Newsroom

GAVA Early Childhood Team Provides a New Refrigerator at Little Dudes Learning Center

GAVA (Go Austin Vamos Austin!) is a resident-led health initiative working in Austin’s neighborhoods (78744 and 78745) with highest incidence of childhood obesity to promote family wellness, increase physical activity and improve nutrition and access to healthy food. The initiative works in different areas, called sectors, to address the key factors impacting childhood obesity: parks, schools, food service/quality/availability, out-of-school time and early childhood education. Laura Olson, Family Support Service Coordinator for United Way for Greater Austin’s Success By 6 team, serves as the Early Childhood Sector Manager for GAVA. She works across the early childhood community to form teams made up of: childcare providers and early childhood teachers, nonprofit providers serving families with young children, home daycare providers, and parents of young children. Teams meet monthly to develop plans and take action toward improving the health of their families and neighborhoods. One of the childcare providers Olson works with is Little Dudes Learning Center. Little Dudes opened it’s doors in 1961 when Mrs. Ellen Smith recognized the need for childcare in South Austin. Consequently, Little Dudes was the first childcare center to open in Austin, south of the river. Little Dudes has long been seen as providing high quality early education and has been recognized as a Texas Rising Star Four Star Center, a statewide quality certification program. This past summer, Little Dudes had an old refrigerator that was not cooling properly during their annual health inspection. As a result, they had to pour out gallons of milk and throw away […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: Beth Tracy, IBM

United Way for Greater Austin (UWATX) and IBM have a deep partnership, and much of this is accredited to Beth Tracy, IBM Manager of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs. Beth has been making Austin Greater with UWATX since 2002. She served on the Hands on Central Texas Advisory Board for two years from 2004-06 guiding the team to inspire, mobilize and equip volunteers to create sustainable change in the Austin community. Nikki Krueger, Director of Community Engagement and Youth Development at United Way for Greater Austin, explains,“When I entered the world of community and volunteer engagement, Beth was one of the first people I met through the Hands On Central Texas Advisory Council. She is a model for corporate community engagement and she never shies away from a leadership role. She is an incredible advocate and friend.” Beth also served on the Success By 6 Leadership Council as Vice Chair from 2010-11 and Chair from 2012-14 leading the team towards innovative and sustainable solutions for Austin’s youngest residents. Sue Carpenter, Vice President of Success By 6 adds, “Beth has been a long-time, highly valued SB6 volunteer leader, culminating in a term as chair of the SB6 Leadership Council. Her calm, professional style set the tone for effective and productive meetings and her understanding of appropriate volunteer leadership roles allowed her to mentor experienced and rookie advisory board members. Beth listens carefully and seeks understanding before giving advice or guidance, and her insightful questions often helped me reach better decisions over the years. […]

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Now Accepting Proposals

United Way for Greater Austin seeks to award up to $90,000, divided evenly into three awards of $30,000, to three qualified community organizations to deliver effective programs and services that assist parents and children together, increasing their family stability and self-sufficiency. Since 1924, United Way for Greater Austin  has worked locally to build philanthropy and support programs that break the cycle of poverty. UWATX programs and activities are designed to jump start sustainable solutions for low-income families and drive collective change by aligning public and private support. Our programs work together to provide low-income families with the skills and resources they need to take an active role in their own success. Our community investments illuminate this commitment. UWATX’s funding priorities are centered on three interrelated focus areas: Education: Children and youth are happy, healthy, and prepared for success in school and in life. Income: Families have equitable access to economic and social opportunities. Health: Families in Central Texas are physically and mentally healthy. Within each focus area, UWATX partners with community stakeholders to identify proven strategies toward a common goal. Community investment grants represent a strategic opportunity to identify critical community partners and enhance and create active collaborations for the greatest impact. Our community investment grants are made possible by the financial contributions of thousands of community investors each year. UWATX is committed to serving as a strategic steward of these community dollars. UWATX anticipates three awards of $30,000 each under this RFP. Read the Request for Proposal and sign up for the informational session taking place on Sept. 16.

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2016 Early Care and Education Survey Results

Today, we’re proud to release the results of the 2016 Early Care and Education Survey – a look at trends across the early care field in our community and the only one of it’s kind in Central Texas. This year’s data shows more of the same positive trends we saw in 2014, and also similar challenges. Teacher education in early childhood varies widely depending on where you live Our data indicates that teacher education levels in early childhood education centers vary greatly between the regions of Travis County. 20% – 25% of East and South Austin center teachers have no early childhood education beyond high school. West, North, and Central Austin fair better with only 7-9% of teachers having no formal early childhood education training. Regional Differences in Early Childhood Education                         The survey also found that long-term teacher retention has decreased over the past two years.   Parent fees make up the bulk of funding for child care centers – including in low-income areas The survey found that centers, across nearly all regions in Travis County, depend on parent fees for the largest portion of their income. Centers in East, South and North Austin also rely on public subsidies for funding, with private donations and corporate subsidies playing a minor role for the regions as well.   Child Care Center Funding Sources                 This may be part of the reason why the cost […]

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Kerbey Lane Café Beautifies Open Door Preschool East

Did you know that the average annual cost of high quality early childhood care is nearly $10,000? Imagine a family that is already struggling to make ends meet faced with an additional expense of $9,734, the average cost of high quality childcare in Austin according to the Texas Workforce Board. Even for a family with two adults working full time at minimum wage, that’s a third of the family’s income for the year going to childcare instead of housing, food, utilities or other necessary expenses. Because of this high cost and the barrier it represents to students starting kindergarten, United Way for Greater Austin supports childcare centers serving low-income families with free or reduced tuition through the Success By 6 Center Project. The initiative currently works with 13 childcare centers, serving over 1,000 children in Austin. The Center Project works with these centers to help them meet state and national standards for quality early childhood education including training for teachers, leveraging in-kind and volunteer resources to improve facilities and providing data collection and analysis to improve individual outcomes for students. On Aug. 19, employees from all seven Kerbey Lane Café (KLC) locations joined Hands On Central Texas (HOCT) to beautify Open Door Preschool East – one of the longest running partner schools of the Center Project. KLC volunteers painted four classrooms, over half of the rooms serving students. While the KLC volunteers were not expert painters, HOCT staff provided a short training and in-depth project coordination to ensure volunteers felt comfortable and completed […]

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Partner Spotlight: Any Baby Can

Photo: Any Baby Can United Way for Greater Austin believes collaboration is essential to tackling our community’s largest problems. We work with many nonprofit, public and private organizations in our community to have a larger impact and create real change in our city. One of these funded partners is Any Baby Can. Any Baby Can is a nonprofit organization that believes “all children deserve the chance to be healthy and happy”—a vision in line with UWATX’s own. Any Baby Can serves children with developmental delays, chronic or life-threatening illnesses and hearing loss, as well as their families. Any Baby Can also serves first-time pregnant women, including teenage moms, moms with postpartum depression and parents seeking parenting skills. According to Any Baby Can’s website, 34,959 children in Travis County have a special health care need. Services Any Baby Can offers to their clients include in-home physical, occupational and speech therapy, case management, mental health counseling for anyone in the family, support groups and nurse-home visitation. They also partner with Open Door Preschool so that parents receiving onsite classes have quality childcare while they are learning new parenting skills. Any Baby Can hosts monthly organization tours open to anyone interested in learning more about the organization. While on the tour, the absence of workers in many of the offices is striking. This is because much of Any Baby Can’s therapy and case work is done in the homes of their clients. Any Baby Can has boasts many robust programs. One such program, […]

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Two-Gen Programs Aim to Break Cycle of Poverty

At United Way for Greater Austin, we focus on wrapping our arms around entire families and fighting the root causes of poverty. A family living in poverty rarely struggles with only one factor causing their situation, and therefore cannot rise out of poverty by only receiving one type of aid or only one person in the family receiving help. As an example, let’s say Diane is a single mom of three children. Diane is working fulltime making minimum wage during the day and also has a side job at night to make extra money. She must pay for childcare for her youngest child during the weekdays, and is having trouble making ends meet to pay the rent, put food on the table and clothing on her children’s backs. She has no opportunity for promotion at work as she only speaks Spanish and only has her GED. As a result, she is also struggling with depression and feels she has no support. Her oldest child watches the other two after school, and he is struggling with grades and never has time or help with his homework because of this. If Diane receives one service, such as food stamps, this will help her put food on the table—but the fact remains that the family is still unable to be lifted out of poverty due to the variety of other factors affecting them. This is where two-generation, or “two-gen,” programs come into play. Many programs focus solely on low-income children or low-income adults, […]

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Spring Play To Learn Classes Graduate

As our Play To Learn program runs on a school year schedule, we just wrapped up our spring semester and are launching our summer groups with about 30 families participating. This year so far, a total of 204 families graduated from Play To Learn or an extension class through YMCA, which is a combination of Play To Learn and YMCA’s Early Learning Readiness program. Through Play To Learn, not only did young children leave with new skills but parents learned how to foster their child’s optimal development at home. Parents and children attended classes together with the following themes: • Social skills • Gross motor skills • Fine motor skills • Language Development • Emotional regulation skills • Geometry • Numeracy • Emerging Literacy “Honestly, this program did help my daughter a lot. My children are naturally very shy and now my daughter is less introverted and more social. I really did see a huge change in my daughter and I highly recommend the class. The reason I never missed a class is because I could tell my daughter loved being there and benefited greatly.” –Maria R. Attendees also learned digital literacy skills by practicing various tasks and using the pre-loaded educational apps on the Samsung tablets provided by United Way for Greater Austin. It is important to bridge the “digital divide” between low-income families and their more affluent peers now more than ever. Internet access is no longer a luxury but a necessity for individuals to complete homework, fill […]

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UWATX Partners with Colin’s Hope to Promote Water Safety

Colin’s Hope is an organization that educates families and children about water safety in efforts to prevent children from drowning. This work is especially important during summer, when pools and water parks are filled with kids. United Way for Greater Austin partnered with Colin’s Hope to distribute water safety cards to more than 3,200 families. Laura Olson of UWATX’s Success By 6 program also connected Colin’s Hope with early childhood organizations that primarily serve families with children under the age of 5 to expand the reach of the messaging. In addition to distributing water safety cards, United Way for Greater Austin provided support by: Identifying partners that could distribute the Colin’s Hope Water Safety Quiz to families with young children Connecting Colin’s Hope to partners that would assist in sharing water safety awareness information, including Child’s Inc., KLRU, the Literacy Coalition and the AISD Early Childhood program Offered to recruit volunteers to aid in distribution of water safety cards via Hands On Central Texas Will assist in any future Spanish translations of Colin’s Hope material Developing a next level of outreach and education for summer camp providers/staff in low-income communities Will create a 2017 outreach plan with Colin’s Hope to educate even more families next year We are proud to partner with Colin’s Hope to keep Austin’s children safe this summer!

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Summer Learning Activities for Preschool-Aged Children

Wondering what to do with your young child at home all summer? We’ve compiled a list of fun AND educational activities you can do for free or very cheaply with your toddler or preschool-aged child this summer that will improve their math, reading and motor skills. Visit a farmer’s market The plethora of fruits and vegetables at markets are great learning tools. Children can learn colors and work on math skills by counting the fruit they help you pick out. Find a farmer’s market near you. Open a lemonade stand Make lemonade with your child and let them help you measure and count the ingredients. Help them count the money they receive from customers. Bonus points if you teach them about the importance of giving back by donating their profits to a local charity! Go on a nature walk Create an adventure in your backyard, neighborhood park or the greenbelt. Point out the different kinds of trees, plant and insect life you find with your child. Put on a puppet show This project will spark creativity. Read an age-appropriate book with your child. Then, using paper lunch bags, pipe cleaners, markers and other craft items, create puppets of the main characters and act out the story you just read together. At-home Olympics To get your child excited about the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, host a competition of your own. Count together to see how many times your child can jump over a jumprope or make a rotation with a […]

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