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YLS & student leaders expand the Decker Middle School Garden!

Last month, a small group of volunteers gathered at Decker Middle School to work on the community garden.  We were current YLS members, new volunteering recruits and Volunteer Project Leader students.  One of the VPL leaders even invited a friend from another school to participate— as Julie commented, it truly is neat to see recruiting happening at that age! Standing on a large rock in the middle of the Decker Community Learning Garden, Annie and the student Leaders for the project welcomed the volunteers and described our task—to continue the work begun last year by the VPL class on the Decker Middle School Garden.  Volunteers quickly got to work on the various projects including:  painting the sign for the Decker Community Learning Garden, building two benches, digging holes for the sign and the benches, and making bags out of old banners. The most popular activity seemed to be the bag-making project.  Julie shared this project from Keep Austin Beautiful. This project involved donated banners, staples, and duck tape.  In addition to making bags for carrying the gardening tools, nearly all of the VPL students made at least one bag to bring home or to give to a friend.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see these bags as the new “in” fashion in the Manor community. To conclude the event at Decker Middle School, Annie made the surprise announcement that we were going to have a cartwheel contest!  Congratulations Julie for winning the cartwheel contest. After saying our goodbyes to […]

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At 3M, WLC women are “true leaders”

Since 2003, the Women’s Leadership Council has worked to be “the most powerful female-driven philanthropic force in Central Texas” – and with more than 500 members investing in our community annually, it’s safe to say they’re delivering on that promise. At each of the 400+ companies that we work with locally, the WLC looks a bit different, adjusting to the culture and needs of that particular workplace.  Since it’s International Women’s Day, we wanted to find out what drives these incredibly giving women by talking to Judy Donigan, National Account Manager at 3M, about what’s working for them. The WLC group allows us to leverage the power of women and support efforts that are close to our heart.   – Michelle Diggs, 3M Marketing Manager & WLC Member JA Central Texas Board, Any Baby Can Advisory Board, Texas Civil Rights Division Commissioner What makes the WLC at 3M unique?  The WLC women at 3M are true leaders within our company.  They are successful in their different businesses and foster a sense of responsibility in giving back to our community.  Many of the women are board members of nonprofit organizations within the greater Austin area.  All of our members are committed to improving the lives of those with barriers to economic opportunity through our philanthropic efforts.    How many women are involved? Who has the WLC changed over time?  Twenty-four 3M women participate in activities with the Women’s Leadership Council. From my perspective, more 3M women are also taking additional leadership positions […]

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Challenge: stump our data

Just a few weeks ago, we released the 2013 Community Needs and Trends report for our community – and right away, nonprofits  throughout Greater Austin asked for a deeper dive into key elements of this treasure trove of data, including diapers and food needs. We also saw data released from other organizations that reinforced our findings. Here are the big answers, insights & details that came out of it all:  1. Both adult and child diapers are a key need in Greater Austin .@Austindiapers Data show diapers rank high on our list of unmet needs: pic.twitter.com/ZduYnHQZwo — United Way Austin (@uwatx) February 12, 2014 2. Data consistently show women are the majority of those looking for help From @CPPP_TX: Female-headed Texas working families that are low-income increased from 59% in 2007 to 61% in 2012: http://t.co/PXXipZT1Cj — United Way Austin (@uwatx) February 13, 2014 Our #data show women are the majority of those looking for help – & #childcare is a big concern. @MomsRising @CPPP_TX pic.twitter.com/Y6AxAig6FS — United Way Austin (@uwatx) February 19, 2014 3. Food needs vary seasonally but continue growing Capital Area Food Bank aggregated our data to show the growing food needs over the past few years and asked us to look into the effects of cuts to SNAP benefits in November.  .@CAFBTX We dug deeper – food needs spiked earlier in 2013 and bounced up in Dec, unlike in 2012. pic.twitter.com/LWryDF106n — United Way Austin (@uwatx) February 23, 2014   The more than 350K calls we answer […]

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Free tax prep is “the best thing I’ve ever come across”

In my work with UWATX, I’ve had the pleasure of helping thousands of Central Texans take a meaningful step towards financial security by opening bank accounts, encouraging savings and taking advantage of free tax prep. Recently, I got to speak with Sarah in La Grange who used myfreetaxes.com/uwatx (which is powered by H&R Block) to file her taxes for FREE.  Sarah had just gotten back in town from Brenham where she works at the State Supported Living Center. Sarah has been living in La Grange with her husband and three kids (10,4, and 2) for the last ten years.  She grew up in the city and always knew she wanted to raise her kids in a rural setting with good schools.  “It’s the best thing I’ve ever come across – I’ve encouraged all of my friends and family to prepare their taxes this way” – Sarah on myfreetaxes.com/uwatx How were you getting your taxes done before this? What changed?  I had been getting them done at retail tax preparers for years.  Last year, I paid $290 for my return. This year, they whipped it up  in what seemed like no time at all and then asked for $315 plus a $35 fee for direct deposit. I can’t afford that, I have a husband and three kids, so I got up and walked out.  What did you do then?   I reached out to Workforce Solutions in La Grange, TX and they connected me to the United Way service.  I sat down at a computer and […]

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Now that’s service: 60K State employees engage in philanthropy!

“I love  that monthly payroll deductions allow me to easily budget my charitable giving for the year. I can always give more outside of SECC if I wish to, but can still feel confident I’m doing my small part to make Austin and the world a little bit better.” – Mark Moore, Texas Real Estate Commission  As part of our work to build philanthropy in Austin, we are privileged to serve as the Employee Giving Campaign manager for the State campaign. We work with  60 thousand State employees in Greater Austin to invest in our community.  This past year, State employees in the Greater Austin area invested $2.1 million in their community through the annual State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC), making 2013 the seventh consecutive year they have given more than $2 million.  “SECC is an easy and effective way to help state employees connect to nonprofits working on important issues that they care about,” said Janette Gibreal, Chair of the Capital Area SECC Local Employee Committee. “Through personal contributions, state employees can continue the wonderful work they do every day by investing in charities that are working hard to make Texas a great place to live and work.” Each year, we’re happy to celebrate the success of these amazing givers by recognizing agencies with outstanding results: State Agencies that made Austin greater in 2013:  Highest Per Capita Gift  1,500 and more employees – Comptroller of Public Accounts ($49.47) 500-1,500 employees – Teacher Retirement System ($223.97) – The Teacher Retirement System increased their per […]

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Partner Profile: Farmers Insurance Group

Name: Farmers Insurance Group   Partner for: 15 years   Partner for: Employee Campaign   Our relationship: Involving leadership to make a greater impact Farmers Insurance Group has supported United Way for Greater Austin for nearly 15 years, but has really ramped up their Employee Campaign in the past five. This year, as part of the 2013 Insurance Industry Challenge, Farmers took their involvement with UWATX to a whole new level. Vice President Jim Snikeris helped make this happen by inviting UWATX staff to  speak with employees and share the UWATX mission. UWATX Vice President of Resource Development Debbie McGee and Director of Business Development Beth Krueger also spoke at Farmers leadership meetings. The campaign wouldn’t have been such a huge success without Employee Campaign Leaders Brittany Ilse and Pana Redd, who helped facilitate over 15 Employee Campaign meetings! During the campaign, Farmers set up a table onsite sporting UWATX items including water bottles, pens, and of course pledge forms. Service Point Director Garth Davis encouraged giving by spending time at the table on the company’s first day of campaign, and by being one of the first people to give. He was also one of the first employees to contribute to the Makes Austin Greater wall on display during Employee Campaign – donors wrote their names on Makes Austin Greater stickers, creating a colorful philanthropy wall! Farmers employs best practices: Running a UWATX Branded Campaign Connecting with UWATX outside of Campaign Working to engage HOCT in upcoming volunteer efforts for 2014 […]

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Taxes made easy as one, two, free

With more and more people working multiple jobs to make ends meet throughout the year, preparing your taxes can be overwhelming and time consuming. I myself had a few side jobs in 2013. With five W-2 statements and a few 1098-E forms, I wanted a second look at my return.  I was looking forward to using my tax return to pay off a few bills and start saving, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t overpay for tax preparation. There are so many choices  for  tax preparation and I quickly realized that most charge a fee of some sort.  Since I was looking forward to using my tax return to pay off a few bills and start saving for the future, I wanted to make sure I didn’t overpay for this service. While watching KXAN one morning, I heard about a Community Tax Center (CTC) that offered free tax preparation for eligible families. I quickly went online to find out the requirements and how I could take advantage of free tax preparation. Community Tax Centers, a program of Foundation Communities that is supported by UWATX, provides free tax preparation for households making up to $50,000, with the income limits being slightly higher for households of five or more.    I made an appointment with a Community Tax Center near me. With my Tax Prep Checklist provided by CTC and documents in hand, I headed to the east Austin location.  During the quick and easy check-in process the Intake Volunteer […]

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Success By 6 supports Austin’s most vulnerable children

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhsCzogMYL4[/youtube] In 2005, we launched our Success By 6 program – and made a commitment to support our youngest and most vulnerable children. We wanted to make sure the kind of quality early experiences that change lives were available, accessible and affordable. The first few years of life are critical – children who don’t receive quality early care have lower graduation rates than those who do, and the difference is even more stark for girls and women. More than that, quality care shows a significant return-on-investment – we see savings in fewer children repeating grades, lower criminal justice costs and a more productive, successful workforce. It adds up to a $4 to $9 return on every dollar invested. Unfortunately, our community doesn’t invest enough in young children. Compared to cities like Seattle, San Francisco and San Antonio, our investments per child are shocking low. And it shows: only 50 percent of children in Greater Austin are on-track to be ready for school. In low-income neighborhoods, that number drops to 13 percent. That’s why we’ve put together a portfolio of services to support children in all areas of their lives: We invest in evidence-based early childhood programs, including supporting 14 early care centers through our Center Project. We support parents, a child’s first teachers, by developing innovative programs like Play To Learn.   We make sure our community is working together. In 2012, our supporters successfully advocated to restore $500K of public funding for our youngest and most vulnerable community members. […]

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Top needs & trends for 2013: food, health care & bills

Our Navigation Center is uniquely poised on the front-lines of community issues – we answer calls from thousands of Greater Austin residents on issues ranging from child care and tax preparation to food stamps and health care.  Residents who call us are often struggling with every day needs, and all of them are challenged with how to access help for those needs.  We pride ourselves on connecting them to the right resource while also being friendly and professional – and it shows:  our staff maintained a 99% satisfaction rate among callers. To give Austinites a  snapshot of what issues residents struggled with last year, we’re releasing our 2013 Community Needs and Trends Report – download it today.  Here’s what we saw in 2013:  Significant increase in food-related calls Calls related to food needs continue to dominate. We saw a 58 percent increase in food stamp, SNAP and food pantry calls – piggy backing on a 55% increase last year.  Residents continue to struggle with paying bills Residents continue to call in for help paying their electricity and rent bills and to get help with housing. These have consistently been in the top 5 needs in our area for the last three years.  Noticeable jump in calls due to launch of Affordable Care Act We started partnering with Central Health in 2009 to make it easier for individuals to qualify for state and federal health care benefits like CHIP and MAP. Last year, our staff made 85 percent of all the […]

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Anyone can be a philanthropist

Look up ‘philanthropist’ on Wikipedia and you get a pretty narrow view of who gives back – generally wealthy, famous people. But philanthropy originally meant “the love of mankind,” and we see everyday that it’s not limited to major gifts, that the backbone of giving is often less flashy – investments in our community come from everyday people giving a little bit, and knowing that it adds up to a whole lot.  At United Way for Greater Austin, we believe that anyone can be a philanthropist – because we’ve seen it, because any gift is meaningful and because we know the difference it can make for our community and for companies. Since 1924, we’ve worked with companies to provide Employee Giving Campaigns where employees can choose to invest a portion of their paycheck in our community – and the most successful campaigns aren’t necessarily the ones where employees make the most. One of our most giving partners is H-E-B. The company itself gives back generously, but it’s the donations from cashiers and baggers that add up to a whole lot for us – specifically, to more than $1M each year for the last three years in Greater Austin. These gifts come from people like Jackie – she knows the value of giving back first hand. When Jackie was 15, she was in foster care. She then got into a difficult marriage, and needed help getting out of it. At that point she became a single mom who worked and needed […]

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