Blog

Volunteering brings young leaders together (& so does tailgating)

Since the Young Leaders Society relaunched earlier this year, volunteering has been a significant focus for our group. It brings us closer to the community we’re working to support, and often it shows us a whole world we didn’t know existed right in our own back yard. A few weeks ago, we volunteered at Mendez Middle School to plant ten fresh trees on the campus grounds and do some much needed garden maintenance. Our group divvied up and conquered. Some dug holes and made space for the trees, some plucked weeds while avoiding large ant beds, and some went on a trash pick-up. During the trash pick-up, one member found a waterlogged copy of The Giver. We worked quickly and had some time to spare, when the campus coordinator informed us that just down the street at the recreation center many folks needed assistance after the Halloween floods. We quickly made a beeline to the recreation center for an impromptu volunteer opportunity. Donations were coming in fast and we were poised to sort them and get them to those in need – dozens upon dozens of bottled waters were loaded on pick-up trucks and to the neighborhoods. We were told that what families most need are baby supplies, i.e. baby formula, diapers, etc. After about half an hour the traffic died down, but we’d experienced the frenzy of being close the front lines of a disaster right in our backyard. In the past few weeks, others at UWATX have been […]

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My volunteer experience: finding a sense of community in a city of thousands

Being from a small town in west Texas, the only flooding I’ve experienced was a hot summer day when the neighbor’s above ground pool ripped open and all the water gushed out into the yard.  I couldn’t even fathom the impact of a real flood that could damage your home or soak everything you owned in water, but I saw it first hand last week. I was standing in a community that will forever define time as “before the flood” and “after the flood.” Gathered around under a small tent at the edge of an Onion Creek neighborhood, I joined other Hands On Central Texas volunteers as we headed to our first location of the shift – we were volunteering to clean up homes affected by the Halloween flooding. Walking down the streets of the neighborhood, I was just shocked by what water can do:  vehicles looked like they had been an accident with an 18-wheeler and huge trees were bent over and on top of homes. I was standing in a community that will forever define time as “before the flood” and “after the flood.” I noticed a woman carring single items out of her house and watched her go back in to get more repeatedly, so I asked if she could use our help. She agreed to have a few people help – but nothing could prepare me for what I was about see. As we walked down hallway, you could see the line on the wall where […]

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Find a warm meal this holiday season

Each year, the holiday season brings some unique calls to our Navigation Center – more calls for 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 as an interactive PDF with links to Google maps for all of the locations. 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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[SPOTLIGHT] Cheryl Black on the ‘behind the scenes’ work that keeps us running

What is your background before coming to UWATX? How long have you been involved with nonprofits? I started at Deloitte, one of the Big 8 firms,  on Halloween 30 years ago. It was really great training and a wonderful way to start my career. Over my career, I’ve been involved with nonprofits in every possible way – I’ve audited nonprofit financials, served as a board member and volunteer, trained nonprofit employees – really, any way you can slice it, I’ve been involved. It may sound cheesy, but it’s because I want to leave the world better than I found it, that’s the best incentive for me. It’s personally rewarding to make a difference.   What’s been your proudest accomplishment? Well, honestly, it’s raising my son – I was a single mom for 15 years. If you do it to the best of your abilities (and no one does it 100 percent right), then it’s about a lot of personal sacrifice. My son is 38 and still calls to discuss problems – so I think I did it pretty well. Professionally, it’s creating a financial management training for nonprofits and teaching it for seven years. It has all the basics of how to a nonprofit can be successful financially, all the dull boring stuff that had to happen or an organization can’t exist. Every once in a while, I will get a call from a nonprofit asking if they can use it. I know of one client who still has her manual […]

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Get in better financial shape – 10 tips from the Financial Empowerment Boot Camp

In Texas, working families are often unable to access traditional financial services that can help them repair or build financial stability but across the country, social service providers are working to educate client. That’s why our Financial Opportunity program brought in staff from the Baltimore and Maryland CASH Campaigns to provide training for more than 40 nonprofit providers about how to talk to their clients about money. The Financial Empowerment Boot Camp covered the role of a practitioner, exploring their own financial values, exploring their clients’ financial lives, and financial content and resources. Below are a few tips from the Boot Camp that can not only help clients you may work with but also help you with your own personal finances: Giving people the confidence to make better financial decisions and to access existing resources can change their financial reality. Most people don’t have someone to talk to specifically about their finances besides a bankruptcy attorney or credit counselor. You CAN talk to people about money. It may sound too personal, but you can do it even if you aren’t an expert on financial issues. Your finances don’t have to be perfect to talk to anyone about money. We are often ashamed of our own financial mistakes. Use these as a teaching tool and way to build rapport. No one is perfect. You already have many of the skills that you need to talk to people about money. Likely you have great skills around listening, asking powerful questions, problem solving, and […]

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Partner Profile: Bank of America

Name: Bank of America Partner for: 20+ years Partner for: Employee Campaign, Financial Opportunity Our relationship: Bank of America runs an Employee Giving Campaign every year, but with new Austin Market President Nikki Salzillo being open to doing things differently this year, Bank of America took their Campaign to a completely new level. This year, campaign co-chairs Anne Walker and Luke Martinez set out to make a bigger impact. Both engaged as UWATX Strategic Advisors (Anne advising Financial Opportunity and Target Graduation, and Luke working with Young Leaders Society and Hands On Central Texas), they were inspired to grow their company’s support for our community. Here’s what they did differently: Involving leadership to make a greater impact Prior to their campaign kickoff, Bank of America held their Austin market leadership meeting at UWATX, where UWATX President Debbie Bresette, Nikki Salzillo and campaign co-chairs Walker and Martinez spoke with the team about the importance of giving and the real-world impact their donations carry. The Bank of America Employee Campaign Leadership Team amplified this powerful message by sharing it with the site leaders at every Austin Market Bank of America location – empowering site leaders to take ownership over their Employee Campaign and engage their peers. Motivated by the message, many leaders invited our staff to come in and speak at their site! Encouraging philanthropy both inside and outside of the office To encourage participation in its UWATX Employee Campaign, Bank of America offers jean days to sites with 100 percent participation. […]

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After-school programs make a difference for students like Lillie

Middle school is a tipping point for many students – and while what happens during the school day is critical, students spend more than 76 percent of their AWAKE time outside of school. That’s why we invest in quality out-of-school-time programs through Target Graduation, but the importance of these programs can sometimes be pretty abstract. Until you meet people like Lillie – a seventh-grade straight-A student at Mendez Middle School. She’s lived in Dove Springs for ten years and last year, she became involved with Junior Staff, a program from the Boys and Girls Club that students apply to participate in. Through Junior Staff, Lillie learns job skills by taking a leadership role in the program and learns how to run effective after-school programs for other students. “I believe Lillie believes in us as much as we believe in her and I think she will continue to flourish and grow as a vital part of our program.”   Steven Zuniga, Extension Director of the Boys and Girls Club at Mendez Middle School Here’s what Lillie has to say about the program: Why did you start participating in the program? I started in sixth grade because because the people were really nice and my dad thought it would be good for me.  The first time I went I had a lot of fun so I kept coming every week.   What is your favorite part of the program? My favorite day is the day they celebrated my birthday.  They wrote it […]

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[VIDEO] “Working together, we have more impact”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mn8PdKiy2Ac[/youtube] Bobby Jenkins, President and Owner of ABC Home & Commercial, has been advocating for UWATX for the past year and a half as co-chair of our Employee Giving Campaign. In his own words, it’s been an inspiring experience: I’ve learned a lot – some of the things that resonate with me is a lot of what happens locally with United Way. That’s something that, as United Way has evolved and changed, that local component is near and dear to my heart. And the ability for  United Way to bridge multiple agencies is one of the things I think is unique – there’s a lot of agencies doing a lot of great things, United Way is the common denominator that can help unite them – working together, we can have a lot more impact than individually.

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Three years at once: the Employee Campaign story

We work with 400+ companies locally to run Employee Giving Campaigns – giving their employees the opportunity to invest a portion of every paycheck in our community. But with different schedules, fiscal years and payroll cycles for each company, it can get pretty complicated, which means our team stays on top of three years at a time. We support these kooky schedules because we believe any one who makes a paycheck in our community should have the opportunity to give back, so we’ve developed processes to adapt to any company’s needs. Here’s how: [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eke0sl9dr9k[/youtube] Every step of the process is completely flexible depending on the company’s needs, but here are a couple of common examples: Example 1: Company A wants to run their campaign in July. They prefer  paper pledge forms because their employees are not often in front of a computer and, because they have branches across the state, want to enter their giving information themselves. After that process, they’ll their giving to our team by the end of November, but payroll deductions won’t begin until January, meaning their monthly payments to UWATX start in the new calendar year. Example 2: Company B wants to run a short one-week  campaign in November.  Because of the busy holiday season, they anticipate they’ll report their giving by the end of January. They will then begin payouts on a quarterly basis with the start of their fiscal year in April. While their campaign runs in November, we won’t see these gifts until […]

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Honoring LBJ’s legacy: Building a better future for American children

More than 40 years ago, President Lyndon Baines Johnson passed away.  The Texas native set the stage for many of our country’s most critical services for those in need, including the Head Start program. His philosophy of providing support services to help American families thrive is an inspiration for our overall work helping the working poor in our community,  and particularly the Success By 6 program. In his 1964 State of the Union address, President Johnson declared a War on Poverty – a war we would fight through education and opportunity – and from that speech, the legacy of Head Start was born. The program was based on emerging research that you could break the cycle of poverty by providing a high-quality education to the youngest and most vulnerable among us: preschool-age children. The Head Start model that LBJ championed ensured that the emotional, social, nutritional and psychological needs of children would be met, knowing that it’s not just ABC’s and 123’s that children need to be ready for school, work and life. This is the same philosophy that inspires our work in early childhood. Today, research continues to affirm the value of the Head Start program. Longitudinal research shows that, to predict long-term success, it is not enough to look at what children know –  – like how many capital letters they can recognize  – but to include executive function and self-regulation – the ability to pay attention, exercise self-control, communicate, use what you know, and take on new challenges. In the […]

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