lane Cafe been involved with United Way for Greater Austin? We have been volunteering with UWATX for 5 years now! What a wild ride it has been 🙂 What is your favorite memory of volunteering? I always enjoy making green pancakes at Ronald McDonald house, everyone is eager to help and you get to hang out with the people that may be going through a rough time in their lives and make their day a little brighter – pic attached of me and my friend Ronny. Clearly I’m a visual person – big surprise. As a longtime Austinite, what is your favorite thing about our exceptional community? I think being a native Austinite, I […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: Cat Duong

Cat Duong is a fantastic volunteer leader from H-E-B and a great partner of United Way for Greater Austin in many of our volunteer events throughout the year. We were honored to have her as a member of our Cheer Team at Ruthless Good: The Great Austin Scavenger Hunt on April 8. Not even her birthday could keep Cat from giving back and on May 5, she’ll be part of our upcoming Spring Day of Caring, sponsored in part by H-E-B. We encourage anyone interested in giving back on May 5 or 6 to join H-E-B in making this huge volunteer event a success! Cat is also an integral part of planning and running the H-E-B Feast of Sharing where around 14,000 holiday meals are served at the Palmer Events Center each November.  It is hard to keep track of all of the ways that Cat is giving back to the Austin community and we were honored that she took the time to share some insight with us about what volunteering means to her. Tell us a little bit about how H-E-B gives back to the community. Where to begin?  H-E-B has done so much for the community since 1905, that it’s almost hard to quantify everything.  The numerous organizations that H-E-B gives back to in Central Texas is amazing.  We support our communities in the following areas: education, environment, diversity, disaster relief, health & wellness, hunger relief, military appreciation and volunteerism. H-E-B gives back in so many different ways.  All of […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: Ahmad-Rauf Hardy

Ahmad-Rauf Hardy is a full-time volunteer in United Way for Greater Austin’s Literacy Coaching Project. He works directly with young children at Open Door Preschool to help bolster their literacy and math skills. Low-income children can be exposed to 30 million fewer words than their higher income peers by the time they reach 3 years old and the Literacy Coaching Project aims to fill in the gap for students at child care centers with subsidized spaces for low-income children. This is Ahmad’s first year as Literacy Coach, second year as an AmeriCorps member and he plans to continue making an impact for Austin children when this school year is over. United Way for Greater Austin could not provide such robust services to low-income families without the help and dedication of phenomenal AmeriCorps members like Ahmad. How much do you volunteer as an AmeriCorps member through UWATX’s Literacy Coaching Program? I find myself on campus 40 hours a week through my AmeriCorps position, and I split that time between two Open Door Preschool facilities, the one at M-station, and Open Door East. What made you interested in starting to volunteer? My sister is a teacher, and I had experience teaching in other programs with older students before this.  I think it is important to give back to the community when possible, and I like to see kids start off on the right foot with quality educational child care. What is next for you when your time with Americorps is over? I […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: Jeff Eads

Jeff Eads, of Public Consulting Group – title sponsor of Ruthless Good: The Great Austin Scavenger Hunt, is currently serving on the Ruthless Good Logistics Committee. UWATX is thrilled to have his help planning the challenges that Ruthless Good participants will compete in!!  Jeff is also a member of UWATX’s Young Leaders Society a diverse group of young professionals who raise funds to support UWATX’s critical work in the Austin community. We asked Jeff a few questions about why he and Public Consulting Group volunteer with us. Enjoy his answers below. How long have you been involved with UWATX? I have been involved with UWATX since July 2016. Tell us about your experience volunteering on our Ruthless Good logistics committee. I’ve had the pleasure of volunteering on the committee since September 2016. I was lucky enough to volunteer on the committee with people I served alongside in the Army in addition to people doing great work in Austin’s philanthropic community. My main responsibility was to develop a method to score Ruthless Good. I created a system that allocates points to stops based on the distance from the Long Center. The scoring methodology will be incorporated into the technology platform that participants will use to submit their responses. Overall, the experience has been a great way to get plugged into UWATX! What are other Public Consulting Group employees saying about working with United Way for Greater Austin? Public Consulting Group (PCG) is excited for the opportunity to help raise funds for Austin-based charities supporting early childhood educational success. […]

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