Category: Uncategorized

Hundreds of volunteers joined UWATX at our annual MLK Day of Service

Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  On January 14, 2017, hundreds of volunteers joined United Way for Greater Austin at our annual MLK Day of Service!  This event is our way of celebrating the national Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday by empowering individuals, strengthening communities, and working together to create solutions that bring us closer to realizing Dr. King’s vision. UWATX partnered with Keep Austin Beautiful to organize a cleanup of MLK Blvd from I-35 to US 183.  By coming together from throughout the community to beautify this area, volunteers were able to make this great neighborhood cleaner and safer for everyone to enjoy!  Volunteers were welcomed by our guest speaker, Principal Moore, of nearby Lee Lewis Campbell Elementary; then they got to work collecting trash and items to be recycled along a four mile stretch of MLK Blvd in East Austin.  We were very thankful to see volunteers from local Americorps programs, churches, families, and companies! During the cleanup event, UWATX partnered with local non-profits, including the Central Texas Food Bank and Creative Action, to provide volunteer opportunities in various locations throughout the Greater Austin community to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Volunteers sorted and organized donations, worked in community gardens, and prepared educational supplies throughout Austin.  UWATX partnered with Little Helping Hands to host a family-friendly volunteer fair where children and parents worked together to spread the love of volunteerism by completing projects that benefited Austin’s […]

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HB4 impact in Central Texas and how you can help advocate for quality Pre-K

As the 2017 Texas Legislature is about to begin, UWATX is focusing efforts on advocating on behalf of children and their families. Pre-K has been an important issue area during past legislative sessions, and is poised to be an important issue area during this session. During the 2015 legislative session, the 84th Texas Legislature passed House Bill 4 (HB4) as part of Governor Greg Abbotts’ emergency early education initiative. Over the last 6 months, United Way for Greater Austin (UWATX), in conjunction with Texans Care for Children and Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium, has worked to better understand Central Texas school districts’ interest in and experience with the State’s new HB 4 High Quality Pre-K grant by looking into the level and scope of district demand, the application process, the opportunities HB 4 funds bring to local Pre-K quality improvement efforts, implementation challenges, and policy opportunities for the State to strengthen support for local Pre-K priorities. The bill aimed to implement high-quality education standards for Texas Pre-K students by establishing a grant funding program of $118 million for the 2016-2017 State fiscal biennium. Under the program, funds were awarded to eligible school districts and open-enrollment charter schools who applied and agreed to meet certain enhanced quality standards. These include: curriculum requirements based on updated Pre-K guidelines; implementation of a progress monitoring tool; additional teacher education requirements; the implementation of a family engagement plan to encourage and maintain family involvement; and working towards teacher-to-student ratios of 1-to-11. HB 4 also requires […]

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United Way for Greater Austin Awards $120,000 to Fund 2-Generation Programming in Austin, TX.

On November 17, 2016, five Austin non-profit agencies were awarded grants to fund initiatives created to propel 2-Generation Programming (2-Gen) in Austin, TX. American YouthWorks, Jeremiah Program and Saint Louise House were each awarded $30,000 grants and Goodwill Central Texas and SSP Learning Center were each awarded $15,000 grants. Leah Meunier, Chief Programs Officer at United Way for Greater Austin (UWATX) adds, “These five funded programs help parents pursue education and pathways to superior employment opportunities while also ensuring that their young children have access to high-quality early education. We know early education fosters key developmental needs for school readiness—in turn, embedding anchors of opportunity for upward economic mobility across generations. UWATX is privileged to support these organizations during a period when Austin’s families and communities may depend on their work more than ever.” Over the last two years, UWATX and Austin’s 2-Gen Advisory Committee, have worked to demonstrate the value of the two-generation approach in service provision, bringing together local service providers and top researchers from around the country in 2-Gen community forums. The result of these discussions is a “Two-Generation Vision for Austin” which states, “Intergenerational poverty is a major problem in the United States. Economic mobility across generations (or the ability for children to do better financially than their parents) has diminished over time, and Austin is no exception, with lower mobility rates than many major cities. Chronic poverty produces toxic stress that affects adults’ abilities to perform well in the workplace and to provide a high quality […]

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You Have the Power to Make Change for a Neighbor in Need this Holiday Season.

We all love this community we call home, but what if I told you that you have the power to Make Austin Greater? This Holiday Season, Make Austin Greater with a gift to the United Way for Greater Austin. Your gift to UWATX has the power to dramatically change our community for the better: Your gift can make sure every child is ready for kindergarten through our Success By 6 program;                Your gift can positively impact middle school students through YES! (Youth Engaged in Service);        Your gift can provide quality services and education to low-income families through UWATX’s Economic and Social Opportunity program;   And your gift can make sure our community is connected to much-needed health and human services through UWATX’s 2-1-1 Navigation Center. I truly believe that no matter what size the gift, we all have the power to make change for someone in need. Won’t you join us in making Austin greater this Holiday Season?

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GAVA Early Childhood Team Provides a New Refrigerator at Little Dudes Learning Center

GAVA (Go Austin Vamos Austin!) is a resident-led health initiative working in Austin’s neighborhoods (78744 and 78745) with highest incidence of childhood obesity to promote family wellness, increase physical activity and improve nutrition and access to healthy food. The initiative works in different areas, called sectors, to address the key factors impacting childhood obesity: parks, schools, food service/quality/availability, out-of-school time and early childhood education. Laura Olson, Family Support Service Coordinator for United Way for Greater Austin’s Success By 6 team, serves as the Early Childhood Sector Manager for GAVA. She works across the early childhood community to form teams made up of: childcare providers and early childhood teachers, nonprofit providers serving families with young children, home daycare providers, and parents of young children. Teams meet monthly to develop plans and take action toward improving the health of their families and neighborhoods. One of the childcare providers Olson works with is Little Dudes Learning Center. Little Dudes opened it’s doors in 1961 when Mrs. Ellen Smith recognized the need for childcare in South Austin. Consequently, Little Dudes was the first childcare center to open in Austin, south of the river. Little Dudes has long been seen as providing high quality early education and has been recognized as a Texas Rising Star Four Star Center, a statewide quality certification program. This past summer, Little Dudes had an old refrigerator that was not cooling properly during their annual health inspection. As a result, they had to pour out gallons of milk and throw away […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: Beth Tracy, IBM

United Way for Greater Austin (UWATX) and IBM have a deep partnership, and much of this is accredited to Beth Tracy, IBM Manager of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs. Beth has been making Austin Greater with UWATX since 2002. She served on the Hands on Central Texas Advisory Board for two years from 2004-06 guiding the team to inspire, mobilize and equip volunteers to create sustainable change in the Austin community. Nikki Krueger, Director of Community Engagement and Youth Development at United Way for Greater Austin, explains,“When I entered the world of community and volunteer engagement, Beth was one of the first people I met through the Hands On Central Texas Advisory Council. She is a model for corporate community engagement and she never shies away from a leadership role. She is an incredible advocate and friend.” Beth also served on the Success By 6 Leadership Council as Vice Chair from 2010-11 and Chair from 2012-14 leading the team towards innovative and sustainable solutions for Austin’s youngest residents. Sue Carpenter, Vice President of Success By 6 adds, “Beth has been a long-time, highly valued SB6 volunteer leader, culminating in a term as chair of the SB6 Leadership Council. Her calm, professional style set the tone for effective and productive meetings and her understanding of appropriate volunteer leadership roles allowed her to mentor experienced and rookie advisory board members. Beth listens carefully and seeks understanding before giving advice or guidance, and her insightful questions often helped me reach better decisions over the years. […]

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2016 Early Care and Education Survey Results

Today, we’re proud to release the results of the 2016 Early Care and Education Survey – a look at trends across the early care field in our community and the only one of it’s kind in Central Texas. This year’s data shows more of the same positive trends we saw in 2014, and also similar challenges. Teacher education in early childhood varies widely depending on where you live Our data indicates that teacher education levels in early childhood education centers vary greatly between the regions of Travis County. 20% – 25% of East and South Austin center teachers have no early childhood education beyond high school. West, North, and Central Austin fair better with only 7-9% of teachers having no formal early childhood education training. Regional Differences in Early Childhood Education                         The survey also found that long-term teacher retention has decreased over the past two years.   Parent fees make up the bulk of funding for child care centers – including in low-income areas The survey found that centers, across nearly all regions in Travis County, depend on parent fees for the largest portion of their income. Centers in East, South and North Austin also rely on public subsidies for funding, with private donations and corporate subsidies playing a minor role for the regions as well.   Child Care Center Funding Sources                 This may be part of the reason why the cost […]

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Kerbey Lane Café Beautifies Open Door Preschool East

Did you know that the average annual cost of high quality early childhood care is nearly $10,000? Imagine a family that is already struggling to make ends meet faced with an additional expense of $9,734, the average cost of high quality childcare in Austin according to the Texas Workforce Board. Even for a family with two adults working full time at minimum wage, that’s a third of the family’s income for the year going to childcare instead of housing, food, utilities or other necessary expenses. Because of this high cost and the barrier it represents to students starting kindergarten, United Way for Greater Austin supports childcare centers serving low-income families with free or reduced tuition through the Success By 6 Center Project. The initiative currently works with 13 childcare centers, serving over 1,000 children in Austin. The Center Project works with these centers to help them meet state and national standards for quality early childhood education including training for teachers, leveraging in-kind and volunteer resources to improve facilities and providing data collection and analysis to improve individual outcomes for students. On Aug. 19, employees from all seven Kerbey Lane Café (KLC) locations joined Hands On Central Texas (HOCT) to beautify Open Door Preschool East – one of the longest running partner schools of the Center Project. KLC volunteers painted four classrooms, over half of the rooms serving students. While the KLC volunteers were not expert painters, HOCT staff provided a short training and in-depth project coordination to ensure volunteers felt comfortable and completed […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: Peggy Wilson, Texas Mutual Insurance Company

It’s that time of year again. The heat. Buying school clothes; buying school supplies. Preparing for the school year gets expensive quick. To prepare students (and parents) for the 2016-17 school year, volunteers from all over Austin came together at Webb Early College Prep Academy on Aug. 18 to assemble school supply kits, reorganize the school library, aid teachers in preparing their classrooms and landscape the flower beds around campus. One of the sponsors of our Aug. 18 Back to School Readiness Event at Webb was Texas Mutual Insurance Company. Texas Mutual has a very large and active volunteer base, one of which is their IT Senior Manager, Peggy Wilson. Peggy has been volunteering with UWATX for just over a year and she loves it. She explains, “The reactions to volunteering at UWATX are very positive – we love it.” Read our brief Q and A below to get to know Peggy and her experiences volunteering at UWATX. 1. What inspires you to volunteer? People say volunteering is unselfish, but I actually think it feels good to help others. In a way, it’s self-serving, as corny as it sounds. You get away from your own problems for a while when you focus on others. It’s also nice to learn about other people – whether they’re those you’re helping or those you’re working with. 2. What do you like to do in your spare time? I’m pretty simple – I like to spend time with my husband, Chris and my dog, Otis. […]

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