Category: Hands On Central Texas

Summer Learning Day: Bridging the Access Gap

On June 20, students at Decker Middle School had the opportunity to engage in service learning with the help of a few special volunteers from the UWATX Young Leader Society (YLS). Summer Learning Day, a national initiative that we participated in, this year focused on bridging the access gap for summer learning options between high- and low-income students. “It is encouraging to know we are providing this opportunity for students to learn and engage with their peers.”  – Julie Fisher, YLSer & Samsung Austin Semiconductor employee The day was a chance for students in the UWATX Manor Summer Program to interact with volunteers and learn more about how to advocate for their neighborhood. Through interaction and discussion, they also had a chance to learn more about a wide variety of careers.  The day began with a financial education program that included four United Way bank-on partners to talk about their work. The students also had the chance to play two games that taught them about finance and budgeting with a little help from Smarties candy. Next, the students participated in an advocacy session. Students and YLS volunteers participated in a letter writing campaign and in a unique photo petition, advocating to the Travis County Government for community change in the Decker area.   Later, representatives from the UWATX Navigation Center were on hand to talk about 2-1-1 and its role in the community.  The presentation included a competition that encouraged students to learn about the resources available through the Navigation Center. To wrap up […]

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Partner Profile: Kerbey Lane Cafe

Name: Kerbey Lane Cafe Partner for: 1.5 years Partner for: Employee Campaign, Hands On Central Texas   Our relationship: Giving back in a variety of ways Creating a year-round, focused philanthropic initiative Kerbey Lane Cafe started their philanthropic efforts with UWATX as volunteers – they sponsored Fall Day of Caring and their team participated in volunteer projects. Through these efforts, they were able to get a first-hand look at what UWATX does in the community and who their dollars, advocacy and time could support – our friends and neighbors who struggle to make ends meet. Their efforts were so spectacular, that they won the 2013 Excellence in Volunteerism Award!  Through these efforts, their team identified the Success By 6 Center Project as a key area they wanted to support – and they’ve done it: specific locations adopted centers in the project to support with in-kind efforts and volunteering. Each location also has a philanthropic liaison who works to connect their team to the community during their Employee Campaign but also throughout the rest of the year – an important Best Practice for effectively engaging employees around giving and building a corporate responsibility plan.  Finding ways to give that fit company culture  Mason Ayer, CEO of Kerbey Lane Café, is strongly focused on culture – and creating a philanthropic focus is part of those efforts. Knowing their staff is unique, the team at Kerbey Lane has found special ways to give back that fit their culture, including:  Just eating a yummy brunch and saw this on […]

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We have an obligation to make Austin greater

Like many people, my original exposure to United Way was through an Employee Giving Campaign – when a speaker from one of United Way’s partner agencies came to our staff meeting and talked about the difference that United Way made. The story was compelling, so I became a donor. At that point, I didn’t give a lot of thought to the big picture of United Way in the community. Over the years, I was exposed to more and more stories through our company’s campaign, and I even got involved in our company’s Day of Caring. I began to see some of the direct effects of United Way’s work and that, through UWATX, we were all making a difference in a broad way, but I still wasn’t where I am today.  The big change happened about a year ago when I was approached about being involved in the relaunch of the Young Leaders Society.  From the start, it was clear that this was going to be a different kind of philanthropic group. It was one that was going to make a difference for a specific group kids during one of the hardest times in their life – middle school. I remembered my own middle school experience, and how awkward and difficult everything seemed. I can’t imagine going through that along with the financial, family and language challenges that some of these kids have. So, I jumped at the opportunity to support the Target Graduation program through financial contributions and volunteer projects. Giving is about more than the money. It […]

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9 local businesses making Austin greater

As part of our 90-day celebration of UWATX’s 90th anniversary, we’re working on 10 lists of 9 highlighting influential and impactful people in the Austin community. In the eighth part of our series, we bring you nine local businesses invested in giving back.  We’re a city that prides itself on our weirdness – and a big part of what makes Austin different is how much we love local business and how many businesses come from Austin. We’re a city that nurtures small businesses and attracts entrepreneurs – and we’re also a city that gives back. In that spirit, we are highlighting 9 businesses that are both homegrown in Austin and give back to our community.  1. Alt Creative Alt Creative is an interactive design agency that makes giving back a core part of their work – they blog about the importance of small business being philanthropic and even have a page on their site dedicated to their philanthropic impact. In 2013, they were a finalist for the AustinGives GeneroCity Awards.     2. Kerbey Lane (UWATX Partner) Besides making delicious pancakes, Kerbey Lane also makes our community better. The iconic Austin restaurant was founded in 1980 on the idea that food should be fresh and locally grown, and to this day, they continue to support local farms and producers. They also make time for employee volunteering projects through our Hands On Central Texas program, adopted local child care centers through our Success By 6 Center Project and are active in other community efforts. Kerbey Lane is truly a company committed to make Austin […]

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9 volunteers making Austin greater

As part of our 90-day celebration of UWATX’s 90th anniversary, we’re working on 10 lists of 9 highlighting influential and impactful people in the Austin community. In the seventh part of our series, we bring you nine volunteers changing Austin.  Austin is known for our volunteering spirit – nearly 30 percent of Austinites invest their time in making our community even better. We’re proud to work with thousands of these dedicated community members through our Hands On Central Texas program, Austin’s largest volunteer network. Approximately 1 in every 17 volunteers in Austin interacts with our program, so we thought we’d take a second to highlight a few of these truly outstanding volunteers.    1. Ryan Melendez, BB&T Ryan not only teaches families about banking and managing money in English and in Spanish, but also builds confidence in our families by showing their impact on the economy.  Ryan’s been a wonderful volunteer by teaching financial education and conducting outreach for UWATX’s Bank On Central Texas initiative.   2. Tom Wald, former Executive Director of Bike Austin Tom brought his cycling expertise to a group of Decker Middle School Volunteer Leaders who were passionate about securing a bike lane or sidewalk on the route to their campus. He helped the students understand safety laws and ultimately get in front of TXDOT to share their stories and letters of advocacy which helped to secure priority funding for a Decker sidewalk that will ensure a safe passage to and from school.   3. Jennifer Healy, Target Jennifer’s […]

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75+ students in Manor ISD are getting a quality summer program!

Today, we launched a two-year pilot initiative: a summer program at Decker Middle School designed to provide more than 75 low-income fifth, sixth and seventh grade students in Manor ISD with summer learning opportunities. The 7 week-long initiative includes: UWATX’s Hands On Central Texas —Austin’s largest volunteer network — will conduct weekly volunteer activities where staff lead on-campus volunteer projects aimed to introduce students to philanthropy at an early age and help them improve their own school. This builds on our success leading Volunteer Project Leader classes at Decker MS.  National Summer Learning Day on Friday, June 20, in which students will team up with UWATX’s Young Leader Society members to guide advocacy letter writing about the importance of summer and afterschool programs as part of a larger, nation-wide effort. Texas Association of Minorities in Engineering event on Tuesday, July 22 in which TAME’s “Trailblazer Bus”—the only interactive science and engineering museum-on-wheels in Texas—will be stationed at Decker Middle School to provide STEM-based activities for the students. Creative Action will offer film production classes where students will be able to produce a film based on a social issue they identify in their community. Additionally, Creative Action will offer an art visual program in which students will develop their skills as individual artists. Camp Fire will offer a leadership program aimed to build leadership skills and introduce participants to STEM-based professionals. We’ve been serving Decker Middle School for three years as part of Target Graduation, which focuses services on the critical middle school period […]

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Middle school students gave 865 hours to low-income neighborhoods

Today, we proudly celebrated the end of another successful school year by watching more than 40 local middle school students graduate from our Volunteer Project Leader (VPL) program. In the past year, these students completed 18 projects and gave 865 hours of service back to their own communities.  The VPL program was adapted from a national model that trains adults on how to lead and manage volunteer projects on their own time, helping transform casual volunteers into active community leaders. Since it launched, we’ve expanded the program to all three campuses served by our Target Graduation program – Mendez, Webb and Decker Middle School – bringing together UWATX’s volunteer management expertise with our efforts to help students stay on the path to graduation.  The program helps students become active in their own communities from a young age. The three schools that currently have the program all serve low-income areas, so students are paying back into a system of supports that they have benefitted from or improving neighborhoods where there are significant needs and barriers.  As part of the VPL program, students conduct community assessments to determine projects that could better their local community. Based on the responses they receive from the assessments, students devote their entire school year to these projects.  Last year at Decker Middle School, one of the key needs they identified was for a safer route to school, since the speed limit on Decker Lane was 50 mph. Students organized their classmates and the community – and received funding from the Texas Department of Transportation to build a […]

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Three months of volunteering in ONE day

Yesterday, more than 700 volunteers joined us for Spring Day of Caring – a citywide call for volunteers managed by our Hands On Central Texas program. In total, volunteers gave 2,100 hours yesterday, which is the equivalent of 87 days of day-and-night volunteering.  Here’s what YOU had to say about the event:  [<a href=”//storify.com/uwatx/800-give-back-for-spring-day-of-caring” target=”_blank”>View the story “700+ give back for Spring Day of Caring ” on Storify</a>]   Volunteer teams came from 21 companies to participate, including Freescale, H-E-B, Austin Coca-Cola, Intel, Target, ADP, JE Dunn, Dell, Workplace Resources, CLS Partners, Nordstrom Rack, Liquidation Channel, Kerbey Lane, Texas Instruments, Epicor Software, AT&T and more!  It was great to see the smiling faces of volunteers as they gave back to make Austin greater:  [AFG_gallery id=’12’] Did you participate? Share you story & picts at our Facebook event!    [<a href=”//storify.com/uwatx/800-give-back-for-spring-day-of-caring” target=”_blank”>View the story “700+ give back for Spring Day of Caring ” on Storify</a>]

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A middle school perspective on leadership

On the surface, these students look like any other boys in the St. John’s neighborhood – Jose is a Webb Middle School student who likes video games and has lived in Austin all his life, Kevin is a freshman at Reagan High School who was born in Mexico and loves to play soccer. But they do something that makes them stand out from the pack: Kevin and Jose are actively changing their community at the ripe old ages of 11 and 15, respectively. We’ve been working with students like them for three years as part of our Target Graduation program. When we first partnered with campuses to saturate schools with the services that students need, we also adapted our Volunteer Project Leader program into a full-year course for middle school students, and over the past year, our Young Leader Society has been actively engaged with volunteer leaders at our three target middle schools. Kevin, Jose and 48 of their peers are making a difference by assessing what the needs are in their own school, putting together a plan to resolve those needs and leading their peers and YLS members to fix problems. This is Jose’s first year in the program, but Kevin’s been involved since it first started.  “I enjoy getting to help people in the community where I live. I feel like I’m making a change at home,” said Kevin to YLS member Kara Birge when she sat down with the boys last week. “I got to help people today […]

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18 years of volunteering in 2013

Each your, our Hands On Central Texas program helps thousands of volunteers to give their time and invest in our community. In 2013, these volunteers gave a staggering 161,000 hours of time – that’s the equivalent of 18 years of non-stop, day-and-night volunteering!  [cta][/cta] All told, our in-house team managed 10,000 volunteers during our Days of Caring (both Fall and Spring), MLK Day of Service and H-E-B’s Feast of Sharing. On top of that, handsoncentraltexas.org connected an additional 16,000 volunteers to meaningful opportunities in our community.  We also had to respond to a crisis in our community this year. The flooding in October 2013 left homes in ruin and many people unsure where to turn. In the aftermath, volunteers were need to help clear houses, sort donations and more. We took the lead as part of our membership in Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster and coordinated 14,000 hours of volunteer work to help the Dove Springs recover.  [cta][/cta] But 2013 was also the year that we saw even more growth in our exciting Volunteer Project Leadership program for middle school students – we expanded from one campus to three and helped 50 students learn how to lead volunteer projects, and they turned around and coordinated 183 volunteers over the year. It’s students like Niko at Webb Middle School who show us every day what it means to be a leader and inspire us to keep doing this work.  Of course, none of this would have been possible without YOU – the amazing volunteers, donors […]

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