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Real people … real impact

So many of our neighbors are working hard, but struggling to make ends meet; having to choose between paying for food, rent, gas, or medicine for their children. Inequitable systems make it nearly impossible for families to break out of the cycle of poverty. But, the collective generosity, love, and compassion of caring people like YOU is making an impact, changing these systems and improving the lives of local children and families. Together with generous neighbors like you, here are some of the things we accomplished in the past year across the Central Texas region, including Travis and Williamson counties. $15,470,491 invested directly into our community 91,874 children and individuals impacted through our strategic work in education, health, and financial stability 301,831 requests for help answered through our Navigation Center These are more than just numbers; these are lives forever changed. Amina immigrated to Austin from the Congo, and – less than 24 hours later – she gave birth to premature triplets. Alone in a new country, she didn’t know where to turn. She searched high and low for her village.Thankfully, Amina was connected to incredible community resources, funded by United Way, that helped her find housing, navigate the confusing social services system, and enroll in school. United Way had created that village of support Amina so desperately needed.Amina is now working as an Accountant Technician, and furthering her education at Austin Community College. Her triplets, Divine, Gift, and Testimony, are now five and though they are too young to understand how much their mom has fought […]

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Early Matters Greater Austin advocacy win: Paid parental leave in Travis County

On May 3, the Travis County Commissioners Court unanimously voted to offer Travis County employees eight weeks of paid parental leave! The resolution was sponsored by Travis County Judge Andy Brown and Precinct 1 Travis County Commissioner Jeffrey Travillion, and advocated for by the Early Matters Greater Austin Steering Committee.  Powered by United Way for Greater Austin and E3 Alliance, Early Matters Greater Austin (EMGA) is an alliance of current and retired business professionals focused on the critical relationship between access to high-quality early education and our State’s long-term economic success. A significant aspect of the group’s work — known as Best Place for Working Parents® — is advocating for family-friendly workplace practices that are research proven to benefit families and have a positive impact on a businesses’ profitability. The EMGA Steering Committee’s advocacy for Travis County expanding family-friendly policies for their 5,000+ employees, is an example of that work.  After the unanimous vote to implement paid parental leave, EMGA Steering Committee member Tom Hedrick spoke about the positive impact family-friendly policies have on families, businesses, and our larger economy.  Travis County is proving family-friendly is business-friendly  While family-friendly policies have a direct impact on working parents, local and national research proves that there is also a serious business case to being family-friendly: 83% of millennials would leave one job for another with stronger family-friendly supports Replacing an employee costs an employer six to nine months of that employee’s salary Over 60% of working parents said child care issues have […]

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Black Pearl Books and the Greater Austin Reading Coalition: Getting culturally-relevant books in the hands of young readers

The current reality in our community is that only three in 10 children from families with low income pass their 3rd grade reading STAAR test.  Here at United Way for Greater Austin, we believe that reading is a crucial, foundational skill. That’s why we lead a local movement — the Greater Austin Reading Coalition — to ensure that ALL children are reading on grade level by the 4th grade, which is a pivotal point in a child’s reading development.  Launched in 2021, the Greater Austin Reading Coalition is a diverse group of nonprofit and community leaders, librarians, teachers, and parents. The coalition is convened by United Way as part of our collective impact work to fight poverty. In just our first year, together with our coalition members, we have gotten more than 50,000 books in the hands of young readers across our community! One member that has been instrumental in making this possible is Black Pearl Books. Owned and operated by Katrina Brooks, Black Pearl Books is an indie, Black-owned bookstore in Austin with a mission to promote diversity, inclusion, equality, cultural awareness, and community through literature. This mission is what drove Katrina to join the Greater Austin Reading Coalition, as one of the coalition’s goals is to increase access to culturally-relevant books for children. “Having culturally-relevant books available to children is a necessity to get them to read on grade level.”  – Katrina Brooks  Culturally-relevant books are titles that illustrate the beautiful diversity of our community. It’s important for […]

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Expanding Opportunity for Young Families helps parenting students advance their careers

Meet Katie Gonzalez, a parent of six young kids. As one of 34 parents in our Expanding Opportunities for Young Families pilot program, Katie recently earned a phlebotomy certificate from Austin Community College, advancing her career opportunities while also receiving access to vital wrap-around services for her family. Expanding Opportunity for Young Families (EOYF) is a collaborative community program coordinated by United Way for Greater Austin that helps parents overcome barriers to completing their degree, such as challenges finding child care and financial pressures. The program, which takes a 2-Gen approach of serving parents and children simultaneously, works to increase young parents’ successful academic enrollment and completion so they can access middle-skill jobs.  The goal of the program is to increase the financial stability of young parents age 18-29 while improving the well-being of their children. Together with local community partner organizations, young parents from our Link Up Austin group are co-leaders of this work to advance the well-being and economic mobility of their families and the community. Katie says participating in the program allowed her to support herself financially while studying to achieve her dream role as a phlebotomist. “It’s a good opportunity for a lot of families,” she said. “Especially those who are in need and are wanting to go back to school and get educated, so they can have a career for themselves, their kids and their families.” How it works United Way partners with Workforce Solutions (WFS) Capital Area, Central Texas Allied Health Institute (CTAHI), Skillpoint […]

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United Way for Greater Austin & United Way of Williamson County are joining forces!

We are excited to announce that United Way for Greater Austin and United Way of Williamson County are joining forces! Our two organizations have signed a management contract with intent to merge, and we are engaged in a due diligence process as the final step in the merger process.  Together, we will have one mission: Bringing people, ideas, and resources together to fight poverty in our community.  “As the Austin metro area grows, the boundaries between Travis and Williamson counties continue to blend; many people work in one and live in the other,” said David C. Smith, CEO of United Way for Greater Austin. “For our communities biggest challenges, more and more people are finding regional solutions optimal. This merger will help us better and more efficiently serve the Greater Austin community, while expanding and deepening our impact with a regional approach. Together, we can do more.” The Boards of Directors for both organizations approved the move in June 2021. The due diligence process is expected to be complete by the end of the year, with a further vote by both organizations’ Boards at that time. Until then, United Way for Greater Austin has a managing agreement with United Way of Williamson County and is thoughtfully integrating the two organizations into one. “Integrating the services and expertise of our two organizations will help us better and more efficiently serve our community, both in Williamson County and the region,” said Jodee O’Brien, former CEO of United Way of Williamson County and […]

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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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Parents are powerful: Uplifting parent voices as champions for change | 2-Gen Leadership Council

Parents are powerful. At United Way for Greater Austin, we value the lived experience and extensive expertise of parents & caregivers. What does that mean for our work? It means that we not only strive to make room at the table for parent voices, but we work to uplift those voices and ensure that they are heard.  Welcome to our new blog series all about shining a spotlight on the ways amazing parents are using their voices to build a better Austin. In this first installment, you will hear from two-parent leaders, Alma Ruiz and Cristina Guajardo, about their experience serving on the 2-Gen Leadership Council.  What is the 2-Gen Leadership Council? The 2-Gen Leadership council is made up of 47 local leaders. These council members guide the creation of policy at the city and county level and are decision-makers in the areas of workforce, school districts, nonprofits, child care, and more. They provide big picture guidance and oversight for the 2-Gen Strategic Plan purpose, goals, and strategies. As parent leaders, Alma and Cristina are actually sitting at the table with systems leaders to co-design strategies, programs, pilots as well as to guide our overall strategic planning process. The 2-Gen Leadership Council is the only structure of this type elevating parent leaders to this strategic level in Austin currently. The goal is to elevate the voices of families and inform strategic plan implementation while giving families the skills they need to be effective advocates and leaders in the community. The […]

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We did this, All Together ATX

Back in March of 2020 we had no idea the amount of good we would do when we worked together to help those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. With so many in our community facing economic, social, and health hardships, the pandemic disrupted life as we knew it,  we just knew we had to do something. That’s why, in an effort to support the community, United Way for Greater Austin partnered with Austin Community Foundation to create All Together ATX. Now here we are, nearly a year later, celebrating more than $7.7 million in funding raised by 3,149 donors that helped 210 local nonprofits provide support to our community members most in need. Check out the full report to learn more! For nearly 100 years, United Way for Greater Austin has been dedicated to those in our community who are suffering and creating opportunity for all people, children, and families. The work we’ve been doing all along prepared us for this moment of unprecedented need. Needs will continue to evolve, and we will be here.  Together, we can provide stability today and create long-term solutions for the future, for all.     

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