Blog

Volunteer Spotlight: Peggy Wilson, Texas Mutual Insurance Company

It’s that time of year again. The heat. Buying school clothes; buying school supplies. Preparing for the school year gets expensive quick. To prepare students (and parents) for the 2016-17 school year, volunteers from all over Austin came together at Webb Early College Prep Academy on Aug. 18 to assemble school supply kits, reorganize the school library, aid teachers in preparing their classrooms and landscape the flower beds around campus. One of the sponsors of our Aug. 18 Back to School Readiness Event at Webb was Texas Mutual Insurance Company. Texas Mutual has a very large and active volunteer base, one of which is their IT Senior Manager, Peggy Wilson. Peggy has been volunteering with UWATX for just over a year and she loves it. She explains, “The reactions to volunteering at UWATX are very positive – we love it.” Read our brief Q and A below to get to know Peggy and her experiences volunteering at UWATX. 1. What inspires you to volunteer? People say volunteering is unselfish, but I actually think it feels good to help others. In a way, it’s self-serving, as corny as it sounds. You get away from your own problems for a while when you focus on others. It’s also nice to learn about other people – whether they’re those you’re helping or those you’re working with. 2. What do you like to do in your spare time? I’m pretty simple – I like to spend time with my husband, Chris and my dog, Otis. […]

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Philanthropy As Easy As 1-2-3!

Each year, we adopt a new campaign theme to inspire employees to give a little bit out of each paycheck to change their community. We at UWATX believe anyone can be a philanthropist–but the word “philanthropy” can sound overwhelming. We recruited some of Austin’s finest philanthropists–elementary school children–to show you just how easy philanthropy can be in this year’s campaign: “Philanthropy Easy as 1-2-3”. We were excited to once again work with Kathy Horn and her collective, Hunt, Gather, as well as local Austin photographer, Annie Ray. Local comedian Mac Blake spoke with these young philanthropists about how they help others and what giving back means to them. The videos highlight what philanthropy means at the most basic level, why we need philanthropy in our community and more. If you want a good laugh, check out all the videos here. We featured three UWATX service recipients in this year’s campaign, who can tell you in their own words what United Way and philanthropy means to them. Katrina and Aracelli Chapman UWATX gives Katrina invaluable peace of mind and support. A single mother and unable to work because of a disability, Katrina has looked to United Way for financial and emotional support since before the birth of her now three-year-old daughter, Aracelli, Now, she’s turning again to United Way’s Success By 6 program to make sure Aracelli is developmentally where she needs to be when she starts school. Ashley and Owen Trimpey Raising up the community, one family at a time. Through Play To Learn, […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: Jackie Oliver, Broadway Bank

With the start of school less than a month out, UWATX’s volunteer arm, Hands On Central Texas, is already planning the Back to School Volunteer Day at Webb Early College Prep Academy. Volunteers will come together on August 18th to help teachers prepare their classrooms for the year, beautify the campus and distribute donated school supplies to different programs and areas of the school. One of our dedicated partners, Broadway Bank, has been volunteering with our back to school efforts for the past two years. Broadway Bank’s home city of San Antonio hosts a large school supply collection, which inspired Austin Assistant Market Manager, Jackie Oliver, to bring those efforts to Austin when she reached out to UWATX in 2014. That year and the following year, 2015, Broadway Bank successfully collected supplies for more than 50 students in need at a partner middle school by hosting collection events at their downtown Austin branch. Jackie made sure to keep the Broadway Bank group involved and volunteering throughout the year. Employees participated in the H-E-B Feast of Sharing in November, Spring Day of Caring and Fall Day of Caring. Additionally, Broadway Bank donated holiday meal kits to families at the Mendez Boys and Girls Club Thanksgiving Dinner. The meal kits included food to prepare a delicious family meal and an H-E-B gift card to purchase a turkey. We had the opportunity to chat with Jackie and her marketing team about what drives Broadway Bank’s philanthropic involvement:   1. How long have you been involved with […]

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Partner Spotlight: Any Baby Can

Photo: Any Baby Can United Way for Greater Austin believes collaboration is essential to tackling our community’s largest problems. We work with many nonprofit, public and private organizations in our community to have a larger impact and create real change in our city. One of these funded partners is Any Baby Can. Any Baby Can is a nonprofit organization that believes “all children deserve the chance to be healthy and happy”—a vision in line with UWATX’s own. Any Baby Can serves children with developmental delays, chronic or life-threatening illnesses and hearing loss, as well as their families. Any Baby Can also serves first-time pregnant women, including teenage moms, moms with postpartum depression and parents seeking parenting skills. According to Any Baby Can’s website, 34,959 children in Travis County have a special health care need. Services Any Baby Can offers to their clients include in-home physical, occupational and speech therapy, case management, mental health counseling for anyone in the family, support groups and nurse-home visitation. They also partner with Open Door Preschool so that parents receiving onsite classes have quality childcare while they are learning new parenting skills. Any Baby Can hosts monthly organization tours open to anyone interested in learning more about the organization. While on the tour, the absence of workers in many of the offices is striking. This is because much of Any Baby Can’s therapy and case work is done in the homes of their clients. Any Baby Can has boasts many robust programs. One such program, […]

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CommunityTHRIVE Offers Spanish Courses

Just a few months ago, United Way for Greater Austin announced the launch of a new initiative within our Financial Stability work called CommunityTHRIVE. CommunityTHRIVE provides financial education classes, coaching and community resources in partnership with the City of Austin Neighborhood Centers and Goodwill. Paola Silvestre-Leveck is Goodwill’s new financial literacy trainer for the CommunityTHRIVE program at the Rosewood-Zaragosa Neighborhood Center. Thanks to Paola and continued collaboration between UWATX and Goodwill, we are excited to now be able to offer these important classes to Spanish speakers in addition to the already existing English classes. Paola earned her Business Administration degree and previously worked in investment for several years. Before her time at Goodwill, she worked as a legal assistant and business plan consultant for an immigration law firm in Austin. She has worked at Goodwill for three months and has already taught roughly 40 financial classes. Each week at various Goodwill locations, she teaches eight classes and in addition, she works with UWATX to provide three classes for the CommunityTHRIVE program and two for the City of Austin. “People usually have a lot of misconceptions regarding credit reports and credit scores, so majority of the questions surround those two topics,” Paola said. “The challenges are to not only convey financial information, but ensure that the topics are not confusing and that the client does not feel bored throughout the training.” The CommunityTHRIVE classes cover budgeting, savings, credit and financial recovery. In addition, Paola created specific modules that fulfill specific client […]

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Ask An ECL

United Way for Greater Austin’s 2016 campaign season is just beginning, and we’re excited to work with more than 200 companies with nearly 700 locations in the Greater Austin area to raise money to invest back into our community. We could not raise as much money as we do annually without the help of some very important volunteers: UWATX Employee Campaign Leaders (ECLs). ECLs are representatives from our corporate partners that lead their company’s employee giving campaign. They host fun events to teach their coworkers about our programs, set up time for our development officers to stop by and speak about UWATX, and inspire their coworkers to give through each paycheck and set fundraising goals. Two of our seasoned ECLs, Melanie Zamora of Texas Gas Service and Kim Perry-Klotz of KPMG, share their experiences in this crucial role. Where do you work and how long have you served as an ECL? How did you become the ECL for your company? Kim: “I work for KPMG, LLP in Austin, Texas. I was asked to be the Involve Coordinator for our office three years ago and gladly accepted. As the Involve Coordinator, one of my roles is to organize and lead the Giving Campaign for our office each year.” Melanie: “I work for Texas Gas Service. I have been an ECL for two years. I was nominated to be an ECL after being with the company for an only a short period of time and gratefully accepted the challenge.” What did you like […]

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Two-Gen Programs Aim to Break Cycle of Poverty

At United Way for Greater Austin, we focus on wrapping our arms around entire families and fighting the root causes of poverty. A family living in poverty rarely struggles with only one factor causing their situation, and therefore cannot rise out of poverty by only receiving one type of aid or only one person in the family receiving help. As an example, let’s say Diane is a single mom of three children. Diane is working fulltime making minimum wage during the day and also has a side job at night to make extra money. She must pay for childcare for her youngest child during the weekdays, and is having trouble making ends meet to pay the rent, put food on the table and clothing on her children’s backs. She has no opportunity for promotion at work as she only speaks Spanish and only has her GED. As a result, she is also struggling with depression and feels she has no support. Her oldest child watches the other two after school, and he is struggling with grades and never has time or help with his homework because of this. If Diane receives one service, such as food stamps, this will help her put food on the table—but the fact remains that the family is still unable to be lifted out of poverty due to the variety of other factors affecting them. This is where two-generation, or “two-gen,” programs come into play. Many programs focus solely on low-income children or low-income adults, […]

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Summer Health Tips

Summer time usually means staying by the poolside, barbecues and other outdoor festivities, but with that comes sun exposure, mosquitos and various safety hazards! It’s important to prevent injuries and keep you and your family healthy while enjoying the outdoors. Below are a few tips to help keep your family healthy and safe this summer season: Stay Active Longer days and more daylight provide more opportunities for you to get outside and get some exercise in! Swimming, walking, biking and jump-roping are all great ways to burn some calories this summer. You can make enjoying physical activity a thing for the whole family! Playing tag, frisbee and hula-hooping are great ways to get the kids involved and everyone moving. One thing to keep in mind is that the warmer temperatures make exercising outdoors a bit more challenging. Wear lightweight and light-colored clothes to keep yourself cooler. With the hottest time of the day being between noon and 3 p.m., try to keep your exercising to mornings or evenings after the sun sets. Most importantly, drinks lots and lots of water, before, during and after you are physically active! Protect Yourself from Mosquitoes and Other Pests It’s important to carry around bug spray containing at least 20% deet to deter mosquitoes and others pests when outside. Mosquitoes are also attracted to sweet smelling perfumes and sprays, so try to minimize use of these products if you plan to be outside for extended periods of time. Protect Your Skin and Eyes When out […]

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Spring Play To Learn Classes Graduate

As our Play To Learn program runs on a school year schedule, we just wrapped up our spring semester and are launching our summer groups with about 30 families participating. This year so far, a total of 204 families graduated from Play To Learn or an extension class through YMCA, which is a combination of Play To Learn and YMCA’s Early Learning Readiness program. Through Play To Learn, not only did young children leave with new skills but parents learned how to foster their child’s optimal development at home. Parents and children attended classes together with the following themes: • Social skills • Gross motor skills • Fine motor skills • Language Development • Emotional regulation skills • Geometry • Numeracy • Emerging Literacy “Honestly, this program did help my daughter a lot. My children are naturally very shy and now my daughter is less introverted and more social. I really did see a huge change in my daughter and I highly recommend the class. The reason I never missed a class is because I could tell my daughter loved being there and benefited greatly.” –Maria R. Attendees also learned digital literacy skills by practicing various tasks and using the pre-loaded educational apps on the Samsung tablets provided by United Way for Greater Austin. It is important to bridge the “digital divide” between low-income families and their more affluent peers now more than ever. Internet access is no longer a luxury but a necessity for individuals to complete homework, fill […]

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Summer Camp Kicks Off

This summer, United Way For Greater Austin is funding a six-week blended enrichment program for middle school students in Manor. In partnership with Bank of America, a special cohort of incoming 9th graders will concentrate on career readiness and financial literacy as they prepare for high school. Students will not only learn about careers in the classroom, but will take weekly field trips to various businesses and organizations to learn about different career paths from the employees working in each field. Last week, the summer program kicked off with students visiting the state capitol to learn more about the political sector. The students took a tour of the capitol to learn more about the history of the building and Texas government. They learned some interesting facts when visiting the State Senate room, like how the Senate does not have a limit for debate which can cause a filibuster. (The longest filibuster in Texas happened in 1977 when a representative talked for 43 hours!) After the tour, students met with Miguel Liscano and Curtis Smith to learn about their career paths and experiences working in the capitol. Curtis Smith works as the Chief of Staff for Representative Terry Canales from District 40, and Miguel Liscano who works as the Committee Director for the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence for Representative Abel Herrero of District 34. Miguel and Curtis discussed how they started their careers through internships, working with a business or organization for a semester or summer to get both educational and real life experience in different fields. The […]

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