Newsroom

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: Jackie Oliver, Broadway Bank

With the start of school less than a month out, UWATX’s volunteer arm, Hands On Central Texas, is already planning the Back to School Volunteer Day at Webb Early College Prep Academy. Volunteers will come together on August 18th to help teachers prepare their classrooms for the year, beautify the campus and distribute donated school supplies to different programs and areas of the school. One of our dedicated partners, Broadway Bank, has been volunteering with our back to school efforts for the past two years. Broadway Bank’s home city of San Antonio hosts a large school supply collection, which inspired Austin Assistant Market Manager, Jackie Oliver, to bring those efforts to Austin when she reached out to UWATX in 2014. That year and the following year, 2015, Broadway Bank successfully collected supplies for more than 50 students in need at a partner middle school by hosting collection events at their downtown Austin branch. Jackie made sure to keep the Broadway Bank group involved and volunteering throughout the year. Employees participated in the H-E-B Feast of Sharing in November, Spring Day of Caring and Fall Day of Caring. Additionally, Broadway Bank donated holiday meal kits to families at the Mendez Boys and Girls Club Thanksgiving Dinner. The meal kits included food to prepare a delicious family meal and an H-E-B gift card to purchase a turkey. We had the opportunity to chat with Jackie and her marketing team about what drives Broadway Bank’s philanthropic involvement:   1. How long have you been involved with […]

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Kerbey Lane Café Makes Huge Community Impact

Pancakes and queso are only some of the few great things that come from the delicious Austin landmark, Kerbey Lane Cafe! Kerbey Lane makes giving back to the community a top priority. Through their 36 years of operating, they have supported the Austin community by contributing their time, resources and energy to local organizations. Kerbey Lane Cafe emphasizes the importance of philanthropy by supporting UWATX by running employee giving campaigns at each location and volunteering year-round at different events, such as our Spring Day of Caring and Fall Day of Caring and one-off projects like beautifying Webb Middle School and childcare centers. Kerbey Lane CEO, Mason Ayer is also a devoted UWATX Board Member who exemplifies giving from the top down is what makes a campaign successful. On May 5th, Kerbey Lane Cafe celebrated their 36th anniversary by generously donating 100 percent of their profits from all seven restaurants to UWATX. Yesterday, Kerbey Lane team members and CEO Mason Ayer, who also serves on the UWATX Board of Directors, spent time volunteering at Webb Middle School’s field day. Volunteers painted signs for the talent show, assisted teachers with cleaning out rooms for the summer and even built a brand new shed to hold supplies for the school’s garden. They also took the opportunity to present a check for $50,037 to UWATX CEO, David C. Smith. The check was made up from donations collected from Kerbey Lane’s employee giving campaign as well as the profits from their 36th anniversary gift. A few years ago, Kerbey Lane […]

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Recognizing Excellence in Corporate Philanthropy: 2015 Campaign Awards

At United Way for Greater Austin, we run more than 200 employee campaigns in nearly 700 locations in the Austin area. Employee campaigns provide an opportunity for businesses to empower employees to be philanthropists by donating a portion of each paycheck back to the community. Last night, we celebrated and recognized companies who excelled in building philanthropy in our community at our 2015 Employee Campaign Awards. Award winners: Best Practices: Superior Health and Texas Gas This award recognizes the company that implements UWATX’s best campaign practices, which include Senior Officer involvement, access to employees and use of UWATX campaign materials among several others. This year we had two winners for this award. Superior Health kept their campaign at one week to give a sense of urgency; they also planned a week of fun, educational experiences for their employees encouraging them to give. Texas Gas established multiple opportunities for UWATX staff to come and speak to their employees about our work, as well as ran a closed campaign where employee donations were matched 1:1 by their foundation. Community Investment Award: H-E-B The Community Investment Award represents a company or companies who exemplify what it really means to wrap arms around a community to make a significant impact. Anyone who shops at H-E-B realizes it’s not your normal grocery store. This year, H-E-B decided to increase corporate giving to match the generosity of their employees and UWATX experienced a 150% increase in corporate giving. They make philanthropy a part of their culture and host […]

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VPL Graduates Celebrate at Kerbey Lane Cafe

The UWATX Volunteer Project Leader (VPL) middle school program aims to transform youth into active community leaders by teaching them leadership skills they need to make lasting change in their communities. This week, 35 middle school VPL students from the three campuses we work on attended a celebration of their accomplishments at Kerbey Lane Cafe. They ordered pancakes and breakfast tacos from a special menu featuring a letter of encouragement and congratulations from Kerbey Lane’s CEO and UWATX Board Member, Mason Ayer. These students from Mendez, Webb and Decker Middle Schools completed 20 volunteer projects this year, ranging from making seed balls and beautifying their neighborhoods, to packing hygiene kits for the homeless and leading a craft station for refugee children. After breakfast, students received special certificates, t-shirts and journals to document their ideas on how to continue making Austin greater. As with any VPL meeting, the event concluded with a peer shoutout exercise we call “brag on your neighbor.” Students and volunteers recognized the contributions of each other that made this year both successful and fun. Below are some messages left by the students on a reflection board from the event: “Thank you for helping me help others”   “Thank you for showing me skills I didn’t know I had”   “Because of VPL, I know that I want to grow up to be a philanthropist”   Want to make a difference in the community? Visit HandsOnCentralTexas.org, the largest volunteer network in Central Texas, and find opportunities that interest you!

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10 Easy Ways To Be Environmentally Friendly

Today is Earth Day. It has always been important, but now more than ever is the time to reflect on how your daily rituals are negatively impacting our world. Being “environmentally friendly” is more than making sure to recycle and throw your trash in the proper receptacles. There are many little things that can add up to a large negative impact on the environment you never realize; but on the flip side, this also means that by being conscious of these little habits, you can make changes to your routine that are easy on you and effective for making Austin a bit greener. 10 easy ways to be more environmentally friendly: Stop using straws Like we promised–easy yet impactful! You may not think about straws because they’re so small, but consider this: Straws are one of the top ten items littered into our oceans. In the last 25 years, over six million straws and stirrers were removed from beaches during annual cleaning events (One Green Planet). While Austin may not touch any oceans, consider this same effect relevant for our beloved lake, greenbelt and other areas. Straws are literally made to only be used once, and do they really make much of a difference when it comes to enjoying your drink or not? Pick up your garage sale, lost pet, for sale, etc. signs It’s great to repurpose your old clothing and furniture–one man’s trash is another’s treasure. But one man’s garage sale signs are simply trash if they’re still sitting […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: Rina Patel

Rina Patel was first introduced to the United Way of Greater Austin more than 10 years ago through her position as the Wells Fargo area president for Mid-Central Texas. Upon moving to Austin in 2013, UWATX VP of Mission Advancement Dr. Leah Meunier, who then was in charge of managing our Women’s Leadership Council (WLC), met with Rina to introduce her to the giving society. “I have remained a WLC member because I am passionate about helping our youth—particularly through early childhood education— and ensuring they are set up for success,” said Patel. “The program also offers the opportunity for motivated, passionate, community-minded women to network and collaborate for a great cause. In particular, I’ve enjoyed the WLC meetings because the team always comes up with creative ways to educate everyone about important topics that need to be addressed in Austin.” Rina is also a dedicated volunteer and appreciates that Wells Fargo is invested in giving back to our community as a corporation as well. She finds that volunteering with her team members by sharing the expertise they already have is one of the best ways to give back. Wells Fargo’s Austin team has an impressive volunteer track record. More than 495 Wells Fargo Austin team members have volunteered more than 11, 500 hours and supported 695 nonprofit organizations through these projects. This includes 100 team members serving on local nonprofit boards, building three homes for families in need over 13 days and raising more than $325,000 last year to […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: DaMara Alexander

DaMara Alexander has participated in at least 14 volunteer projects with UWATX, adding up to more than 50 hours of service. She works as an underwriter at Farmers Insurance, one of our most dedicated and philanthropic corporate partners, and has lived in Austin her entire life. She has been very involved with our Days of Caring, Family Volunteer Days, and with our Middle School Matters work at all three campuses. DaMara began volunteering as a kid, and now tries to involve her own family in volunteer project as often as possible. “I’ve always tried to help those around me, even if just in my neighborhood. I’m blessed on so many levels and believe in blessing others.” –DaMara Alexander “I first began volunteering in elementary/middle school by going to nursing homes and things like that. I’ve always tried to help those around me, even if just in my neighborhood. I’m blessed on so many levels and believe in blessing others. I’ve been the recipient of kind actions, and I feel kindness and help goes a long, long way. I’m thankful for all that I have and all that I’m able to do. “My favorite volunteer events are the UWATX Family Volunteer events. I try to involve those around me as much as possible, and these events are not only helpful but also so much FUN!” In addition to serving as an individual, DaMara gives back with coworkers as well. Farmers Insurance has its own volunteer committee called Farmers Cares Community Corps (FCCC). […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: Caroline Trang and Frances Jordan

Our middle school VPL program is full of outstanding volunteers! You may have read earlier this week about Cristian Dominguez from Webb Middle School — today we are highlighting another VPL volunteer, Caroline Trang, in honor of National Volunteer Week. Caroline is a 7th grader at Decker Middle School, one of the three middle schools served by our Middle School Matters program. This year was Caroline’s first year in the VPL program, and she had the best attendance of any student in the program and was a leader of Decker’s Literacy Night activity booth. Other projects Caroline and her team have taken on include making book posters, sorting books for donation, volunteering in the school library and creating bookmarks with literacy tips for other students. Young Leaders Society (YLS) Executive Member, Frances Jordan, serves as the YLS Campus Captain of Decker Middle School and has worked closely with Caroline this past year. Frances not only volunteers through YLS, but also serves as a member of UWATX’s volunteer Resource Development Committee and helps our fundraising team find new business and make important decisions. Frances and Caroline sat down together and chatted about their involvement and volunteer experiences with UWATX:   Frances: Why do you volunteer through the VPL program? Caroline: My friend Helen made me come at first, but it turned out to be so fun! I like to help others. Frances:What are your favorite types of volunteer activities? Caroline: Helping with cleaning up the community, presenting to groups, and giving gifts to those in need. Frances: Describe […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: Jon Le, eBay

For our National Volunteer Week series, today we’re highlighting Jon Le. Jon is an outstanding and dedicated UWATX volunteer who’s been involved with UWATX for the last six months and has given his time to prep holiday meal kits for low-income families, clean-up the neighborhood during MLK Day of Service, participated in our Family Volunteer Day series and more! Hear from Jon about why he is involved with UWATX as a volunteer. “I enjoy the idea of a company that not only has the business sense to be able to thrive in the competitive market, but also helps promote the growth of the surrounding communities.” –Jon Le, eBay Tell us a little bit about yourself and how long have you been involved with United Way. I have been working for eBay for about three years. I was born and raised in Texas, originally Houston. I have been involved with United Way for about six months or so, mostly volunteering work through the campaigns they already have in place. What are some of your favorite volunteer projects you’ve worked on and why? I mostly enjoy volunteering on youth projects. I think this is in part to be able to give the youth of today as best of an opportunity as they can afford, but also, since the birth of my first child, I’ve taken a closer look at the impact I have on others and on the future. Do you feel that working for a company that gives back is important and why? eBay does a great […]

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