Blog

It’s 2/11: Celebrate 2-1-1 front line heroes with us!

When COVID-19 hit Central Texas, the team here at United Way responded quickly. Almost a year later, our 2-1-1 team is still responding to increased calls for questions and help around COVID-19, and help in general. (At times in the first few months of the pandemic, our call volume was 10x the average.)  The Governor has said that 2-1-1 is THE place to go for information on COVID-19. Now more than ever, people need to know where to go for food, information on testing, health services, and so many other needs. Our 2-1-1 team is working around the clock to make sure callers seeking help are connected to accurate and up-to-date information. We know the whole community is thankful for our 2-1-1 front line heroes, and we couldn’t be happier to celebrate our team this 2-1-1 Day. Meet Stephanie Lyon, Statewide Community Information Coordinator, and learn all about the importance of 2-1-1. Want to know more about Stephanie? What brought you to United Way ATX? I came to United Way in the very beginning of September 2020, as a contract worker. I had been searching for meaningful, challenging, community-related social services work in the nonprofit sector for a few months. Due to being in the middle of a global pandemic and tough job market, I was incredibly fortunate to be contacted by a recruiter. I went through the interview process, and was grateful to land the position of 2-1-1 Navigation Specialist.  How long have you been working with the Nav […]

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Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences through collaboration

Have you heard of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)? If not, don’t worry! We are here to help fill you in.  United Way for Greater Austin is excited to announce the launch of the PACES program, Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences through getting the Earned Income Tax Credit into the hands of more eligible families in the Greater Austin area. Only 20% of eligible families are currently taking advantage of this tax credit that is arguably the largest federal anti-poverty program there is and that’s where PACES comes in. The program is a collaboration between Foundation Communities, The Child & Family Research Partnership out of The University of Texas at Austin, and United Way.  Gabriela Mordi, Project Manager at Foundation Communities, will lead the outreach efforts with the help of United Way ATX’s PACES Coordinator Francisco Gallegos. Monica G. Navarro, Research Associate at The Child & Family Research Partnership, will support the project through data collection and analysis. “The Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC, is a refundable federal tax credit for working families of low and moderate income,” Navarro said. “In other words, the EITC lowers a family’s tax bill or provides a refund if they do not owe taxes, increasing the family’s overall income. By improving the financial security of families with low income, the EITC can reduce the environmental and economic conditions that put children at risk of experiencing ACEs and promote overall better family and child outcomes.” Watch the video below to learn more about the […]

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Meet Tracy Fielder: Creating a personal legacy of moving the needle on equity

We’re excited to launch a new year with Women United. This group of incredible and passionate women are advancing equity in early childhood education through their membership and we couldn’t be more grateful.  Tracy Fielder is just one of the 210 women who are supporting our youngest Austinities. Learn more about her work in creating a personal legacy of moving the needle on equity here in Greater Austin. Learn more about Tracy and why she joined Women United. How long have you been in Austin? “My husband and I moved our young family to Austin in 1996. We feel fortunate to live in such a diverse, creative, and vibrant city.” What is your favorite thing about Austin? “I love to be outdoors, and the Lady Bird Hike-and-Bike Trail is my go-to spot. This is where I walk my dogs, connect with friends, laugh, reflect, decompress, and of course, exercise. I also enjoy live music, especially blues and old gospel, at many of our iconic venues. Throw in a yummy bite from one of our local food trucks and I’ve had an amazing day.” What is one thing you want everyone to know about you? “I’m compassionate. I care about many things, but inequities in education really matter to me. I grew up in a home where education was the key to everything. My parents set a high bar for academic achievement, but also ensured my sister and I were keenly aware of the educational divide and how fortunate we were. […]

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A Night United 2021: Building a Better Austin Together

  If 2020 showed us anything, it’s that a system with a weak foundation will break under pressure. No matter how beautiful it looks from the outside; a structure must be built with good bones from the very beginning in order to endure. It’s time to take a closer look at where we started before we can keep building. This is why the theme for our third annual A Night United event is building a better Austin together. United we can work to strengthen the solid foundation upon which better systems are built. This year, we are committed to reimagining a stronger Austin that serves everyone, built on racial justice and equity for all.  Click here to save the date for the third annual A Night United on Friday, February 26.     All proceeds will build opportunity for Austin children and families in our continued fight for equity.

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Honor MLK Jr.’s life and legacy with us

MLK Jr. Day of Service celebrates the civil rights leader’s life and legacy through service. Observed each year on the third Monday in January as “a day on, not a day off,” MLK Jr. Day is one of only two federal holidays designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities.  Historical and systemic racism drive racial inequities in our country, and in our own community. We partner with you in building a Greater Austin that works for everyone. Celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. King is central to United Way for Greater Austin’s community volunteerism because it helps us reconnect with our mission to fight poverty in our community, and reminds us that together we can enact the change we want to see. While this year looks different from our previous community gatherings, we invite you to join us for a socially distanced celebration, and a virtual gathering full of reflection and motivation on how to carry on Dr. King’s legacy of anti-racism, justice, and equity. We have opportunities for individuals, families, and groups of friends. MLK Jr. Day of Service Monday, January 18, 2021 Socially distanced: Park at the United Way ATX office and follow our pre-mapped 3.3 mile round-trip self-guided tour of historical landmarks celebrating Black culture on the East Side. Virtual: Celebrate the life of Dr. King by viewing Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, engaging in discussion around his life and legacy, and taking a […]

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Equity is at the center of the Success By 6 ATX Coalition vision

Co-authored by Jelina Tunstill (CAN) and Laura Olson (GAVA), members of the Success By 6 Leadership Team and Success By 6 Equity Team. United Way for Greater Austin proudly serves as the convening organization for the Austin/Travis County Success By 6 Coalition. The first five years of a child’s life are a critical period when 90 percent of all brain development occurs. What happens in these early years has a lasting impact from birth to Kindergarten readiness, to high school graduation and beyond.  In 2012, Success By 6 ATX formed a coalition to transform Austin/Travis County’s early childhood system through a Strategic Plan (originally called the School Readiness Action Plan). Today, the Success By 6 ATX Coalition (SX6) has grown and continues to make progress on the goals we have set. We are coordinating programs and actions to ensure that every child born in the Austin area receives the support and care they need during the first 2,000 days of their life, an essential time for development. We seek to ensure success not only for children, but also for the long term economic health of our community.  In 2021, SX6 will be leaning into race equity work as a priority for our coalition. To get beyond the buzzwords of racial equity and put real action behind intention will require alignment with our coalition, state leaders, funders, and local decision-makers to affirm: When it comes to the much-touted ideal of “child-centered” planning, supports, and care, children and families of color count […]

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Supporting our littlest Austinites, together

Family Connects Texas recently celebrated its second birthday, and the program is striding forward, full steam ahead with plans for growth. We are so proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish over the last few years serving families at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, and we are committed to serving even more families in the years to come. We have a bold goal: to make sure that all babies born in Austin/Travis County have the best possible start in life. “We really enjoyed our nurse home visit with Family Connects, and our nurse was fantastic! She provided wonderful resources, and a lot of important information for parents. Even though we already have a two-year-old, there were a lot of things that we learned from our visit, and we were impressed that the nurse checked on the health of the family in general. We would definitely recommend a nurse home visit with Family Connects for all parents.” — Brandon C. It takes a village to raise a baby, and for many families in Austin, Family Connects is that support structure. In just a few short years, we’ve made great progress on our goal to serve families in Austin. Already we have: Served over 1,300 families in Austin/Travis County Successfully connected 78% of families who indicated a need with support services, from food assistance programs to family support groups to lactation consulting Addressed some need or concern — either during the nurse visit or through a outside connection — for […]

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All Together ATX Final Round: Announcing $3.5 Million to 111 Local Nonprofits

We are excited to announce grant funding from All Together ATX in the amount of $3.5 million to 111 local nonprofits. This third and final round of grants provides funding for basic needs and support for nonprofits that are meeting other critical needs and/or facing operational impacts due to the pandemic. Since March, we have been honored to partner with Austin Community Foundation on this community-led philanthropic fund that provides flexible resources to nonprofit organizations working with communities that are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and the economic consequences of the outbreak.  The nonprofits receiving grants are working to address basic needs and the sustainability of the nonprofit sector. The grants range in size from $125,000 to $1,000 and will be distributed electronically by December 24. Meet the grantees here. We are so grateful that the $3.5 million to be distributed includes a generous matching gift from the Sheth Sangreal Foundation. Every donation made between October 1 and November 16 was matched dollar for dollar by the Sheth Sangreal Foundation. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disproportionately impact communities of color in Central Texas. Black and Latinx families are bearing the brunt of the economic and health consequences of the coronavirus. With this in mind, equity was a guiding principle in the All Together ATX grant-making process. Out of 111 nonprofits receiving grants, 81 organizations are led by Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC) and more than 50 percent of staff at these organizations are BIPOC. All Together ATX distributed two […]

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Child care advocacy in action

When 2020 began, child care was already facing a tough dilemma. Teachers were underpaid and stretched thin, families were struggling to afford high-quality care, and child care programs were surviving on budgets with razor-thin margins. The pandemic has only worsened these strains. The problems were always there, but 2020 became the year that the world noticed that child care is in crisis. As schools and businesses shut down in March, Governor Abbott asked child care centers to stay open to serve the children of essential workers. Many local programs heeded that call to action despite the many unknowns about virus mitigation, transmission, increased costs, decreased revenue, and long-term sustainability. At the same time, our Success By 6 Coalition (SX6) began advocating for relief funding by contacting local officials, providing comment and testimony at meetings, and more. Many coalition members responded to the call for advocacy, and many leaders of local child care centers also emerged as leaders in advocating for their staff and families. The Austin City Council, in turn, allocated $5M+ child care relief funds, recognizing child care as a vital economic sector of the Austin economy. Austin is one of the only cities in the state providing substantial relief with local dollars for child care, thanks in part to powerful testimony from these local leaders.      Patsy Harnage has continued her advocacy, and was recently featured in an interview with KXAN sharing her support for essential child care workers receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Our advocacy has helped […]

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Meet Natasha Martin: A champion for change with Women United

‘Tis the season to be grateful, and our cups are overfilling with gratitude for our Women United Executive Committee members who support the work of United Way ATX. These women are champions for change and innovation in our community, and they are committed to helping our youngest Austinites reach their full potential. We couldn’t do our work without our Executive Committee, and we’re thrilled to introduce you to one of them! Meet Natasha Martin! Natasha supports Women United because she knows how important our early childhood education work is. Learn more about Natasha and why she joined Women United. How long have you been in Austin? “I’ve called Austin home for about 14 years.” What is your favorite thing about Austin? “I like the many recreational activities Austin has to offer. Over the last several months I have grown to love the regional parks in and around Austin. My family and I started hiking and bird watching more during COVID and there are so many perfect places in our city for these activities. Before COVID, one of my favorite things about Austin was catching live music or spoken word poetry in the more settled venues in East Austin.” What is one thing you want everyone to know about you? “Maybe I shouldn’t say this but I want to be known for having an open heart. I try to dial this back in my practice of law, but in church and in the community, I want to be known for letting […]

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