Category: Uncategorized

Staff Spotlight: Meet Shay Noriega

  Meet Shay Noriega! On October 3, Shay was recognized at the annual Texas Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (TAIRS) and awarded the 2017 Information and Referral Resource Specialist award. As the 2-1-1 Community Information Coordinator, Shay actively updates and maintains a comprehensive community resource database that meets complex state and national standards. She also provides daily training and support for 2-1-1 call specialists to ensure that they have everything they need to successfully help over 150,000 callers annually. Shay has worked in a leadership role with United Way for Greater Austin 2-1-1 Navigation Center for more than four years.  Since receiving her MSW in 2013, Shay has supported the 2-1-1 program by ensuring health and human services resource information is up-to-date and easy to navigate for 2-1-1 call specialists.  She actively participates in updating and maintaining a comprehensive community resource database that meets complex state and national standards. In addition to managing relationships with all of the organizations within the 2-1-1 database. Hear more from Shay herself: What is your role? My core responsibility is maintaining the database, which largely includes reaching out to big players in the community, updating their information when it changes and maintaing the integrity of our data and resources. I am really proud to work here. I feel so fortunate to work with people who have one of the toughest jobs. It takes a very special person to field calls everyday from people who don’t have access to basic needs and I feel very […]

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An army for good: Fall Day of Caring 2017

“We love Days of caring for a lot of reasons. Day of Caring is a snapshot of who we are at the United Way, it is a reflection of what we’re all about—multiplying the work you do and the resources you donate exponentially.” – David C. Smith, CEO United Way for Greater Austin On Friday, September 22, more than 300 volunteers came together to work on 23 projects at sites throughout the city. UWATX teamed up with United Way of Williamson County and United Way of Hays and Caldwell Counties this year to celebrate Fall Day of Caring collectively. Volunteers across Central Texas came together with the shared mission of making sure our communities continue to thrive. From preparing Play to Learn Tablets to sorting donations at Austin Creative Reuse, volunteers from many of our corporate partners came out in full force to support the community. We would like to give a special thanks to our Fall Day of Caring sponsors; NXP Semiconductors, JE Dunn Construction, Kerbey Lane Cafe, Ebay and Austin Coca Cola. Without your support, our work would not be possible—thank you!   This is Our Love Letter Fall Day of Caring is a community-wide service event that addresses critical needs through meaningful volunteer action, but it is more than that. Days of Caring, or more specifically – caring for our neighbors on a daily basis – is our love letter to Austin. On Days of Caring, UWATX staff, corporate sponsors and community partners alike come together to […]

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2-Generation: The data, collaboration & story behind the multiplier effect

“You can’t be intimidated by social determinants. You have to be willing to take risks, be criticized be offended and to offend.” – Mike Geeslin, CEO of Central Health Did you know that social and economic factors account for 40% of long term health outcomes? That’s more than any other set of factors, according to most public health models. On September 8, the 2-Gen Collaborative Provider Network held its quarterly meeting to align around coordinated social service interventions for the whole family to address “upstream factors (i.e. social determinants of health) that contribute to long-term health outcomes.” Discussions were led by Mike Geeslin, CEO of Central Health, Amy Price, Director of 2-1-1 Community Information and Dr. Chris King, local 2-Gen expert and Ascend fellow presented at the meeting.   What we need to be successful The meeting began with a word from Mike Geeslin about the importance of addressing upstream determinants of our community’s long-term health outcomes. Social determinants of health are the societal factors and conditions that people are born into that often affect their accessibility to quality health care. They include factors like socioeconomic status, education, the physical environment, employment and social support networks. Geeslin’s presentation evoked a dialogue about the barriers to addressing social determinants for the families we work with and attendees discussed the importance of having a variety of players and options available. Entrepreneurialism is integral in the healthcare space. Innovation is fueled by competition and a greater level of competition leads to higher quality healthcare for many […]

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Outdoor Learning Environments & the importance of play

Data shows that the path to poverty starts at an early age and one contributing factor is that many children who are low-income do not have access to the same resources as their more advantaged peers. Now, more than ever, research indicates that the earliest years of life often sets the stage for lifelong physical and mental health and academic success. Children thrive when they are cared for by responsive and sensitive adults; participate in regular, stimulating early learning experiences; and enjoy healthy food and active play. Time spent playing in naturalized outdoor learning environments has been linked to a variety of positive health and wellness outcomes. It has been shown to support gross motor development, reduce rates of myopia, and increase physical activity. reduces children’s levels of stress and aggression, increases concentration, and lessens the symptoms associated with ADHD. Additionally play is associated with improved performance on science tests and development of an environmental ethic. The bottom line- play improves the lives of all children. OLE (Outdoor Learning Environments)! Texas is a new statewide intervention for increasing childhood physical activity and food awareness by improving childcare centers’ outdoor environments. Success By 6 is leading a coalition of local stakeholders to implement this model in our community. Launched in 2016, OLE! Texas is supported by the Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention Section, Texas Department of State Health Services, and implemented through a statewide project leadership team with support from the Natural Learning Initiative (NLI) and Texas Parks and Wildlife. […]

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Big updates on the School Readiness Action Plan

“The number one way that we can address these long-term challenges of poverty, of education, is to invest in early childhood education.” – Julian Castro, Former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development In 2012, United Way for Greater Austin brought early childhood advocates, experts, parents, service providers and business leaders together to transform the early childhood system in Travis County through a unified strategic plan – the School Readiness Action Plan (SRAP). The foundation for the SRAP was built on two decades of advocacy work by local early childhood champions as well as the science of early childhood development. We recently updated the 2015-2018 SRAP. Here’s why this plan is so important.  Austin is a tale of two cities. On one hand, Austin is a vibrant city known for its live music and prosperous growth and, on the other side, Austin is the most economically segregated city in the nation and is growing in terms of wealth disparity. And it’s our youngest residents who bear the brunt of economic disparities. More than 40 percent of all children under the age of six live in low-income households in Travis County. This means that almost 40,000 children do not have the same resources, support or opportunities as their counterparts from families with higher income. The School Readiness Action Plan is built upon a clear framework. We believe that in order for children to be ready for success, families, communities, early-education services and physical and mental health professionals must be ready. […]

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UWATX receives $50,000 from Tokyo Electron for Hurricane Recovery Fund

United Way for Greater Austin (UWATX) announces a $50,000 matching donation from Tokyo Electron (TEL) in support of UWATX’s collaborative hurricane recovery efforts: the Central Texas Long-Term Recovery Fund. This $50,000 matching gift represents the first major corporate pledge of support to UWATX’s fund. United Way for Greater Austin is proud to be teaming up with Austin Community Foundation, Entrepreneurs Foundation, MFI Foundation and Capital Factory to coordinate the efforts of the Central Texas philanthropic community in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. UWATX CEO, David C. Smith stated, “We are extremely grateful to TEL for joining this effort by adding $50,000 in matching funds to challenge our community to invest in this initiative and see their funds go further toward the long term rebuilding that we can only achieve by pulling together.” In the coming months, United Way will work with our partner agencies to identify the areas of greatest need. Funds will be deployed over the next several years through strategic grants supporting long-term recovery efforts. Through the Central Texas Long-Term Hurricane Recovery Fund, we are committed to supporting affected communities, particularly those with access to fewer resources. Click here to make a donation to support long-term recovery efforts for hurricane victims. In addition to its fundraising efforts, UWATX’s 2-1-1 Navigation Center team has been working around the clock since Hurricane Harvey made landfall to help those affected by the storm.  Locally and statewide, the 2-1-1 network has been experiencing record call volume. Thousands of search and rescue calls […]

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Investing in impact

Austin is the greatest city to live in on earth, isn’t it? I’ve loved this city since moving here over twenty four years ago, but the Austin you and I love, and the one at the top of many “best of” lists is not the same reality for our residents who are living in poverty. Earlier this year, United Way for Greater Austin  (UWATX) completed a strategic planning process led by an amazing team from Boston Consulting Group. From this process came a focused vision and plan that will move United Way forward and, most importantly, will help our neighbors living in poverty. As a result of our new vision, we’ve discontinued some of our programs in order to better focus on areas where we’re creating the greatest impact. As we launch our new strategic vision, UWATX will focus on three explicit areas: the 2-1-1 Navigation Center and our Success By 6 and 2-Generation initiatives. We think of them as pillars, each addressing poverty in a unique way and together creating a holistic, 360 degree approach. The 2-1-1 Navigation Center consists of two principal services – information and referral support, as well as our Healthcare Navigation Program. Essentially, if you don’t know where to sleep tonight, can’t pay your utility bill, or don’t have enough food for your family, we’ll connect you with a service in town that can meet those needs. It’s free, confidential, multilingual and available 24/7. We answered more than 300,000 calls just last year, which gives us […]

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YLS Member Spotlights

United Way for Greater Austin’s Young Leaders Society (YLS) is a diverse network of young professionals under the age of 40 who are passionate about helping kids and families overcome economic barriers. Through unique networking events, meaningful volunteering and learning opportunities, members leverage their collective power to connect, serve and grow. Membership is open to donors giving $250 or more annually to United Way for Greater Austin. Each month, we’ll help you get to know YLS members through a spotlight! Stay tuned for member interviews each month. January 2018 Member Spotlight: Rose Ann Garza Rose Ann Garza is a longtime supporter of United Way for Greater Austin and and has been a YLS member since 2014.   What does your job entail? Ultimately, I take care of our team from start to finish-everything from ensuring we are making our new team members feel welcome to benefits and compensation, incentives, etc. The People Operations team ensures our team feels treated fairly, appreciated and that they have a safe and happy place to work in, something everyone deserves but sadly not everyone gets.   Why do you choose to support UWATX? I have always been passionate about giving back to the community in which I reside. Growing up it was part of who we were as a family-I continue to consider volunteerism a part of who I am to this day and am grateful to have been raised with such a focus on others. When I first came to Central Texas for […]

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Partner Spotlight: Foundation Communities’ Free Tax Help Returns $33.8M to Hard-Working Families

While Austin is a city brimming with opportunities, many families find simply affording our city a growing challenge, this is particularly true for families raising children. One critical provision preventing many of Austin’s low- and moderate-income families with children from sliding into poverty are tax returns bolstered by the refundable credits – the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. It can be a relatively substantial infusion of cash for families making ends meet with low or unpredictable incomes and may be the only opportunity a family has to purchase a vehicle, pay a large security deposit, or address a pressing repair. Foundation Communities is a long-time partner of United Way for Greater Austin and has been a cornerstone of this family-sustaining work. In addition to ensuring hard-working families can access their full tax returns for free, they offer a service designed to be convenient, trustworthy, and available year-round. “I’m grateful to all of our volunteers and community partners, including United Way, who make it possible for us to provide free, high-quality tax preparation services each year,” shared Kori Hattemer, Director of Financial Programs at Foundation Communities. “We couldn’t offer this vital community service without their time, commitment and energy. Our tax centers save hard-working families thousands in tax preparation fees and, this year, returned nearly $34 million in refunds to the local economy.” More than 600 volunteers dedicated their time to assisting families, coming together to achieve an incredibly tangible impact. People relying on private tax preparation […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: Jimmy, Jenny & Cristian

On Wednesday, May 17, United Way for Greater Austin celebrated the contributions of students in UWATX’s Youth Engaged in Service (YES!) program at Webb Early College Prep Academy. The YES! program has been an opportunity for students to learn about philanthropy and volunteerism while exploring careers throughout the Austin community.  Students have gone on field trips to local companies and non-profits and have completed tons of volunteer hours on projects after school. Our staff sat down with a few phenomenal Middle School volunteers to learn more about what volunteerism means to them. Jenny Dominguez (J-Dog), Jimmy Aguirre (Bigfoot) and Cristian Dominguez (C-Money) are Webb students who participated in the YES! program and were are excited to share their thoughts with you.   What was the most fun volunteer experience so far for you? Jimmy  |  I liked last week when we planted plants and helped the environment. Cristian |  Painting a giant Jenga set at the MLK Day of Service in 2015. Jenny |  Visiting the Austin Humane Society to donate toys and play with a puppy.   What is an issue that is important to you? Jimmy |  World hunger, because if we go hungry, we won’t survive! Jenny |  Getting a new phone, it freezes a lot and it’s slow. Cristian |  So many issues! I want to government to not use bombs or start wars.   What do you want to be when you grow up? Jenny |  A basketball player for the Austin Spurs. Cristian |  the President of the United States. Jimmy | […]

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