Category: Community Partners

VaxTogetherAustin: Helping the community heal, one vaccination at a time

On May 4, 2021, VaxTogetherAustin became one of nineteen community-based organizations receiving a total of $415,000 in grant funding from United Way for Greater Austin, Austin Community Foundation, and St. David’s Foundation. This grantee cohort shares ideas and collaborates in monthly meetings and day-to-day communications in their grantee Facebook group. Remember how we said that anyone can save lives in Central Texas? This week we want to introduce you to one of our vaccine equity initiative grantees who is doing just that. Meet VaxTogetherAustin, a COVID-19 health equity organization supporting underserved populations in Austin and surrounding areas.  Starting in January 2021, VaxTogetherAustin began as a loose coalition of volunteers drawn from various grassroots groups dedicated to helping people find COVID-19 vaccine appointments in and around the Austin area. Early efforts focused on serving seniors, the blind and visually impaired, medically fragile individuals, hesitant individuals, and underserved communities, while also assisting anybody who reached out for help. “Initially I was on NextDoor, helping people in my neighborhood who needed help securing vaccine appointments for their elderly family members,” Sharon Cohan, VaxTogetherAustin Founder, and Executive Director said. “I ended up partnering with Raji Parameswaran, now President of the Board and Strategic Operations for VaxTogetherAustin when we realized we were doing the same thing. The next thing I knew, we had a spreadsheet of 300 people that were all eligible for vaccines and needed help.” In February, Marcy Gonzalez, a visually impaired Austinite, helped VaxTogetherAustin identify a need for vaccine access in the […]

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Superior HealthPlan Supports New Moms: Meet Katy and her Futur

This blog was written by Superior HealthPlan Sr. Manager, Marketing and Communications, Michael Cation. Superior HealthPlan is a long-time corporate partner of United Way for Greater Austin and a pillar of our community. Together with our partners like Superior, we’re building a better Austin for families like Katy and Futur. Katy Moreno is a certified nursing assistant, a community health worker, and just weeks away from finishing coursework to become a phlebotomist. Three years ago, those achievements seemed unreachable, as she became a mother at the age of 16. As her son, Futur, faced early health complications, his wellbeing was at the top of her priority list. Katy and Futur accessed support through Medicaid and Superior HealthPlan, an Austin-based managed care organization that serves members in all 254 Texas counties. As a young, single mother in Austin, Katy had access to a range of services from Superior – including through its Start Smart for Your Baby program – that set her and Futur up to be successful. “Futur struggled to eat in the first few months,” Katy explained. “He had some issues with gaining weight and required multiple hospital visits and medication. Without Superior’s support, I think I would have had some anxiety and Futur might have had some even bigger health issues.” After addressing Futur’s healthcare needs, Katy’s focus turned to herself – how to support her young family moving forward. Like many before her, Katy enrolled in a GED and job training program through American Youthworks, an organization […]

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Community Partner Spotlight: Austin Asian Community Health Initiative

The Austin Asian Community Health Initiative (AACHI) partners with the local Asian community to enhance public health and well-being through advocacy, language-specific education, and healthcare navigation services. Successful and equitable deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine is the most hopeful path to getting our community closer to herd immunity. However, we know that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) communities, those with low-income, or people who live in rural areas face systemic barriers to vaccine access and have higher rates of vaccine hesitancy.   That’s why United Way for Greater Austin, in partnership with St. David’s Foundation and Austin Community Foundation, recently awarded $415,000 in grants to 19 local organizations to address these inequities and increase COVID-19 vaccination rates in our community. The Austin Asian Community Health Initiative (AACHI) is one of those organizations doing incredible work in our community. Learn from AACHI Program Manager Lucy Nguyen about the specific barriers to vaccine access facing the local Asian and Asian American community, and how AACHI is helping mitigate those barriers and decreasing vaccine hesitancy.  What are some of the systemic barriers to COVID-19 vaccine access that the Austin Asian and Asian American community is facing?  Language access is the biggest barrier in Asian communities with high limited English proficiency in accessing vaccine locations, scheduling vaccination appointments, and understanding the risks of the vaccine. A majority of local vaccination locations only accommodate English speakers. What are some of the leading factors that promote vaccine hesitancy among some in this community?  Earlier this year, […]

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5 Ways to Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month — a time to acknowledge the accomplishments and contributions of the AAPI community. Looking for opportunities to celebrate? Here are 5 ways to learn more about the richness of and diversity in AAPI culture, amplify AAPI voices, and support our AAPI neighbors.  1. View one of the many virtual galleries offered by Austin’s Asian American Resource Center  The Asian American Resource Center’s (AARC) vision is to empower Austin’s diverse communities through cultural understanding and life-enhancing opportunities. While they’re currently closed to the public, the AARC is offering digital programming including an opportunity to view numerous beautifully inspiring virtual galleries of artwork by local AAPI artists. Check it out >  2. Watch “Asian Americans” and explore 150 years of Asian American history This must-see, five-part documentary series chronicles the history and accomplishments of Asian Americans over the past 150 years, while highlighting the role the community has played in shaping America as we know it. Watch for free on PBS > 3. Support local, Asian-owned businesses The Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce is encouraging the community to support our AAPI neighbors through patronizing Asian-owned businesses. For many, these businesses serve as community gathering spaces and cultural hubs. Check out this list of local Asian-owned businesses to visit > 4. Check out Leadership Austin’s Engage Series – Asian Representation: Quality of Life in Central Texas The AAPI community is one of the fastest growing in Austin. Join Leadership Austin as they […]

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United together, we can weather every storm

Fighting poverty means fighting to change broken systems, and last week every member of our community felt the weight of broken systems. No one in Texas was safe from the statewide systems failure that caused millions of Texans to be without power, heat, clean drinking water, and access to food and resources when needed. It was a terrible week, and our community will feel the weight of tragedy and trauma for years to come as we rebuild together. As setbacks mounted many felt hopeless, but in the wake of the disaster something beautiful happened. While systems let us down, our neighbors came together to find their own solutions. United together in community, we helped each other make it through. There are many bright stories from across the city of grassroots organizations, volunteers, and individuals who made sure neighbors had some way to stay warm and fed, and that they had access to water. The team at United Way for Greater Austin saw an opportunity to bring together our friends and partners to help with the water crisis, and quickly jumped into action.  Last Friday (February 19), reports of city-wide water outages and clean water concerns surfaced. United Way ATX’s Madison Mattise (Director of Pre-K Partnerships) and Cathy McHorse (VP of Success By 6) wanted to ensure that Austin families with young children had access to the clean water they needed to weather this crisis. They immediately began connecting with the greater United Way ATX team, partners, and local child care […]

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5 organizations to celebrate, and 1 thing to do

Happy Black History Month! There are many incredible organizations in Austin fighting for social justice, racial equity, and preserving and furthering Black culture in our community. Here are 5 organizations you can celebrate this month, and one easy way to support them today: DONATE.  1. African-American Youth Harvest Foundation “Through our programs, nearly 9,000 youth and adults have received services at our flagship African American Youth Resource Center. We have also helped 49 juvenile offenders enroll in our mentoring program, and nearly 2,000 youth and adults have attended our conferences, where we seek to improve our community by focusing on supporting and strengthening the family unit and addressing preconceived notions of minority youth.” Their mission: To effectually address disparities and ensure low-barrier access to vital educational, economic, and enrichment resources to underserved, at-risk youth and their families on their path to self-sufficiency. DONATE to African American Youth Harvest Foundation to improve our community by elevating our minority youth.  2. Austin-Area Urban League The Austin Area Urban League is a historic civil rights organization dedicated to providing economic empowerment, educational opportunities and the guarantee of civil rights for African Americans and other underserved/underrepresented populations in the Austin/ Central Texas region. Their mission: To enable African Americans and other underserved urban residents to secure economic self-reliance, parity, power, and civil rights, and to provide tools for them to build a foundation for social and economic equality. DONATE to Austin-Area Urban League to help build healthy foundations for equity in our community. 3. […]

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Partner spotlight: WIC innovates to safely serve our community during COVID-19 and beyond

Blog contributions by: Diana Flores, WIC Community Engagement Coordinator and Annette Phinney, Public Health Division Manager Our Success By 6 Coalition is a collective of strong partnerships in the Greater Austin area serving our community. We have one holistic mission to ensure all kids are happy, healthy, and ready to succeed in school and beyond.  The work of all of our partners feeds into our 4-pillar approach of striving for: high-quality care and education, healthy beginnings, supported families, and safe and stimulating communities. One of these amazing partners with boots on the ground in ATX is The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, popularly known as WIC. You’ve probably heard about the work WIC does, but how much do you really know? Our team did a Q&A session with the local Austin Public Health WIC team to learn more about how they are pivoting services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tell us about WIC and which areas of Greater Austin are being served. WIC is a nutrition program for pregnant, breastfeeding people and families with children younger than five. WIC provides: nutrition education and counseling nutritious foods breastfeeding support referrals to healthcare and social-service providers Our local WIC agency serves Travis and Bastrop county and we are part of the Austin Public Health department. What issues did WIC face with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020? The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many challenges to our traditional processes of providing benefits for WIC participants and new […]

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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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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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Doing good, one cookie at a time

Can you believe we are seven months into a global pandemic? In March, the team at United Way for Greater Austin transitioned from working in our beloved office on East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to a distributed working model where most of our staff worked from home. While we weren’t sure what was going to happen next, we knew one thing for sure: We wanted to help our community get through this together. Just weeks after COVID-19 hit our community, we teamed up with Austin Community Foundation to create All Together ATX. And our community stepped up in a big way: Thousands of donors and companies donated more than $6 million. We were able to distribute relief funds into the hands of the community faster than we could have ever imagined. This amazing outcome was possible thanks to everyday people who want to make a difference. We want to introduce you to two of those people: High schoolers Alice Huang and Sarah Zeng of Dough Re Mi, a cookie baking and delivery business that they created during the COVID-19 pandemic with the intent of “doughing” good by donating a percentage of each cookie sale to a nonprofit of their choice. Dough Re Mi has raised more than $3,000 and donated 80% of their funds made from May to September to All Together ATX.   Learn more about Dough Re Mi and the spark behind their generosity here: But wait, there’s more … As All Together ATX comes to a close, […]

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