Newsroom

A “Rawr-some” Literacy Night with the Greater Austin Reading Coalition

On April 28, more than 200 children and families gathered for the Greater Austin Reading Coalition’s first-ever Family Literacy Night at Sanchez Elementary School with coalition member Communities in Schools. Hosting family literacy nights and distributing culturally-relevant books are critical parts of the coalition’s work to ensure that all children are reading on grade level by the fourth grade.  At the literacy night, students had a blast getting their faces painted, picking out a book to take home, listening to a monster-themed storytime, and letting out their best monster roar! At the end of the event, they received a backpack filled with school supplies courtesy of Deloitte. Additionally, parents and caretakers were provided with resources to support their child(ren)’s reading development, including our new Guilt-Free Reading Calendar. It was a “rawr-some” night!    Special thanks to Communities in Schools, Deloitte, Sanchez Elementary, and the coalition’s Parent-Caretaker Working Group for making this literacy night a huge success. We can’t wait for the next one!   The Greater Austin Reading Coalition is convened by United Way as part of our collective impact work to fight poverty. Since launching in January 2021, the coalition has gotten 50,000 books (and counting!) into the hands of young readers. You can follow the coalition’s journey here. 

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Parents are Powerful: Meet Jennifer Dungey

Welcome to our blog series all about shining a spotlight on the incredible ways that parents are using their voices to build a better, brighter future for local kids in partnership with United Way for Greater Austin. Make sure you catch up on our previous installments to meet some truly inspiring parents! Meet Jennifer Dungey. In addition to being a working mom of two, ages 9 and 12, Jennifer is involved in numerous community-based organizations, including serving as a member of the Greater Austin Reading Coalition’s Parent Advisory Committee — a coalition convened by United Way. The thread that ties all of her work together is her passion for ensuring everyone in our community has the resources that they need to thrive, especially moms and their children!  Check out what Jennifer had to say about ways parents and caregivers can incorporate more reading time into their busy schedules!    How did you get involved with the Greater Austin Reading Coalition’s Parent Advisory Committee?  I first heard about it via social media! I help administer a Facebook Group called Black Austin Mamas, and one of the moms brought up that there was a reading coalition parents’ group that was looking for members.  Advocacy and representation are incredibly important to me! I really wanted to take a front seat in my daughter’s reading and advocate for her and other children. I’m always advocating for my daughter to read more, so I wanted to get more involved in this.  Why do you believe […]

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United Way for Greater Austin and United Way of Williamson County Join Forces

United Way for Greater Austin and United Way of Williamson County, who combined serve 10 counties in the Central Texas region, have joined forces! David C. Smith, CEO of United Way for Greater Austin, will serve as CEO of the newly merged organization. The expanded organization will be named United Way for Greater Austin, with a mission to “bring 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 our regional community, while expanding and deepening our impact for our neighbors who are working hard but still struggling to make ends meet. Together, we can do more.” The merged organization offers services that: Ensure families with young children are financially stable Provide quality early learning opportunities for children and students Connect people to resources for food, health, housing, transportation, and more This merger will allow for programs across our region to be upgraded, updated, and strengthened. “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. “This is an exciting growth […]

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History of United Way of Williamson County

In January 2022, United Way of Williamson County joined forces with United Way for Greater Austin. The two organizations merged, to expand and deepen our impact in the Austin metro area. 125 Years of United Way In 1887, a Denver woman, a priest, two ministers and a rabbi recognized the need for cooperative action to address their city’s welfare problems. Frances Wisebart Jacobs, the Rev. Myron W. Reed, Msgr. William J. O’Ryan, Dean H. Martyn Hart, and Rabbi William S. Friedman put their heads together to plan the first united campaign for ten health and welfare agencies. They created an organization to serve as an agent to collect funds for local charities, as well as to coordinate relief services, counsel and refer clients to cooperating agencies, and make emergency assistance grants in cases which could not be referred.  That year, Denver raised $21,700 and created a movement that would spread throughout the country to become the United Way. More than 125 years later, United Way is still focused on mobilizing the caring power of communities and making a difference in people’s lives. Read more… The United Way Movement in Williamson County By 1948, there were over 1,000 communities  – Taylor and Georgetown included – that had established United Way organizations commonly known as Community Chests. Taylor was one of the first in the state of Texas to join the movement by establishing the Taylor Community Chest in 1939. In 1962, Round Rock created the United Fund to help area residents in […]

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Partnering with child care centers to make a real difference for local children and families

Here at United Way for Greater Austin, we believe that every child deserves a strong foundation for success. That’s why we run programs like Pre-K Partnerships with Austin ISD.  Through this partnership, we work with child care centers across Greater Austin to expand access to high-quality, full-day pre-K for children ages 3 and 4. Success in life begins with a quality education, but less than 50% of children in Travis County are ready for Kindergarten. Our youngest years are the most active period for brain development, a crucial time to lay a firm foundation for all future growth. That’s why this partnership ensures children get a strong start in life and are ready to succeed in Kindergarten and beyond.  We currently partner with 13 child development centers that are 3- and 4-star Texas Rising Star certified, to deliver high-quality pre-K and provide those centers with resources to help improve and sustain quality services for children. One of those child care centers is Angels Care and Learning Center.  Angels Care and Learning Center is a 4-Star Texas Rising Star certified center opened by Navy veteran Chuck Cohn in 2017. A bilingual center that serves children from varied socio-economic backgrounds in South Austin, they joined the Pre-K Partnerships program at the beginning of 2020.  As part of the program, Angels Care and Learning Center received funding which allowed them to hire an additional teacher with higher qualifications. However, Chuck quickly realized that partnering with United Way with more than just financial support.  […]

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Connecting our neighbors to food, vaccines, transportation, and more through ConnectATX

ConnectATX is a complement to our 2-1-1 helpline that offers people in Travis County more holistic support. While 2-1-1 has the capacity to provide service to thousands of people every week, ConnectATX goes deeper with callers and online users to proactively and holistically address many needs. Help through ConnectATX is available online and via phone, text, email, and chat. Here at United Way for Greater Austin, we believe that everyone should be able to meet their basic needs. That’s why we run programs like ConnectATX, which connects people to help for food, vaccines, transportation, and more. From July 2020-June 2021, ConnectATX responded to 2,162 requests for help. When a person reaches out for help through ConnectATX, they are connected with a passionate, kind person like Cecilia Torre. It’s really nice to have a 2-way conversation with a client where we can listen to them, prioritize their needs, and do our best to help meet those needs. – Cecilia Torre  One of the biggest needs that Cecilia has seen in our community is access to transportation. In fact, over the past year ConnectATX scheduled 1,642 free Lyft rides for individuals seeking rides to medical appointments, job interviews, job training, and college classes.  One woman looking for transportation to a critical dialysis appointment sticks out in Cecilia’s mind.      This is just one of thousands of stories of community members having their needs met through ConnectATX. And YOU can make more of them happen. When you make a gift this holiday […]

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Meet Laura Gentner: Living life with kindness, honesty, and support for the dignity of everyone

Women United is a diverse, vibrant donor network supporting United Way for Greater Austin. Members are committed to creating a powerful, female-driven philanthropic force to fight poverty in Greater Austin. As one of this year’s Women United Co-Chairs, Laura Gentner is helping to create change in our community, so that everyone can share in the promise of Austin!  “I Live United because we are living and experiencing this world together, so let’s do that with kindness, honesty, and support for the dignity of every person.”  – Laura Gentner, Women United Co-Chair Why does United Way’s mission to fight poverty resonate with you personally?  Fighting poverty is an effort to change a person’s life cycle and what the next generation will inherit. It’s getting to the root of the poverty issues in our communities and creating solutions that have longevity. Growing up, we teetered on the poverty line, and I know how easily one can fall into a sudden, difficult place in life. I love that United Way is focused on finding solutions to such a complex challenge. It’s not easy, and the success isn’t immediate, but I’m glad United Way is front and center fighting for Greater Austin.  What is your favorite part about being a member (co-chair!) of Women United? Activism! We just had our first Women United meeting for 2021-22, and it’s very obvious these are women ready to make change and impact in our work for early childhood education and the fight against poverty. It’s my privilege […]

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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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Meet Brandon Comisarenco: Giving Back to the City He Loves

Emerging Leaders is a group of tomorrow’s leaders supporting United Way for Greater Austin. Members have a passion for philanthropy, advocacy, volunteerism, and community. Through meaningful volunteer opportunities and networking events, members make connections with other local leaders who all believe that everyone deserves to enjoy the promise of Austin. Brandon Comisarenco is committed to ensuring that Greater Austin is a community that works for everyone. And as a member of the Emerging Leaders Executive Committee and a supporter of United Way for Greater Austin, he is helping to make that possible!  Learn more about why he joined United Way’s fight against poverty.  What is your favorite thing about living in Austin?  My favorite thing about living in Austin is how big of a city it’s gotten, but has still kept a small town feel. The people who live here truly make this city amazing. There’s a really strong sense of community in Austin. Everybody is so passionate about this city and are always looking for ways to improve it…It’s great to see a large portion of the population care so deeply about each other and doing everything they can to make sure this city is moving forward and progressing.  Why does United Way for Greater Austin’s mission to fight poverty resonate with you personally?  I’ve always had a passion and desire to help those around me. I think that starts with doing everything we can as a community to ensure equity and equality for as many people as possible. […]

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Silicon Labs: Magnifying community good

Austin-based Silicon Labs has always had a deep commitment to supporting our local community. In 2019, Silicon Labs team members volunteered more than 3,500 hours. And every year, Silicon Labs gives back 1% of their profits to charitable organizations. When COVID-19 hit Central Texas, Silicon Labs stepped up in a big way with a significant donation to All Together ATX, the COVID-19 relief fund we created with our friends at Austin Community Foundation to support Central Texans through the pandemic. Hear from Silicon Labs CMO Megan Lueders, as she talks about why this donation means so much to SIlicon Labs and how together Silicon Labs and United Way ATX are “magnifying and multiplying community good.” And our partnership didn’t stop there. That donation to All Together ATX is the first stepping stone toward more collaboration between Silicon Labs and United Way ATX. Just last week, United Way ATX hosted a virtual volunteering event for Silicon Labs team members in support of All Together ATX grantee Central Texas Food Bank. At the event, Silicon Labs team members: Learned about the need in our community due to COVID-19. For more than 25 years, United Way ATX has run the 2-1-1 “call for help” line where people can get support related to food, housing, transportation, health, and more. Over the past few months, our 2-1-1 call specialists have been answering 4x our typical call volume. One of the biggest needs in our community: Food. Learned about how All Together ATX grantee Central Texas […]

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