Category: Makes Austin Greater

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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Volunteers Needed for MLK Day of Service

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is soon approaching, and we are inviting all community members to join us for our 17th Annual MLK Day of Service! United Way for Greater Austin is hosting this event alongside State Representative Dawnna Dukes and Keep Austin Beautiful on January 16, 2016 from 9 a.m. to noon. The MLK Day of Service projects bring together hundreds of volunteers to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of service by beautifying the Austin street bearing his name (and our office!) – Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. There will also be additional indoor projects supported by other local nonprofits for those who may not be able to participate in the clean-up of the three-mile stretch.     United Way for Greater Austin’s volunteer program, Hands On Central Texas, is currently recruiting volunteers for MLK Day of Service. This event is open to all ages and is a great opportunity to get your youth group, family and kids involved. If you are interested in volunteering, please visit our Hands On Central Texas page to learn more and sign up for projects. This is also  National Day of Service occurring all over the country – so come out, volunteer and start off the new year on a positive note as a philanthropist with thousands of others across the nation! This event will begin with a kick-off breakfast at 9 a.m. at United Way for Greater Austin (2000 E. MLK JR. BLVD, 78702). Parking is available in our attached lot or on nearby streets. We […]

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Local Companies Sponsor Families For the Holidays

The holiday season is a favorite time of the year for many of us. It’s not the presents or bright lights or parties that make the season, but rather the warm feeling we get from remembering what is most important in life: gratitude, friendship, family, community, fellowship and feeling cared for. During the holiday season United Way for Greater Austin receives an outpouring of generosity from the community through volunteer efforts, donations and overall holiday joy. We too like to take part in that joy by partnering with companies to sponsor and thank the families who are featured in our marketing materials throughout the year. Thanks to the generosity of both NXP (formerly known as Freescale) and Atlassian, ten families were “adopted” this year for the holidays. Employees from NXP and Atlassian contributed their own personal dollars to purchase and wrap gifts for each family member. Gifts included toys from personal wish lists, clothing, shoes and household items, including TVs and iPads. Many of the families asked for simple necessities, such as baking dishes and coats for the kids. “At NXP, giving back is part of our DNA. We are proud to partner with the United Way to support making the holidays special for nine families in the greater Austin area. Our employees have really stepped up this year to support more families and try to make a difference in Austin.” –Rick Morales, NXP   In addition, KPMG gave each family a holiday meal kit so that families could share a warm and […]

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Divine Canines Aid 2-1-1 Call Specialists

Austin – a city where you can find dog-friendly restaurants, hotels and even a dog bar! Another special thing about Austin is that there are a variety of non-profit organizations that focus on animal care and services. Divine Canines is a non-profit organization that encourages smiles and promotes physical and emotional wellness by providing therapy dog services to various populations in Central Texas. This summer, Divine Canines volunteers and their therapy dogs began visiting the UWATX Navigation Center on a monthly basis.The call specialists who work in the 2-1-1 Navigation Center connect Central Texans in need to vital resources, such as rent assistance, food assistance and affordable childcare, and even suicide prevention. Their jobs can often be demanding, emotionally taxing and stressful. The monthly visits provided by Divine Canines has made a profound impact on our call center employees. Sometimes all it takes is a furry friend to brighten up your day! We spoke with Karen Laurenzi, a Divine Canines volunteer who frequently visits the UWATX Navigation Center with her dog, Ranger, and her involvement with the organization: Can you tell us about yourself and how you began volunteering with Divine Canines? When Ranger was nine months old, I started taking him to obedience school. This led to him earning his Canine Good Citizenship certification when he was a little over one year old. During this time, one of the trainers mentioned that Ranger would make a good therapy dog. I wanted a volunteer opportunity and began researching my options. A few weeks later, my […]

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Teaching Children to Give During the Holidays

It’s that time of the year again, a time when stores are filled with shoppers prepping for various holiday festivities. The holidays are typically a time when children are used to receiving gifts from friends and loved ones. What tends to slip our minds during this time of the year is the importance of teaching children to give back as they receive. Encouraging your children to volunteer and give back helps foster a sense of philanthropy and generosity at a young age. Combining efforts as a family to help others means you are making a difference! Volunteering as a family is a special experience that gives your young ones the opportunity to think beyond themselves. If your child is old enough to have developed interests, it can also be a good idea to involve them in the decision-making process of what organizations and activities the family chooses to spend time doing. This allows your child to develop a deeper connection to what they are doing and makes them feel appreciated. On November 21st, UWATX celebrated National Family Volunteer Day by hosting our own Family Volunteer Day event. Forty-nine people (adults, children and teens) came together to decorate ornaments, drop off books for a book drive and write holiday cards to local teachers.   We spoke to Crystal Cotti, UWATX Campaign Co-Chair, who attended the event with her two daughters: What made you sign your group up to volunteer today? “I’m always looking for ways to teach my girls the holidays are about giving, not getting.” What was your favorite […]

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October Face-2-Face Recap with Joel Trammell

Photo Credit: Austin Business Journal The Austin Business Journal’s monthly Face-2-Face speaker series featured Joel Trammell, CEO of Khorus, entrepreneur and author. Khorus provides a business management system and Trammell has 20 years experience in IT-related software companies. He is also co-founder of Lone Rock Technology Group and chair emeritus of Austin Technology Council, along with serving on multiple boards of non- and for-profit companies. Trammell started his first business, a white box PC business, at age 25 after exiting the Naval Nuclear Power School. He began multiple companies before selling them for profits. He says after he sells a business, he goes crazy for about six months because he needs a purpose in life. “What’s for lunch isn’t a purpose in life.” Trammell also discussed his failures. He invested in a business outside his expertise and realized that when investing in something, you need to be personally involved. He believes that in order for people to follow him or any leader, they need to focus on portraying the three C’s: credible, competence and care. His current company, Khorus, is two years old and attempts to help CEOs with software enterprise leadership platforms. He sees it as a way to run an organization that promotes health and well-being. Trammell emphasized that he is “big on partnerships” because there is a better chance at success with a partner than going at something alone. Joel Trammell gives advice on his blog, The American CEO, and also wrote a book, The CEO Tightrope, which gives […]

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RideCares Helps Drivers Give Back

Austin is a city full of entrepreneurs, and RideCares is one of the newest programs helping our community’s nonprofits through regular business transactions. RideCares is an initiative that encourages Lyft and Uber drivers to give a portion of their tips to a nonprofit organization of their choice. We spoke with RideCares founder, Kyle Hoskins, about his innovative program. What is RideCares? How does it work? “RideCares gives Lyft and Uber drivers the opportunity to pledge a portion of their tips to raise funds and awareness for causes they’re passionate about. Drivers who wish to participate are provided car stickers to help inspire positive cause-related conversation, as well as a personal driver.ridecares.com website to tell why they support their cause and track progress.” How long has RideCares been around and how did it come to be? What are some of your future plans for RideCares? “RideCares in its current form launched in late August of 2015. RideCares originally started in August 2014 as a website I created to log my fundraising efforts driving Lyft to get late night party-goers home safely and donate 100% of the proceeds. I spent a lot of time figuring out the best way to share that wonderful experience with as many people as possible. Thus, RideCares was born. RideCares is proud to have started here in Austin, Texas, and while we already have one driver from another state, I hope to make RideCares a “household” amongst those who use Lyft and Uber in Austin and then […]

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Get Together, Austin!

We are excited to present Get Together Austin, an initiative led by United Way for Greater Austin, along with some of Austin’s most beloved musicians, to ensure every child in our community has the chance to succeed. We recruited 16 local, caring musicians who gave their time and talents to raise awareness about the need for high-quality preschool for low-income kids and the need for our community to come together as one to make this happen. We shot these musicians singing their own take of the song “Get Together” by The Youngbloods, a song about joining together to create positive change; we could not have picked a better song to portray our message. Artists involved: A. Sinclair, Abram Shook, Calliope Musicals, Colin Gilmore, Dale Watson, Dana Falconberry, Gina Chavez, Golden Dawn Arkestra, Grupo Fantasma, LaTasha Lee & the Black Ties, Magna Carda, Quiet Company, Royal Forest, Sara Hickman, Shakey Graves and Wild Child. We shot the video with production crew Arts+Labor in iconic Austin locations, from Zilker Park and Barton Springs pool to various murals, including our own “You’re My Butter Half” mural. We strived to get artists from a variety of genres, demographics and backgrounds to showcase the diversity of Austin itself. Our early childhood education initiatives work with other community organizations to provide a variety of services tailored to each family and child, including parent education classes and affordable quality childcare and preschool programs. 90% of young children that receive these services are ready for school upon entering […]

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Who Inspires You to Be a Philanthropist?

We asked UWATX employees to dress up as the person who inspires them to give back during our internal employee giving campaign kickoff this year.   Sue: “The Directors and Executive Directors of the early childhood programs with whom we partner. They work so hard to support children and families — and they do not get the recognition they deserve.”   Orsi: “I am inspired to give back because of my hard working coworkers. I am inspired by their passion to help others and their commitment to making Austin greater.” Courtney: “Everyday before I went to school my dad always told me to “be a good person today.” Working in a job that allows me to do that everyday is beyond fulfilling.”   Leah: “My amazing team of talented individuals. Each and every one of them brings fresh energy, passion and expertise to tackle an area of need in our community.” Laura: “Leah inspires me to be a philanthropist because of her example of generosity of spirit and her dedication to her work and her family. As a working mother, Leah is a model of work/life balance. She daily demonstrates a commitment to making life better for families in her community. Her energy, creativity, and leadership inspire me to give back.”   Nikki: “Vanessa is the Wizard of Oz of UWATX. Her job is internal facing (behind the curtain making the magic happen!) ensuring we have the systems, tools and processes to be successful. Boom!” Vanessa: “Nikki’s passion and ability […]

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Spotlight: Ed Rosentel

Join us in welcoming Ed Rosentel to the UWATX team as the Vice President of Finance! Ed sat down with us to give us a bit of his background and share what he hopes to accomplish in his new role with United Way. What is your background, both in the community and professionally, prior to working with United Way? I am a Certified Public Accountant with extensive experience as the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer for Texas non-profits over the past 20 years. While most of these non-profits have been Health and Welfare agencies, I have also tenured with a Community Foundation. In hindsight, I have been an instrumental part of the movement to merge smaller agencies for efficiencies and greater community outreach over this period; creating new organizations developing the accounting, payroll, treasury, human resource, information technology, facilities management and administration departments. What drew you to UWATX and made you feel that it was the right fit for you? I have always worked with the United Way; but as the steward of the community investment dollars provided to the recipient non-profit agency. An opportunity to be part of the United Way legacy and community impact is a natural progression. As for UWATX, the timing was right for my skills and for the agency’s need at this time. The level of commitment, skill and intelligence of the staff, particularly the senior management, is what makes this feel a perfect fit for me. How do you see your role […]

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