Press Releases

Celebrate Juneteenth with your neighbors

Juneteenth (June 19) is a day of celebration and recognition of the end of chattel slavery in Texas. On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston to inform enslaved Black Americans of their freedom — more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The following year ⁠— and every year thereafter ⁠— June 19th has been a celebration of freedom in the Black community in Texas and beyond.  At United Way for Greater Austin, we will be closing our office on Friday, June 18 in recognition of Juneteenth. We invite you to join us and your neighbors in celebrating this day of freedom. Here are 7 ways to Live United and celebrate Juneteenth this year: 1. Learn more about the history of Juneteenth (virtual) The history of Juneteenth is something that is not often taught in schools. Take some time to learn more about the significance of this day. Here’s an informative article from VOX, a list of books for people of all ages, and a short video from History.  2. Attend “Juneteenth 2021: Stay Black and Live Vol.2” (in-person and virtual) This city-wide Juneteenth festival is presented by Six Square, CarverMuseumATX, and the Black Austin Coalition, in partnership with Jump On It, the Austin Area Urban League, Austin Justice Coalition, and the Greater East Austin Youth Association. This day-long celebration kicks off with a parade at 10 am and ends at 9 pm with a fireworks display. 3. Take a self-guided tour through […]

Celebrate Pride Month with your kids

This June marks the 51st celebration of Pride Month — a month where we uplift, celebrate, and support the LGBTQIA+ community. United Way for Greater Austin is excited to celebrate this month with all of our friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors. We all agree that it’s never too early to include your children in Pride Month celebrations, or to introduce them to diverse people, lifestyles, and cultures along the way. Did you know that research shows that having at least 20 age-appropriate books in the home can improve a child’s educational success? That’s why age-appropriate books are a great way to introduce diverse cultures and lifestyles to children. Books that reflect the LGBTQIA+ community can help raise awareness about different types of families, what it means to be LGBTQIA+, and to teach children about inclusivity. It’s a win-win!  Here are some recommendations for incredible books celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community to diversify your child’s reading experience. Many of these titles are available to check out at your local library or in audio form on YouTube. Top 5 board books for babies to toddlers: (ages 0-4) 1.”Love Makes a Family” by Sophie Beer 2. “My Two Moms and Me” by Michael Joosten, illustrated by Izak Zenou 3. “Peanut Goes for the Gold”  Jonathan Van Ness, illustrated by Gillian Reid 4. “Baby’s First Words” by Christiane Engel 5. “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell, and Henry Cole   Top 5 books for young readers: (K- 4th) 1. “Julian is a […]

Anyone can help save lives in Central Texas

Successful and equitable deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine is the most hopeful path to economic recovery, educational re-engagement, and re-emergence of cultural life in Central Texas. From vaccine clinics in church parking lots to high school cafeterias, we are proud to be a part of the coordinated effort to save lives in Central Texas. In collaboration with Austin Community Foundation and St. David’s Foundation, we awarded $415,000 in funding to 19 community-based organizations. These grants will support COVID-19 vaccine confidence and equitable access among Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and other groups that have suffered disproportionately the adverse health and economic impacts from the pandemic.  “Vaccines save lives,” said Stephanie Cerda, Vaccine Equity Program Manager at United Way for Greater Austin. “People of color and people with low income have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and these same communities now face challenges in accessing the vaccine due to barriers like language, technology, transportation, and more. We’re honored to partner with 19 community-based organizations to improve vaccine access, provide culturally relevant outreach to address hesitancy, and get our community closer to herd immunity.” Organizations receiving grants have deep connections in the community and a plan for increasing vaccination rates for underserved, unserved, disconnected, and rural populations in Central Texas counties (Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, and Williamson).  Congratulations to the grantees! Learn more about the grantees here. “This work is very reliant on trust and building relationships,” said Cerda. “I know from my background as an educator, the first […]

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Community Partner Spotlight: Austin Asian Community Health Initiative

The Austin Asian Community Health Initiative (AACHI) partners with the local Asian community to enhance public health and well-being through advocacy, language-specific education, and healthcare navigation services. Successful and equitable deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine is the most hopeful path to getting our community closer to herd immunity. However, we know that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) communities, those with low-income, or people who live in rural areas face systemic barriers to vaccine access and have higher rates of vaccine hesitancy.   That’s why United Way for Greater Austin, in partnership with St. David’s Foundation and Austin Community Foundation, recently awarded $415,000 in grants to 19 local organizations to address these inequities and increase COVID-19 vaccination rates in our community. The Austin Asian Community Health Initiative (AACHI) is one of those organizations doing incredible work in our community. Learn from AACHI Program Manager Lucy Nguyen about the specific barriers to vaccine access facing the local Asian and Asian American community, and how AACHI is helping mitigate those barriers and decreasing vaccine hesitancy.  What are some of the systemic barriers to COVID-19 vaccine access that the Austin Asian and Asian American community is facing?  Language access is the biggest barrier in Asian communities with high limited English proficiency in accessing vaccine locations, scheduling vaccination appointments, and understanding the risks of the vaccine. A majority of local vaccination locations only accommodate English speakers. What are some of the leading factors that promote vaccine hesitancy among some in this community?  Earlier this year, […]

5 Ways to Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month — a time to acknowledge the accomplishments and contributions of the AAPI community. Looking for opportunities to celebrate? Here are 5 ways to learn more about the richness of and diversity in AAPI culture, amplify AAPI voices, and support our AAPI neighbors.  1. View one of the many virtual galleries offered by Austin’s Asian American Resource Center  The Asian American Resource Center’s (AARC) vision is to empower Austin’s diverse communities through cultural understanding and life-enhancing opportunities. While they’re currently closed to the public, the AARC is offering digital programming including an opportunity to view numerous beautifully inspiring virtual galleries of artwork by local AAPI artists. Check it out >  2. Watch “Asian Americans” and explore 150 years of Asian American history This must-see, five-part documentary series chronicles the history and accomplishments of Asian Americans over the past 150 years, while highlighting the role the community has played in shaping America as we know it. Watch for free on PBS > 3. Support local, Asian-owned businesses The Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce is encouraging the community to support our AAPI neighbors through patronizing Asian-owned businesses. For many, these businesses serve as community gathering spaces and cultural hubs. Check out this list of local Asian-owned businesses to visit > 4. Check out Leadership Austin’s Engage Series – Asian Representation: Quality of Life in Central Texas The AAPI community is one of the fastest growing in Austin. Join Leadership Austin as they […]

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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 […]

Parents are powerful: Uplifting parent voices as champions for change | 2-Gen Leadership Council

Parents are powerful. At United Way for Greater Austin, we value the lived experience and extensive expertise of parents & caregivers. What does that mean for our work? It means that we not only strive to make room at the table for parent voices, but we work to uplift those voices and ensure that they are heard.  Welcome to our new blog series all about shining a spotlight on the ways amazing parents are using their voices to build a better Austin. In this first installment, you will hear from two-parent leaders, Alma Ruiz and Cristina Guajardo, about their experience serving on the 2-Gen Leadership Council.  What is the 2-Gen Leadership Council? The 2-Gen Leadership council is made up of 47 local leaders. These council members guide the creation of policy at the city and county level and are decision-makers in the areas of workforce, school districts, nonprofits, child care, and more. They provide big picture guidance and oversight for the 2-Gen Strategic Plan purpose, goals, and strategies. As parent leaders, Alma and Cristina are actually sitting at the table with systems leaders to co-design strategies, programs, pilots as well as to guide our overall strategic planning process. The 2-Gen Leadership Council is the only structure of this type elevating parent leaders to this strategic level in Austin currently. The goal is to elevate the voices of families and inform strategic plan implementation while giving families the skills they need to be effective advocates and leaders in the community. The […]

What we are reading (and watching) about race, power, & privilege

Each quarter, we like to pull together a list of what we are reading (and watching) about race, power, and privilege. United Way for Greater Austin brings people, ideas, and resources together to fight poverty in our community. Race continues to be a big predictor of a person’s life outcomes, so we can only break the cycle of poverty by standing up for racial justice. Learn more about what we are reading and watching this quarter:  Podcast. Tune in to an episode of Leadership for Society with Brian Lowery. Brian is a senior associate dean for academic affairs at Stanford Graduate Business School. In this episode, Brian sits down with American journalist and publishing executive, Dana Canedy, to talk about the decisions editors need to make to bring in more voices to tell our country’s authentic stories. Listen with us >     Series. Educators have a responsibility to support young people as they grapple with multiple parts of their identities, including their gender and sexual identities. Exploring Equity, a new five-part series and teaching model from Usable Knowledge and Harvard Graduate School of Education shares strategies for leading and teaching so all students can flourish. Explore equity >       Brief. By helping people of color safely navigate current systems, financial coaching with a racial equity lens can be part of a broader strategy to increase equitable outcomes. The Asset Funders Network released a helpful brief all about Investing in Financial Coaching with a Racial Equity Lens. Read […]

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Meet Emerging Leaders Member, Arielle Sadler

We recently caught up with Arielle Sadler, a member of the Emerging Leaders Executive Committee and Senior Technical Writer & Trainer at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. We have loved working with Arielle on the Emerging Leaders Executive Committee for the past year. Her light, drive, and tireless advocacy are just a few of the reasons we think you should get to know her too.  Arielle is passionate about making sure everyone in our community has a “fighting chance” to meet their full potential. Learn from Arielle herself  why she is proud to be a member of Emerging Leaders: Q&A with Arielle Sadler Why is fighting poverty important? My dad was homeless at one point and the continuous impact that has had on his life and mine is significant. Giving people the opportunity to have a fighting chance – to not have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, where they are going to lay their heads down at night – so that they can focus on educating themselves and their children means a better community for us all.  Describe your favorite volunteer opportunity with United Way for Greater Austin. My favorite opportunity with United Way came in Summer 2019. I was part of Texas Mutual’s Employee Engagement committee and volunteered to lead a back-to-school drive with United Way. I’d been volunteering with several organizations for years, but I’d never had the chance to lead an initiative. I arranged to have members of our call center decorate and […]

Looking Back to Look Forward: The 1928 Master Plan

United Way for Greater Austin recognizes that our fight against poverty is also a fight against racial inequity. Systemic racism and poverty are intrinsically connected, and one cannot be eradicated without the other. This is why United with our community, we are working to reimagine systems that are rooted in equity and racial justice.  As we work toward building a brighter and more equitable future for our great city, it’s important for us to know the past in order to understand the present and chart a path towards the future.  The Present  Just as the skyline has grown, so have the disparities in the lived experiences of those living west of IH-35, and those to the east. For all of its wonderful qualities, Austin is one of the most economically segregated cities in the country.  It truly is a tale of two cities. One in which if you happen to live on the east side of the city you have less access to hospitals and healthcare facilities, fewer public transportation options, and a lack of grocery stores with fresh produce. A study has even shown that there is a nearly 20-year difference in life expectancy between parts of east and west Austin. And the unfortunate reality is that these areas of concentrated poverty overlap with Austin’s Black and Brown communities. The current system isn’t working for so many of our neighbors.  To make Greater Austin a community that truly works for everyone, we first have to understand how these inequitable […]