Category: From the president

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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Happy Birthday, Judge Biscoe!

Happy birthday, Judge Sam Biscoe! Judge Biscoe has served as Travis County Court judge since 1998, and will retire when his term ends this December. He served on the United Way for Greater Austin Board of Directors for many years, and recognizes the common goals UWATX and the county have to help those in our community who need it most. In addition to becoming the first African-American Travis County Court judge, he helped implement several programs benefitting county residents, including a youth summer employment program and extended-day program for middle school students. “I would personally appreciate your helping me transition into retirement knowing we gave generously to needy persons in our community.” – Judge Sam Biscoe He has been a voice of reason and mission for our community, and has consistently advocated for families living in rural areas surrounding Austin. He invests his own resources thoughtfully, and additionally, asks that his employees also engage in philanthropy. Every year, he runs a Combined Charities employee campaign, in which Travis County employees pledge to contribute a portion of their individual salary to over 300 charities in the Austin community, including UWATX. For his birthday on November 5, Judge Biscoe requests donations to his campaign in lieu of purchasing a gift. He ran his most successful campaign in 2009 by raising over $200,000. As this year will be his final employee campaign, Judge Biscoe’s goal is to set a new record for the amount of money raised and hopes it will be his most prosperous campaign yet! If you are […]

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My love affair with Austin’s aggressive optimism

As our organization celebrates 90 years of serving this community and growing up alongside Austin, I’ve been reflecting on what brought me to this area in the 1970s – and it’s striking to realize that the mix of optimism and creativity that drew me here all those years ago is still what fuels my work in social justice to this day.  While I had visited Austin all throughout my childhood (and skied over snakes every summer in Ink’s Lake), by young adulthood, I was traveling around the west coast in a minivan, drawn to the next great artistic adventure.  I went to California to live in a redwood forest and restore trees to an area that had been devastated by a sawmill. I moved to New Mexico to live in an adobe house and run a 2,000 acres farm for a stunt man. When I came back to Texas, it was for the soil and the trees – I bought 50 acres of land in Bastrop that I still live on today and started an organic farm.  Austin had the perfect combination for me: I could live in the country (which feeds my soul) and I could be near artists at the same time. More than anything, Austin had and still has this aggressive optimism that says “you can do anything – make it happen.”   Austin has this aggressive optimism that says “you can do anything – make it happen.”  So I did: I grew organic vegetables and sold them to what […]

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Help State employees keep their ability to give!

Help save State employees’ ability to give through their workplace to the charity of their choice! As you may know, the 83rd Legislature ends next week. Among the important matters being discussed is the State Employee Charitable Campaign.  We are asking you to contact the Governor’s office and Legislators listed below to advocate for the passage of Senate Bill 217 that keeps the State Employee Charitable Campaign alive.    Why we are asking you to take action? Senate Bill 217 recommends the continuation of the annual State Employee Charitable Campaign, which allows for all State employees to support their local communities by donating to charities of their choice. Last year, State of Texas employees gave more than $9,000,000 to charities through this campaign. The State Employee Charitable Campaign is the only payroll deduction campaign for State and higher education employees. The SECC bills must be passed by both Houses (the House has passed its bill, the Senate has not). If the Senate bill does not pass, or is vetoed by the Governor, the SECC would cease to exist as of September 1 and employees throughout the State would not be able to support their communities through their workplace. We need your help to save more than $9,000,000 raised by State employees for charities through the State Employee Charitable Campaign.   Here’s how you can help: Contact Governor Perry and the Legislators listed below to let them know of your support for Senate Bill 217 and the importance of continuing the State […]

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On Mother’s Day, let’s redefine mothers

I grew up in a family with a single mother and three siblings. My father died young and, from an early age, my brother exhibited signs of mental illness. So I learned early on that it takes a community to raise a child – I was a child that a community raised. As we come close to Mother’s Day – a yearly celebration of moms and all the gifts they give us – I am thinking about what being a mother truly means, and how it’s so much more than biology. In my own experience raising my four children and now helping raise my grandchildren, motherhood gives you this whole range of feelings. It’s deep and abiding love, endless patience, tremendous pride and also frustration, fear and a strong sense of responsibility. Motherhood is about a stretching of oneself – growing to be more than you thought you could be when you woke up that day. And while being a mother is about love and trust, it’s also about guidance, boundaries and sometimes telling the hard truths. We think of mothers as caregivers, but more than giving care, mothers help give us structure. I hope this is something that I’ve passed along to my children – that you can wrap your arms around any child that needs it and bring them into your family and that it makes you richer. With this definition, it becomes pretty clear that mothers aren’t just the women who brought us into this world, but […]

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The love of my life and our shared vision

Anyone who has ever met me knows that I have never met a stranger and I live my life as an open book. So in this month where we celebrate love I thought I’d share a little about the love in my life and how it has given me such a strong foundation for the work I have chosen to do. More than thirty years ago a young man walked into my home, and into my life, a friend of a friend who had come to visit. In true Valentine’s spirit, it was love at first sight for us both. All these years later, after raising four children together, my husband Patrick and I live in a three-generational household with one of our daughters and her two children, 4 ½ and 2. It makes for a home full of noise, mess, frequent viruses, and lots and lots of love. Patrick and I also share a deep and abiding commitment to bending the arc of history towards justice. But in addition to sharing three decades of marriage and family-building, Patrick and I also share a deep and abiding commitment to improving the lives around us, and – to paraphrase Dr. King – to bending the arc of history towards justice. Over the past two decades we have each found different ways to build that mission into the career paths we have chosen. As president of United Way for Greater Austin, I am dedicated to building a strong and resilient community and […]

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Support giving back this holiday season

Let’s be honest: many of us need a good tap on the shoulder to remind us to give back, and the holidays are a perfect reminder. As our families come together, we realize all that we have to be thankful for, we come to appreciate our community even more and it’s often a powerful inspiration to give. But there’s also another motivator: the Dec. 31 tax deadline. Right now, if you give a gift before Dec. 31, federal tax laws allow you to deduct that gift from your income and save a bit this coming tax season. The Council of Nonprofits reported that 20 percent of online giving for the entire year occurs on December 30 and 31  – so that deadline seems to be just the right tap on the shoulder for many people. But this year, with the nation’s “fiscal cliff” looming, there has been a lot of talk about capping or re-evaluating the charitable deduction. With that tap on the shoulder weakened, this could mean a devastating ripple effect. Individual donations to nonprofits equaled $298 billion in 2011. These are investments from families, parents and neighbors in our communities or in issues we care about – a way of “buying in” to a cause or a future. 20% Portion of online giving donated on Dec. 30 or 31 $298B Total individual donations to nonprofits And the need for those investments continues to grow. Our Navigation Center, which connects those in need to valuable resources, has seen it […]

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