Newsroom

Volunteer Spotlight: Rina Patel

Rina Patel was first introduced to the United Way of Greater Austin more than 10 years ago through her position as the Wells Fargo area president for Mid-Central Texas. Upon moving to Austin in 2013, UWATX VP of Mission Advancement Dr. Leah Meunier, who then was in charge of managing our Women’s Leadership Council (WLC), met with Rina to introduce her to the giving society. “I have remained a WLC member because I am passionate about helping our youth—particularly through early childhood education— and ensuring they are set up for success,” said Patel. “The program also offers the opportunity for motivated, passionate, community-minded women to network and collaborate for a great cause. In particular, I’ve enjoyed the WLC meetings because the team always comes up with creative ways to educate everyone about important topics that need to be addressed in Austin.” Rina is also a dedicated volunteer and appreciates that Wells Fargo is invested in giving back to our community as a corporation as well. She finds that volunteering with her team members by sharing the expertise they already have is one of the best ways to give back. Wells Fargo’s Austin team has an impressive volunteer track record. More than 495 Wells Fargo Austin team members have volunteered more than 11, 500 hours and supported 695 nonprofit organizations through these projects. This includes 100 team members serving on local nonprofit boards, building three homes for families in need over 13 days and raising more than $325,000 last year to […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: Caroline Trang and Frances Jordan

Our middle school VPL program is full of outstanding volunteers! You may have read earlier this week about Cristian Dominguez from Webb Middle School — today we are highlighting another VPL volunteer, Caroline Trang, in honor of National Volunteer Week. Caroline is a 7th grader at Decker Middle School, one of the three middle schools served by our Middle School Matters program. This year was Caroline’s first year in the VPL program, and she had the best attendance of any student in the program and was a leader of Decker’s Literacy Night activity booth. Other projects Caroline and her team have taken on include making book posters, sorting books for donation, volunteering in the school library and creating bookmarks with literacy tips for other students. Young Leaders Society (YLS) Executive Member, Frances Jordan, serves as the YLS Campus Captain of Decker Middle School and has worked closely with Caroline this past year. Frances not only volunteers through YLS, but also serves as a member of UWATX’s volunteer Resource Development Committee and helps our fundraising team find new business and make important decisions. Frances and Caroline sat down together and chatted about their involvement and volunteer experiences with UWATX:   Frances: Why do you volunteer through the VPL program? Caroline: My friend Helen made me come at first, but it turned out to be so fun! I like to help others. Frances:What are your favorite types of volunteer activities? Caroline: Helping with cleaning up the community, presenting to groups, and giving gifts to those in need. Frances: Describe […]

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Students Spend Spring Break Volunteering at Ronald McDonald House

While some of their classmates laid on a beach or drove cross-country, some students from Webb Middle School chose to spend part of their Spring Break giving back to others. The VPL program is a UWATX initiative and a collaboration between the organization’s efforts to support three area middle schools—Webb, Mendez and Decker Middle Schools. Students participating in the afterschool VPL program learn how to take a leading role in changing their community each week. VPL students from Webb Middle School were charged with developing, planning, coordinating and executing a volunteer project on their own terms. The Webb students chose to support the Ronald McDonald House because they wanted to support families staying at the “home-away-from-home” while their children are being treated at Austin-area hospitals. Past graduates from the VPL program who are now in high school or beyond, members of UWATX’s Young Leaders Society, F.O.R.C.E. dance team members and Kerbey Lane Cafe volunteers assisted the Webb students in making breakfast for the 20 families who are staying at the Ronald McDonald House. The menu included green pancakes made with Kerbey Lane Cafe’s famous pancake batter, as well other traditional breakfast foods, such as hash browns, oatmeal and fruit skewers. The students also made St. Patrick’s Day cards for the families and passed them around after the breakfast. The students and volunteers took a tour of the Ronald McDonald House after the breakfast to learn more about the organization. Shoutout to these exceptional future leaders of Austin for spending their […]

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International Women’s Day Spotlight: Amy Green-Hinojosa

Today is International Women’s Day, a day where women around the world are celebrated for their social, economic, cultural and political achievements. The origins of this day date back to 1908, when female oppression and inequality inspired women to become more vocal and active about gaining better pay and voting rights. We now celebrate this day globally in various ways, ranging from festivals, concerts, female-driven tech conferences and more.  This year, we are celebrating by highlighting one of UWATX’s longtime female supporters, Amy Green-Hinojosa. Not only is Amy a dedicated Women’s Leadership Council member, but she is also an Employee Campaign Leader at her workplace, Texas Mutual. As an Employee Campaign Leader, Amy plays a critical role in leading and inspiring her co-workers and employees to give back to our community through campaign. It is investors, volunteers and community leaders like Amy, and their continuous support, that allow our organization to thrive and make Austin greater. We took some time to chat with Amy about her background and involvement with UWATX and why she is invested in this community. How long have you been involved with United Way and in what capacities? I have been contributing to United Way since I began my adult career, first in California, then here in Texas. I have been an ECL many times in my career. I was active in the Austin Young Leaders Society in my younger days ,and then I transitioned to the WLC. I served on the Executive Committee of WLC for a few […]

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Decker Students Lead Literacy Night Project

Decker Middle School students in our VPL program volunteered at Decker Literacy Night on February 11th. The students in the UWATX VPL (Volunteer Project Leader) program work together to learn to become the next community leaders through afterschool and out-of-school volunteer projects they coordinate and run. Decker Literacy Night was coordinated by the literacy specialist at the middle school, and UWATX’s VPL students designed a booth where they led activities for other students. Last semester, Decker’s VPL students self-selected into project teams after a discussion about social issues that resulted in identifying four need areas that the students wanted to learn more about and support. These areas include: homelessness and hunger, environmental justice, children and literacy, and food and nutrition. Each issue area then chose a name for their project team and have undertaken project planning and leadership activities to help them build their team’s experience. The Big Read team, which focuses on children and literacy, led the Literacy Night booth project. While all VPL students supported the Literacy Night booth, Big Read came up with the ideas, led the activities and served as the project spokespeople. Decker VPL students were in charge of coming up with a theme and creating their booth. They designed a creative and colorful “Critics’ Corner” to give book recommendations and generate excitement about reading among their peers. Popular titles included “The Fault In Our Stars,” “Wonder,” “Girl In a Box” and “The Hunger Games.” Two Young Leaders Society executive members, Frances Jordan and Ward Hoffman, volunteered at […]

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300+ Volunteered on MLK Day of Service

MLK Day of Service is a national initiative to strengthen communities, bridge barriers between different groups of people, create solutions to our social problems and move us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.” Thousands of individuals around the U.S. honor Dr. King’s legacy on this day by participating in volunteer projects that encourage community collaboration and make our towns a better place to live. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, more Americans live in poverty today than during Dr. King’s lifetime–which is why it is more important now than ever to work together to make Austin greater for all residents. More than 300 volunteers signed up to work on eight projects for this year’s MLK Day of Service on January 16th. This annual event is hosted by United Way for Greater Austin, Keep Austin Beautiful and State Representative Dawnna Dukes. We kicked off the event at UWATX with breakfast and encouraging speeches from Mayor Steve Adler, UWATX Board Member Rodney Northern and other influential community members. Volunteers then dispersed to work on a variety of projects, ranging from a clean-up of MLK Jr. Boulevard to creating works of art of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to be auctioned off to raise money for UWATX’s Middle School Matters program. Some of the groups that signed up for the event were Apple employees, current and alumni AmeriCorps […]

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UWATX Hosts 2nd Annual Community Tree Lighting

We held our 2nd Annual Community Tree Lighting event for the St. John’s community on Giving Tuesday, December 1, 2015. Webb Middle School students and their families, as well as other community members, were invited to attend the free holiday party. The kids loved visiting with the bunnies, hedgehogs, ducklings and more that the Tiny Tails To You traveling petting zoo brought. Other activities included a cookies and cocoa station, card and ornament making, a balloon artist and face painters. One of our Webb Middle School volunteer project leader students had the idea to set up a reading corner and read holiday books to some of the younger children at the event. As the sun set, Principal “Santa” Sanchez spoke of the importance and positive impact that he has seen through United Way’s support of the Webb campus. 54% of students at Webb received at least one service coordinated through UWATX last year, including behavioral health, mentoring, tutoring and afterschool programs. Webb’s musical groups performed holiday classics and the audience counted down from five until the tree was lit up with blue and gold–Webb’s school colors. Young Leaders Society members passed out donated toys and books to the children who attended. Thank you to Capital Metro who once again sponsored the 15 foot tree that lit up the St. John’s neighborhood this year! Thank you also to ABC Home & Commercial for decorating the tree, DoubleTree Hotels who provided volunteers and cookies, H-E-B for donating the hot cocoa, Petsmart for […]

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Volunteers Scaring for a Good Cause!

In celebration of the spookiest time of the year, UWATX’s Young Leaders Society (YLS) members volunteered at Decker Middle School’s Fright Night last week. Fright Night, one of Decker’s most popular student events, allows students to use their creativity while coordinating with YLS volunteers to transform the school into a “haunted house”. Volunteers helped set up, scared students as they moved through the haunted house and took photos of the students for souvenirs. Fright Night helps sponsor the AVID program at Decker Middle School, which gives students the opportunities to attend field trips to college campuses and provides in class activities around career and college readiness. We had the opportunity to talk with Julie Fisher, YLS Chair, about her volunteering experience the Fright Night event. What were some of the activities you were involved in during Fright Night? I was involved with set up, setting the kids in waves down the stairwell and cleanup/breakdown. Describe your favorite part of the night Watching the kids give each other pep talks before going into the Haunted House. The event itself is always a blast, but I love the set up and break down with the students. It is a great opportunity to interact with them and give them a chance to give us the orders on how to set up the different rooms and halls. It was encouraging to see how excited they were after they received such positive feedback from their peers on how “awesome” the experience was. What do you enjoy […]

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I Wish I Could Tell My Middle School Self

This year’s Young Leader’s Society campaign kicks off on September 3rd. Each year, United Way for Greater Austin provides quality educational programming for middle school students right here in Central Texas, and the Young Leaders Society helps make this work possible through donating, advocacy and volunteer efforts. Middle school is a notoriously hard time, especially for the low-income students we serve. We asked YLS members to tell us what they wish they could travel back in time to tell the middle school versions of themselves. Celso Baez, III “If such a time capsule existed that would teleport my 26-year-old self in front of my chubby 13-year-old middle school self, I’d have quite a lot to say. Beyond the flat-top haircut humiliation, the one thing I’d emphasize is that community involvement is a way of life and to start acting like it, plus encouraging others around me to follow suit. The Young Leaders Society’s (YLS) efforts via United Way for Greater Austin’s Target Graduation Program aim to bridge the ever-growing opportunity gap between students in low-income households and students in medium to high-income households. While this is very important to tackle, I’d look at my “state-dubbed, at-risk youth” self in the eye, and challenge myself and my other prepubescent friends to endeavor in rewriting their own narratives by way of community engagement. Simply put, if you see a need, try your best to do something about it. In non-13-year-old language, I’d suggest to others that caring about your neighborhood and the […]

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