United Way for Greater Austin was pleased to host the inaugural Community Tree Lighting in St. John’s on December 2, #Giving Tuesday. We are so appreciative of the people and communities that make Austin greater and are overjoyed about the opportunity to provide a complimentary holiday event for families in this neighborhood.
Located on the Webb Middle School campus, the 15-foot tree, which was generously provided by Capital Metro, will serve as a joyous fixture that the people of St. John’s will be able to enjoy and revisit throughout the holiday season.
We chose Webb Middle School as our venue for this event because of our investment and strong ties to the community. Our Target Graduation program invested $300,000 in Webb Middle School students during the last academic year to coordinate student services including mentoring, tutoring and parent education.
You can see photos from the Community Tree Lighting here!
Principal Sanchez, dressed as santa, flipped the switch on the 15-foot tree, casting a warm holiday glow on approximately 200 attendees. Following the tree lighting, Hands On Central Texas distributed more than 1,500 books to adolescents and children in St. John’s. Seeing the expression on students’ faces as they were able to carry armloads of books away from the event was the most rewarding moment for staff at United Way and all those involved in the book drive.
This free holiday event also offered families the opportunity to participate in card decorating, ornament making, face painting, interactions with mini-horses and balloon art, as well as cookies and cocoa.
We know that most people enjoy sweet treats and carnival activities, but feel that in St. John’s, we were able to provide a moment of holiday magic that may serve as the highlight of someone’s season. According to the most recent census data, the percentage of low-income residents in this neighborhood has steadily increased to 60 percent over the last three years.
On average, it takes a family of four $50K just to break even in Austin. The most recent census data confirms that the median household income for families in St. John’s is only $33K. More than 1/3 of St. John’s families that are headed up by single mothers, presenting an added challenge around the holiday season.