Blog

Meet Naomi and Tirzah

In the Greater Austin area, child poverty rates are nearly 25 percent higher than the national average and only 13 percent of children raised in Austin’s low-income neighborhoods enter kindergarten ready to learn. These concerning statistics are the target of UWATX’s Success By 6 program through initiatives like Play To Learn, a project that targets low-income families from under-resourced neighborhoods in Greater Austin and surrounding areas. Play To Learn provides  high-quality early education for children alongside their parents. The goal is to help parents learn how to put their children on the path to success in school and life. We recently say down with Play To Learn mom, Naomi, and her daughter (with the most precious blonde curls you’ll ever see), Tirzah, to hear how the program is supporting them.   Why did you and your daughter start participating in United Way’s Play To Learn program? I was in search of fun things to do with my daughter. She’s at the age where she likes to explore and interact and, most importantly, be active, so I thought this was a great opportunity for us to learn and grow together. Do you feel the program is having an impact on you and your daughter? It has had an impact in both our lives. I believe it’s very important to set routines and schedules with toddlers and I had no idea on where and how to start; Play To Learn has helped me create a safe environment for her, where there is discipline and […]

Read More

HOW TO: make Thanksgiving a learning opportunity

Thanksgiving is a time when the whole family gathers together to appreciate good food, watch parades and football and be thankful for one another. It’s also an opportunity to support learning. It can be tricky to figure out how to turn a busy holiday into a learning experience, so our experts from Success By 6 and Target Graduation brainstormed a few simple activities:   Cooking teaches math & science skills Children can help in the kitchen in a variety of ways that help them learn. You can introduce young children to measurement by getting their help measuring out wet and dry ingredients. For children through middle-school-age, this can be a good time to practice conversions and fractions, particularly when doubling or halving a recipe. Cooking can also support nonfiction reading skills when children study the cookbook, and learning about nutrition and the chemical processes involved in cooking can further science skills. Read more about cooking with children.   Making place cards supports language development If you’re having your whole family over for Thanksgiving, children can help make place cards as a fun crafting activity. At its most basic, making place cards helps children practice reading and writing, which is important for young children. This activity can range from simply writing names on existing place cards to taking on a more ambitious craft project, which would support fine motor skill development. Enjoy some child-appropriate place card inspiration.   Expressing gratitude supports social-emotional development Saying what you’re thankful for is a time-honored […]

Read More

Bank On Central Texas connects individuals to bank accounts

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2U4aejO1BI[/youtube]   At United Way for Greater Austin, we know that having a bank account is a critical first step toward thriving financially. That’s why, for the past two years, we’ve been partnering with banks, credit unions and government to get more people banked as part of the Bank On Central Texas initiative, part of our Financial Opportunity program. In our short history, we’ve already opened 12,000 bank accounts, helping people make that critical first step on the path to thriving. Recently, we undertook an ambitious project to raise awareness about the benefits of a bank accounts. We got on the radio, went online and spoke in-person at events to tell people about their options and how a bank account could help them. And we succeeded – we reached thousands of individuals and the number of online inquiries about the program skyrocketed. We also got to meet so many people who were helped through our outreach, including Mark Mead of Alamo Lawn Care, who is using his account to manage his business, and Alfredo and Patricia Hernandez who didn’t have a bank account before. Special thanks to all of the financial institutions who partner with us on this exciting initiative – and to Don Kendrick, Regional President of Wells Fargo’s Central Texas Region and UWATX Board Member, for his support and for narrating the above presentation.  

Read More

Our AmeriCorps VISTAs impacted 1K+ lives in 1 year!

This month, we said goodbye to Hannah Berle and Tyler O’Neill as they closed their year as Americorps VISTA members supporting Success By 6 (SB6), which focuses on our youngest and most vulnerable community members. The mission of Americorps VISTA members is to create and expand programs that bring low-income individuals and communities out of poverty. In 2013, Tyler and Hannah did just that by managing and leading several key initiatives. Their VISTA service connected them to more than 800 community leaders, volunteers and social service providers in the Austin area – and we’re so thankful for their incredible work. “Being an AmeriCorps VISTA at United Way has given me the opportunity to work with and learn from experts. I see the impact of United Way every day, large or small, behind the scenes or directly, and it is incredible.” –Hannah Hannah was responsible for providing support to early education centers serving low-income children in Austin. Through designing and implementing trainings to connect teachers to high-quality curricula to support their classrooms, Hannah helped ensure that nine early education centers had teachers trained to use Numbers Plus Preschool Math Curriculum. This curriculum, developed by HighScope Educational Research Foundation, is a comprehensive set of activities in English and Spanish designed to deliver developmentally appropriate content in five areas: Number Sense and Operations, Geometry, Measurement, Algebra, and Data Analysis. These activities help set the stage for later mathematical concepts. SB6 is dedicated to lasting academic gains for young children and Hannah’s diligent coordination […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

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.  

Read More

[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 […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

Day of Caring – September 20, 2013

A welcome weather system accompanied by cooler temperatures and scattered thunderstorms didn’t stop 175 volunteers from participating in United Way of Williamson County’s Day of Caring. Thank you to all the volunteers, made up of individuals, families and groups from many local employers, for coming together to brave the elements and complete projects at 19 locations across Williamson County! A special thank you goes out to our friends at H-E-B for the breakfast tacos and Starbucks for the coffee. THANK YOU to our event sponsors for supporting volunteerism in the community!

Read More