Category: The Women of United Way

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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Parents are Powerful: Meet Sasha Salinas

Welcome to our blog series all about shining a spotlight on the ways that parents are using their voices to build a better, brighter Austin. In the first installment, we introduced you to two parent leaders who serve on the 2-Gen Leadership Council.  Today, we’re excited to introduce you to Sasha Salinas, a member of the Greater Austin Reading Coalition’s Parent Advisory Council. A mom of two girls, ages 6 and 8, Sasha uses her voice to advocate on behalf of the children and families in her community.  Check out what she had to say to parents looking for ways to support their child’s reading development!  How did you get involved with the Greater Austin’s Reading Coalition’s Parent Advisory Committee?  I am a Parent Champion through Families as Partners, a program within Austin ISD. Maria Rosas who runs the program reached out to several of us moms who are heavily involved in our community and have a passion for engaging others and advocating for children.  What are some of the barriers you see for parents in trying to access resources for their children’s reading development?  The biggest barrier is finding the information that is age appropriate and in their preferred language. That was my hardest part, especially as my kids get older. A lot of information is geared towards younger ages and, with my kids being 6 and 8, I don’t always know where to look for material that is appropriate for them.  The Greater Austin Reading Coalition’s Parent Advisory […]

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Meet Laura Hernandez Holmes: Fighting to build an Austin that works for 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. Laura Hernandez Holmes is a strong believer that Greater Austin should be a community that works for everyone. And as Women United Co-Chair and a long-time supporter of United Way for Greater Austin, she is doing just that. Learn more about why she joined United Way’s fight against poverty.  Why does United Way for Greater Austin’s mission to fight poverty resonate with you personally?  United Way’s mission to fight poverty resonates with me personally, because the rising cost of housing, child care, transportation, and all that it takes to raise a family in Austin continues to grow every day. United Way is a pivotal partner in the fight against poverty and combating these rising costs for local families. How can we build a better Austin that works for everyone? We can build a better Austin that works for everyone by ensuring everyone has a seat at the table when addressing and combating our community’s growing challenges.   What is your favorite part about being a member (and the co-chair!) of Women United? My favorite part about being a member of Women United is the opportunity to meet and work with so many diverse women from all walks of life — women who are passionate about making Austin a better place for everyone. We all have different stories and different reasons for […]

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It’s 2/11: Celebrate 2-1-1 front line heroes with us!

When COVID-19 hit Central Texas, the team here at United Way responded quickly. Almost a year later, our 2-1-1 team is still responding to increased calls for questions and help around COVID-19, and help in general. (At times in the first few months of the pandemic, our call volume was 10x the average.)  The Governor has said that 2-1-1 is THE place to go for information on COVID-19. Now more than ever, people need to know where to go for food, information on testing, health services, and so many other needs. Our 2-1-1 team is working around the clock to make sure callers seeking help are connected to accurate and up-to-date information. We know the whole community is thankful for our 2-1-1 front line heroes, and we couldn’t be happier to celebrate our team this 2-1-1 Day. Meet Stephanie Lyon, Statewide Community Information Coordinator, and learn all about the importance of 2-1-1. Want to know more about Stephanie? What brought you to United Way ATX? I came to United Way in the very beginning of September 2020, as a contract worker. I had been searching for meaningful, challenging, community-related social services work in the nonprofit sector for a few months. Due to being in the middle of a global pandemic and tough job market, I was incredibly fortunate to be contacted by a recruiter. I went through the interview process, and was grateful to land the position of 2-1-1 Navigation Specialist.  How long have you been working with the Nav […]

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Meet Tracy Fielder: Creating a personal legacy of moving the needle on equity

We’re excited to launch a new year with Women United. This group of incredible and passionate women are advancing equity in early childhood education through their membership and we couldn’t be more grateful.  Tracy Fielder is just one of the 210 women who are supporting our youngest Austinities. Learn more about her work in creating a personal legacy of moving the needle on equity here in Greater Austin. Learn more about Tracy and why she joined Women United. How long have you been in Austin? “My husband and I moved our young family to Austin in 1996. We feel fortunate to live in such a diverse, creative, and vibrant city.” What is your favorite thing about Austin? “I love to be outdoors, and the Lady Bird Hike-and-Bike Trail is my go-to spot. This is where I walk my dogs, connect with friends, laugh, reflect, decompress, and of course, exercise. I also enjoy live music, especially blues and old gospel, at many of our iconic venues. Throw in a yummy bite from one of our local food trucks and I’ve had an amazing day.” What is one thing you want everyone to know about you? “I’m compassionate. I care about many things, but inequities in education really matter to me. I grew up in a home where education was the key to everything. My parents set a high bar for academic achievement, but also ensured my sister and I were keenly aware of the educational divide and how fortunate we were. […]

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Meet Natasha Martin: A champion for change with Women United

‘Tis the season to be grateful, and our cups are overfilling with gratitude for our Women United Executive Committee members who support the work of United Way ATX. These women are champions for change and innovation in our community, and they are committed to helping our youngest Austinites reach their full potential. We couldn’t do our work without our Executive Committee, and we’re thrilled to introduce you to one of them! Meet Natasha Martin! Natasha supports Women United because she knows how important our early childhood education work is. Learn more about Natasha and why she joined Women United. How long have you been in Austin? “I’ve called Austin home for about 14 years.” What is your favorite thing about Austin? “I like the many recreational activities Austin has to offer. Over the last several months I have grown to love the regional parks in and around Austin. My family and I started hiking and bird watching more during COVID and there are so many perfect places in our city for these activities. Before COVID, one of my favorite things about Austin was catching live music or spoken word poetry in the more settled venues in East Austin.” What is one thing you want everyone to know about you? “Maybe I shouldn’t say this but I want to be known for having an open heart. I try to dial this back in my practice of law, but in church and in the community, I want to be known for letting […]

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Uniquely Austin: The Early Childhood Council is helping all children in Austin thrive.

We all know Austin is unique for so many reasons, but did you know about our unique approach to early childhood investments? Our city has a formal body that advises City Council on early childhood issues and initiatives, dating back to 1985! Today this body is known as the Early Childhood Council (ECC), and is made up of 13 stakeholders from different sectors, who come together with recommendations on how our City Council should budget, spend, and address all matters that help ensure that our kids happy, healthy, and ready to succeed in school and beyond.  The Early Childhood Council is a very important part of our early care and education ecosystem, and their work promotes our Success By 6 Coalition efforts, helping us reach the goals of our strategic plan. We are grateful for the work they do, and we want everyone in Austin to celebrate them! Hear from a Success By 6 Coalition Leadership Team member and ECC member, Dr. Aletha C. Huston, on some recent successes from the ECC. Blog contributions from Aletha C. Huston, Professor Emerita of Child Development, University of Texas at Austin Early Childhood Council Member, District 5 Success By 6 Coalition Leadership Team Member The Early Childhood Council (ECC) is a City of Austin commission assigned to make recommendations to City Council for the “creation, development, and implementation of programs that promote optimal development for young children…and contribute to a system of high-quality early care and education and after-school programs for Austin’s children.” […]

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An interview with Emerging Leaders Co-Chair, Kaisha Morton

Photo above: Emerging Leaders Emily Gonzales, Kaisha Morton, and Jeremiah Bentley.  At United Way for Greater Austin, we are committed to fighting poverty and racism in our communities. These forces are so interconnected, we cannot address one without the other.  This week we caught up with Kaisha Morton, one of our new Emerging Leaders Co-Chairs and User Experience Recruiter and Women@ Social Impact Co-lead at Google to talk to her about diversity, equity, and inclusion in our community. Kaisha is a champion for creating a diverse workforce in our community to help break intergenerational poverty.  Check out our interview with Kaisha Morton to learn more about her work and her passion for creating a more diverse and inclusive community.  “I believe that diversity, equity, and inclusion are extremely important because all three of those are connected, but true equity in our society won’t happen unless we’re thinking about those three pillars. My work as an educator and also as a recruiter really highlighted for me that the gaps that exist early on for people who may live in poverty, especially communities of color, continue to widen as people progress in their lives and in their careers. I think that the layer of thinking through diversity, equity, and inclusion in all facets of life is something that I will always be passionate about.” -Kaisha Morton Want to know more about Kaisha Morton? How long have you lived in Austin? I moved to Austin from the D.C. area about two years ago.  […]

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Doing good, one cookie at a time

Can you believe we are seven months into a global pandemic? In March, the team at United Way for Greater Austin transitioned from working in our beloved office on East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to a distributed working model where most of our staff worked from home. While we weren’t sure what was going to happen next, we knew one thing for sure: We wanted to help our community get through this together. Just weeks after COVID-19 hit our community, we teamed up with Austin Community Foundation to create All Together ATX. And our community stepped up in a big way: Thousands of donors and companies donated more than $6 million. We were able to distribute relief funds into the hands of the community faster than we could have ever imagined. This amazing outcome was possible thanks to everyday people who want to make a difference. We want to introduce you to two of those people: High schoolers Alice Huang and Sarah Zeng of Dough Re Mi, a cookie baking and delivery business that they created during the COVID-19 pandemic with the intent of “doughing” good by donating a percentage of each cookie sale to a nonprofit of their choice. Dough Re Mi has raised more than $3,000 and donated 80% of their funds made from May to September to All Together ATX.   Learn more about Dough Re Mi and the spark behind their generosity here: But wait, there’s more … As All Together ATX comes to a close, […]

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Champions of change: Link Up Austin amplifies the voice of young parents for good

Young parents with low income experience a great deal of financial instability, and their poverty rate is nearly triple the national average. Thanks to funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, United Way for Greater Austin and the Austin/Travis County 2-Gen Coalition are on a mission to support the needs of these young parents and create a social services ecosystem that promotes economic mobility for generations to come. One of the ways we are making this happen is through Link Up Austin. The group is a place for parents, ages 18-24, to connect with one another and grow their leadership skills. These young adults face many unique challenges that older parents do not. The labor market is rapidly changing, and often younger parents have not had the time to get the education, experience, or perspective needed to navigate their careers while focusing on the daily tasks of raising young children.  The cohort of nine parents is co-designing a pilot to help remove barriers for young parents in the workforce, education, and beyond. For example, providing flexible child care will allow parents to attend classes, in-person or asynchronously, and give them equal access to pursue education. Equal access to education is important because the likelihood of a child succeeding later in life is still affected by the education and income levels of his or her parents. Link Up Austin is designed to listen to the needs of young parents in our community and then work with them to create solutions that […]

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