Category: Board of Directors

Guest Post: “Aspiring to Lead. Committed to Give Back.”

Heather Brunner has served on the UWATX Board of Directors for seven years, and as a volunteer for seventeen years. As she wraps up her final year on our board, she reflects on her time with United Way. “During my school years and at college, I was always a very active community volunteer. After college as a young professional, I was a road warrior, working long hours and was relentlessly focused on building my career–but something was missing. I wasn’t giving back to the welcoming Austin community that gave me such incredible career opportunity. In the summer of 1999, I saw an ad in the Austin American-Statesman with a call for volunteers from the United Way. I was familiar with United Way from employee giving campaigns at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) and from Donna Van Fleet, a United Way board member and Business Unit Executive at IBM that I admired. So I decided to answer the call. Today, seventeen years later as I end my final Board of Directors term, I can say that serving United Way for Greater Austin has been one of the highest privileges and proudest accomplishments of my life. In those seventeen years, I’ve seen the organization change dramatically from a mostly fundraising “pass through” mechanism to local nonprofits, to a strategic catalyst and thought leader driving positive change for the working poor and their families. Twenty-five percent of our Greater Austin community is living on the edge of poverty and in need of a helping hand […]

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UWATX Appoints David C. Smith As New CEO

We are excited to announced that the UWATX Board of Directors has appointed David C. Smith, founder of Hill Country Ride for AIDS, as Chief Executive Officer effective immediately today. David has been in executive nonprofit leadership for more than 20 years in Austin, leading mission-focused and results-driven organizations to substantial growth. While serving as the founder and Executive Director of Hill Country Ride for AIDS from 2001-2012, he was concurrently the founder and Executive Director of Mamma Jamma Ride for Breast Cancer, making both rides two of the largest in the country. “As we face a rapidly changing city, I am very enthusiastic about what the future holds for us, and look forward to engaging and collaborating with other community organizations, individuals, corporations, and our elected officials to come together around a common dream for a stronger, more vibrant community for all. It’s going to take all of us to ensure that everyone has access to the same opportunities to fully enjoy the promise of Austin, and together, we can get there.” –David C. Smith In 2011, David started his own consulting firm with an emphasis on nonprofit clients with services including fundraising, strategic planning, executive coaching and collaborative projects. Most recently, David served as the Interim Executive Director of Conspirare from September 2012 to August 2013 and Interim Executive Director of The Thinkery from October 2014 to September 2015. “The board of directors was beyond impressed with David’s extensive nonprofit experience, outstanding leadership skills and enthusiasm for our […]

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UWATX President Debbie Bresette Retires After 12 Years

This article was written by James Barragan of the Austin American-Statesman and published on November 1, 2015. After 12 years with the United Way for Greater Austin, eight of them as its president, Debbie Bresette officially stepped down from the organization Thursday. “She’ll be missed,” said Kay Garza, the Vice President of the Navigation Center at the United Way for Greater Austin, who has worked with Bresette for 12 years. “She’s been the heart and soul of this organization and someone who truly cares about working poor families.” During Bresette’s tenure, the group placed an emphasis on helping disadvantaged youths and families. Through its early childhood development programs, the group put 500 area children from disadvantaged backgrounds into pre-K programs and started an initiative at low-income middle schools to prevent kids from dropping out. Much of the emphasis on disadvantaged youths came from Bresette’s own family experience. She has biracial grandchildren. Because of that, she says, they may not be given the same opportunities as other kids. But instead, Bresette tries to focus on the positives that kids like her grandchildren bring to the table, such as different cultures and experiences. “That gives them the ability to have a really open mind,” she said. “If we invest in them, no matter what they look like or where they come from, they have the opportunity of being the Einsteins of the future, of saving us, of saving our planet.” Bresette’s tenure was also marked by the push for new ideas at […]

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Spotlight: Dan Graham

Austin’s Best CEO, Austinite of the Year and owner of BuildASign.com are just a few of the ways you may know Dan Graham–but we know him best as a dedicated volunteer UWATX board member! We talked to Dan about his love for Austin, why he supports UWATX’s work and the importance of his company having a philanthropic presence. “Growing up, my parents always did a great job of instilling the value of community service in me,” Dan said. “Volunteering on the weekends was just a part of my youth, so I’m excited to carry that over both personally and professionally.” “I choose to support nonprofits that have an overarching goal of bettering the community at-large. I knew I wanted to utilize my resources to help further the mission of UWATX.” — Dan Graham Dan personally supports numerous nonprofits in Austin and initiated the BuildASign.com Giving Program, which awards in-kind gifts in the form of discounts and donated products to nonprofits across the country. “I’m super excited to say that since its inception, the Giving Program has given more than $1 million in in-kind donations to more than 1,700 nonprofits of all sizes and causes. The program is currently staffed by five full-time team members dedicated to assisting nonprofit organizations.” His philanthropic and professional efforts have not gone unnoticed. BuildASign.com earned distinction as one of the Austin Business Journal’s “Best Places to Work” (6 times!), Forbes “America’s Most Promising Companies”, a spot on the Inc. 5000 list for four years and the Austin Gives “GeneroCity Award” […]

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YLS In 2014: Time For Reflection and Growth

2014 was a successful year for the Young Leaders Society (YLS), and we hope that it was rewarding for you both personally and professionally.  While reflecting on the success of this year, we also have the opportunity to look forward into 2015 and explore what’s in store for the YLS in the new year. As you’ve most likely heard, YLS has an ambitious goal of raising $180,000 this campaign year to fund full-time social workers on each of the three campuses where we work. This approach will allow us to serve even more students in a meaningful way and keep them on the path to graduation. We would love you to be a part of our fundraising campaign to make a difference in the lives of some of our neediest middle schoolers. You can do that by giving directly to United Way or through our YLS peer-to-peer fundraising taking place in February. Keep an eye out for more details on our big online give-a-thon coming in a few weeks. There are a couple of exciting things we have in store to help us get going on our $180K goal. The 2nd annual “State of the YLS” meeting is coming up on January 6 at Speakeasy. You’ll hear speakers from the YLS Committee and staff from the middle school campuses we support. You can expect to hear what we’re all about (“it’s for the kids!”) and how you can get involved in the coming months. This event is for both current members and those interested in […]

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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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To understand how many families struggle, we need to look at savings and assets

Written by: Don Baylor In our mind’s eye, we typically picture people struggling economically as individuals or families either disconnected from steady employment or those with jobs earning wages below the poverty level. What we too-often fail to consider is how much it truly takes to cover everyday expenses in our community and what might happen if income is interrupted. The federal poverty guidelines consider a family of four to be poor if the family income is $23,550 or less, but these numbers grossly underestimates the income necessary to meet a family’s basic needs.  According to CPPP’s Better Texas Family Budgets, a Greater Austin family of four needs to earn more than $50,000 per  year to cover housing, transportation, food, child care and other expenses.   Notably, this “break-even” salary does not include any debt service or allow for any type of household savings.  In order to save for a rainy day and college, the same Austin family needs to earn about $1,000 more in annual income.  While one in five Greater Austin families is officially income-poor as defined by the federal poverty level, a bigger share of Greater Austin families are living paycheck-to-paycheck and experience economic insecurity, with low incomes, insufficient savings, or both.   What’s more, income is only part of the story, because while income gets you by, assets get you ahead – and in our community  nearly twice as many families are considered poor when we look at poverty through the lens of assets. An individual or household […]

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Spotlight: Catherine Morse on her role as evangelist

Since 2011, Catherine Morse has shared her passion for early childhood and commitment to community service with the UWATX Board of Directors and Success By 6 Leadership Council. Now, we are proud to announce that Morse, named an ABJ Woman of Influence in 2011, begins an 18-month term as Vice Chair of the Board before taking on the role of Board Chair in 2015. When I’m thinking about my role in all of this, it’s about being an evangelist – an advocate that shares the knowledge I’ve gained to drive solutions. – Catherine Morse What inspired you to get involved with UWATX? Three years ago, Samsung Austin Semiconductor made a $1M gift to Success By 6 to celebrate expanding our business in Austin and to provide support for the community after the recession.  It also opened the door for my relationship with United Way for Greater Austin. Before that gift, I didn’t know much about United Way or Success By 6. Since then, I’ve met the inspirational leaders here – Debbie Bresette as President and Sue Carpenter leading the charge for early childhood – and I’ve learned so much about the need in this community. When you look at the data, it’s shocking, and I continue to be involved because those numbers move me to action. How do you see UWATX’s role in the community, now and in the future? Today, United Way is a powerful convener, pulling together nonprofits, businesses, individuals and government on key issues, setting goals and […]

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UWCA welcomes new Board members

UWCA’s Board of Directors is a group of dedicated volunteers that shape the vision for the organization’s future and provide critical support in achieving ambitious goals for positive change in our community. In October, UWCA welcomed 3 new board members: Ben Bentzin, CEO of Interactive Health Technologies, Inc. Don Kendrick, Regional President for Wells Fargo’s Central Texas Region Sheila Plank, retired strategic marketing and management executive They join Bill O’Brien, elected Board Chair in August; Gayle Greer, who joined the board in August; and 12 other passionate and committed board members. “I’m excited to see the latest additions to our board,” said Debbie Bresette, President, United Way Capital Area. “They represent unique and important voices in our community that will help United Way deliver on our promise to create measurable, positive change.” UWCA is proud to welcome these 5 standout professionals in their new roles and we are thankful for the invaluable leadership of our board.

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