Blog

Community Tree Lighting in St. John’s Makes Austin Brighter

United Way for Greater Austin was pleased to host the inaugural Community Tree Lighting in St. John’s on December 2, #Giving Tuesday.  We are so appreciative of the people and communities that make Austin greater and are overjoyed about the opportunity to provide a complimentary holiday event for families in this neighborhood.  Located on the Webb Middle School campus, the 15-foot tree, which was generously provided by Capital Metro, will serve as a joyous fixture that the people of St. John’s will be able to enjoy and revisit throughout the holiday season.  We chose Webb Middle School as our venue for this event because of our investment and strong ties to the community. Our Target Graduation program invested $300,000 in Webb Middle School students during the last academic year to coordinate student services including mentoring, tutoring and parent education.  You can see photos from the Community Tree Lighting here! Principal Sanchez, dressed as santa, flipped the switch on the 15-foot tree, casting a warm holiday glow on approximately 200 attendees. Following the tree lighting, Hands On Central Texas  distributed more than 1,500 books to adolescents and children in St. John’s. Seeing the expression on students’ faces as they were able to carry armloads of books away from the event was the most rewarding moment for staff at United Way and all those involved in the book drive. This free holiday event also offered families the opportunity to participate in card decorating, ornament making, face painting, interactions with mini-horses and balloon art, as well as cookies and cocoa. We […]

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Families Give Thanks, Volunteer Together

Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner, and with it comes time for individuals and families to reflect on what they hold near and dear. Family Volunteer Day, held nationally on the Saturday before Thanksgiving each year, is an opportunity for parents and children to give back to their community together. Started in 1992, this national day of philanthropy signals the beginning of the season of holiday giving and is an opportunity for families to give back as a unit. United Way for Greater Austin is a proud participant in Family Volunteer Day, and hosted a Holiday Cheer event this past weekend. Families created ornaments, made cards and decorated bookmarks to accompany children’s books donated from the book drive! More than 50 people attended this volunteer event, which compliments our upcoming Community Tree Lighting in St. John’s. The ornaments will be hung on the 15-foot tree, and the donated books will be distributed to underserved children at the Tree Lighting event. Family volunteerism supports the community by shaping the volunteers and philanthropists of the future. Children who volunteer with their families learn the importance of civic engagement and giving back through first-hand experience. Children also benefit from volunteering by building confidence and self-esteem. Interested in volunteer opportunities? We’ve complied a few options below!   Organize a drive to collect books or other materials for families in need Click here to learn more about UWATX-sponsored holiday drives Adopt a family. Local organizations such as Safeplace and Lifeworks have volunteer opportunities where individuals can adopt a family […]

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UWATX to Light Up St. John’s Community with Holiday Cheer!

United Way for Greater Austin is excited to host the first Community Tree Lighting at Webb Middle School in St. John’s on December 2, 2014 from 4:15 – 6:00 p.m. St. John’s, along with Manor and Dove Springs, is a community that UWATX has wrapped its arms around. We believe that this free holiday event will uplift the underserved community and solidify our presence and investment in the neighborhood. The Community Tree Lighting will feature a 15-foot tree, generously sponsored by Capital Metro, along with face painting, a balloon artist, cookies and cocoa, ornament making and a mini pony from Mini’s and Friends! Webb Middle School musical ensembles will also perform. Our Target Graduation program invested more than $300,000 in Webb Middle School students during the 2014 academic year. We served more than 75 percent of students and provided 1,219 interventions in areas including out-of-school time, mentoring, tutoring, case management, parent education and behavioral health. We are overjoyed to have the opportunity to light up St. John’s with holiday cheer and make the season a little more merry for students and families in the area, many of whom, like the Salazar family, struggle with the increasing demands of affordability in Austin. Please join us for what is sure to be an interactive and joyful family-friendly event!

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Summer Programs Provide More Than Learning

Though the temperature outside continues to drop rapidly (30 degrees–really Austin?!), the Target Graduation team at United Way for Greater Austin has summer on the mind. Our Navigation Center is starting to receive an influx of calls related to open enrollment for affordable health insurance, and the Target Graduation team is attending the National Summer Learning Association’s conference in San Antonio this week. Therefore, we’ve been reflecting on how our community’s needs change year-round and what we can anticipate when summer brings different challenges. Afterschool Alliance recently released a national report on out-of-school time programs. It highlights how participation in a structured summer program keeps kids physically active while also providing a measure of food security that is sorely missed when school breakfasts and lunches disappear. Food access continues to be a key concern in the Greater Austin area. Fortunately, more out-of-school programs are beginning to take this into account. Three out of four parents agree that out-of-school programs should provide nutritious snacks and meals for their children. One out of three AISD students have BMIs that put them at risk for health issues. Students gain weight 3X faster during the summer break. Conversely, when students lose access to school meals, they also lose the regulated diet and exercise schedule of a school day’s structure. Paul Von Hippel, a statistician from Ohio State, identifies this as a major factor in rapid weight gain occuring among youth during the summer break. His report found that students gain weight three times faster during the […]

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Looking for a warm meal this holiday season?

Each year, our Navigation Center sees a spike of calls during the holiday season – people looking to help by donating food, toys, gifts or their time and also calls from people looking for a warm meal for the holidays. We’ve compiled this calendar of resources that are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC to make it a little easier to find that warm meal:     Click on the image above to see a larger version PDF. Know someone looking for assistance? Tell them to give us a call at 2-1-1 to get connected to resources in our community.  

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2014 Texas Conference for Women

This year’s Texas Conference for Women takes place on Thursday, November 13, and with more than 100 impressive speakers, you don’t want to miss out! The conference offers business networking and personal development opportunities. It is a nonprofit, non-partisan event with sessions on a variety of topics, including personal finance, health and wellness, and career advancement.     Becky Arreaga, a member of the Women’s Leadership Council and the UWATX board, will not only be attending but also hosting her own roundtable this year. Becky is agency president of Mercury Mambo, a Hispanic marketing agency in Austin she started with her two business partners in 1999. We sat down with Becky to get her top five “must-sees” of this year’s conference.   1. Diana Nyad “Nyad epitomizes perseverance. She is proof that a ‘can-do attitude’ is ageless. At 60 years of age, she completed a lifelong dream of swimming 110 miles from Cuba to Florida. Her message of ‘never stop working towards your dream’ really resonates with me at this stage in my life.”    2. Soledad O’Brien “An award-winning journalist, O’Brien sheds light on human and civil issues in her series ‘Back in America’ and ‘Hispanic in America.’ Her story is compelling as she is multiracial, being both Black and Hispanic. Her background provides a unique purview from which to view and report world events. Soledad represents the perfect role model for young girls in general, but especially for young Latinas, who lack visible role models.”   3. Shiza Shahid “She is the CEO […]

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Happy Birthday, Judge Biscoe!

Happy birthday, Judge Sam Biscoe! Judge Biscoe has served as Travis County Court judge since 1998, and will retire when his term ends this December. He served on the United Way for Greater Austin Board of Directors for many years, and recognizes the common goals UWATX and the county have to help those in our community who need it most. In addition to becoming the first African-American Travis County Court judge, he helped implement several programs benefitting county residents, including a youth summer employment program and extended-day program for middle school students. “I would personally appreciate your helping me transition into retirement knowing we gave generously to needy persons in our community.” – Judge Sam Biscoe He has been a voice of reason and mission for our community, and has consistently advocated for families living in rural areas surrounding Austin. He invests his own resources thoughtfully, and additionally, asks that his employees also engage in philanthropy. Every year, he runs a Combined Charities employee campaign, in which Travis County employees pledge to contribute a portion of their individual salary to over 300 charities in the Austin community, including UWATX. For his birthday on November 5, Judge Biscoe requests donations to his campaign in lieu of purchasing a gift. He ran his most successful campaign in 2009 by raising over $200,000. As this year will be his final employee campaign, Judge Biscoe’s goal is to set a new record for the amount of money raised and hopes it will be his most prosperous campaign yet! If you are […]

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What Does Affordability Mean In Austin?

It isn’t news to anyone who lives here—Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. With the daily influx of new patrons to the area, housing prices continue to skyrocket while availability of affordable housing rapidly shrinks. But what does “affordable” really mean? Government standards define housing as “affordable” if a family spends less than 30% of their income on rent. Austin has the highest average rent costs in the state, at about $1,050 for a two-bedroom apartment. The average rent for a two-bedroom in cities around the rest of Texas is about $867. However, one must look at more than housing costs to determine the affordability of a city. Childcare in Austin can cost up to $16,000 a year—that’s about the same price as a year of in-state tuition at the University of Texas. Considering the median household income in Austin is less than $60,000 a year, this means more than a fourth of a family’s income is spent on the care of just one child. That leaves little left for gas, groceries, healthcare, and all of life’s other necessary expenses. For example, let’s say one Austinite is working a job where they make minimum wage at $7.25 an hour. This person would have to work 111 hours (about three full-time jobs) a week just to pay for their two-bedroom apartment. 65% of Austin residents are dissatisfied with the cost of housing.  Voters passed a $65 million bond measure last year that aimed to create affordable housing options. However, most […]

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UWATX Staff Makes Austin Greater, One Meal at a Time

United Way for Greater Austin employees spend countless hours each and every day promoting our vision and mission – we inspire philanthropy within our community in order to break down barriers to economic opportunity and ensure that Greater Austin continues to thrive. We collaborate with community partners to ensure that every child is kindergarten-ready, tirelessly work to prepare students for success in high school, empower working-poor families and individuals with the knowledge and tools to become financially stable, and provide simple, one-call access to nonprofit and governmental resources for Central Texas. 330+ hours volunteered   700+ meals delivered In addition to their dedication within the walls of our office, many of our staff members also use personal time each week to volunteer with Meals on Wheels. This passionate team of volunteers loads up food prepared by Meals on Wheels and delivers it to the doors of some of Austin’s most vulnerable citizens every Wednesday. Over the past four years, we have volunteered more than 330 hours and delivered more than 700 meals! Rain or shine, our group never deviates from the weekly route, knowing that a handful of people depend on our dedication to meet their food needs. Our staff members have developed connections with the beneficiaries of this service, engaging in quick chats each week while delivering meals to these thankful recipients. “I volunteer for Meals on Wheels and More because I know that when I knock on the door and announce, ‘Meals on Wheels’, I instantly brighten someone’s day,” said Vanessa Hartman, director of […]

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UWATX Leads Projects That Make a Difference for Local Schools

United Way for Greater Austin believes that anyone, regardless of their ability to make a financial contribution, can engage in philanthropy. Volunteering one’s time is a valuable way to make a positive impact and invest in the community. As part of our annual participation in Make a Difference Day, one of the largest national days of community service, our staff members organized projects that allowed others to donate their time and talents in order to make local schools greater. On Friday, October 24, Hands On Central Texas coordinated a volunteer project for Mendez Middle School students to clean up litter on campus. Approximately 60 students participated in the project and were supported by adult volunteers through our Young Leaders Society. Ricoh kicked off its United Way for Greater Austin employee campaign by volunteering. Employees helped prepare Webb Middle School’s gardens for future outdoor classroom instruction. Webb’s Volunteer Project Leaders led the volunteers in gardening, and spoke about their campus and future project plans for the school and neighborhood. A group of Dr. Pepper Snapple Group employees also volunteered their time in the St. John’s neighborhood, where Webb is located, by touching up the Born Learning Trail at J.J. Pickle Elementary. Volunteers cleaned up the area and painted shapes, numbers and letters that coordinate with activity signs for children. Dr. Pepper Snapple Group employees also wrote inspirational letters to middle school students at our three Target Graduation middle schools (Webb, Decker, Mendez) and made bookmarks to accompany board books from recent book drives. Decker Middle […]

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