Press Releases

a boy getting vaccinated pets a therapy dog

Seven community partners help vaccinate some of our youngest Central Texans

When the CDC first recommended the COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11 in early November, United Way for Greater Austin jumped into action alongside seven of our community partners to vaccinate children across our Central Texas region. To date, we have vaccinated over 3,000 children, and will continue our efforts through June 2022. Since Spring 2021, United Way has partnered with St. David’s Foundation and Austin Community Foundation to support 19 community-based organizations with funding to address COVID-19 vaccine confidence and equitable access among people with low income, Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), and other groups that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Now, seven of our partners in 2022—including VaxTogetherAustin, Eikon Church, Where We Thrive, Central Texas Allied Health, Latino Health Care Forum, Hays Latinos United, and COVAC Ops—are focused on vaccinating children through pediatric clinics by partnering with school districts across Travis, Williamson, Bastrop, Caldwell, and Hays counties. Our partners have worked tirelessly to provide the best vaccination experience for parents and children, with strategies like VaxTogetherAustin’s onsite therapy dogs to help kids stay calm. We know that 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.  Here are three ways YOU can help advance vaccine equity: Talk to your loved ones about the vaccine Share resources such as vaccine clinics in your area and transportation support for vaccine appointments Volunteer with us to help get more Central Texans […]

Pictures of Martin Luther King Jr. addressing the masses at his

Honor Dr. MLK Jr.’s life and legacy with us

Join us Monday, January 17 as we continue our annual tradition of gathering with our neighbors in service and learning to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King believed in the power of individuals to strengthen communities and achieve common goals, and all of us here at United Way do too. That’s what our mission – bringing people, ideas, and resources together to fight poverty in our community – is all about.  For our 2022 MLK Jr. Day of Service, we invite you to join us for one or several socially-distanced activities, all of which carry on Dr. King’s legacy of anti-racism, justice, and equity.   Learn: Take our self-guided walking tour. Walk through part of the area of Austin that was originally created to segregate Black Austinites in 1928, and reflect on how walking played a critical role in the Civil Rights Era.   Give: Donate books to the “I Am Brave” book drive. We’re partnering with Brave Communities to provide reading material to young people from  vaccine-hesitant populations, and bring awareness of the importance of diverse representation and storytelling in books.   Advocate: Advocacy is volunteerism, and we encourage you to use your voice to enact change in 2022. The Texas Primary Election is March 1. Voter education impacts voter turnout, so take some time today to make sure that you and your loved ones are registered to vote.   Volunteer: Get outside this MLK Jr. Day with the Austin Parks Foundation. Check out […]

Announcing: United Way for Greater Austin and United Way of Williamson County have Joined Forces

History of United Way of Williamson County

In January 2022, United Way of Williamson County joined forces with United Way for Greater Austin. The two organizations merged, to expand and deepen our impact in the Austin metro area. 125 Years of United Way In 1887, a Denver woman, a priest, two ministers and a rabbi recognized the need for cooperative action to address their city’s welfare problems. Frances Wisebart Jacobs, the Rev. Myron W. Reed, Msgr. William J. O’Ryan, Dean H. Martyn Hart, and Rabbi William S. Friedman put their heads together to plan the first united campaign for ten health and welfare agencies. They created an organization to serve as an agent to collect funds for local charities, as well as to coordinate relief services, counsel and refer clients to cooperating agencies, and make emergency assistance grants in cases which could not be referred.  That year, Denver raised $21,700 and created a movement that would spread throughout the country to become the United Way. More than 125 years later, United Way is still focused on mobilizing the caring power of communities and making a difference in people’s lives. Read more… The United Way Movement in Williamson County By 1948, there were over 1,000 communities  – Taylor and Georgetown included – that had established United Way organizations commonly known as Community Chests. Taylor was one of the first in the state of Texas to join the movement by establishing the Taylor Community Chest in 1939. In 1962, Round Rock created the United Fund to help area residents in […]

Announcing: United Way for Greater Austin and United Way of Williamson County have Joined Forces

United Way for Greater Austin and United Way of Williamson County Join Forces

United Way for Greater Austin and United Way of Williamson County, who combined serve 10 counties in the Central Texas region, have joined forces! David C. Smith, CEO of United Way for Greater Austin, will serve as CEO of the newly merged organization. The expanded organization will be named United Way for Greater Austin, with a mission to “bring people, ideas, and resources together to fight poverty in our community.” “As the Austin metro area grows, the boundaries between Travis and Williamson counties continue to blend; many people work in one and live in the other,” said David C. Smith, CEO of United Way for Greater Austin. “For our communities biggest challenges, more and more people are finding regional solutions optimal. This merger will help us better and more efficiently serve our regional community, while expanding and deepening our impact for our neighbors who are working hard but still struggling to make ends meet. Together, we can do more.” The merged organization offers services that: Ensure families with young children are financially stable Provide quality early learning opportunities for children and students Connect people to resources for food, health, housing, transportation, and more This merger will allow for programs across our region to be upgraded, updated, and strengthened. “Integrating the services and expertise of our two organizations will help us better and more efficiently serve our community, both in Williamson County and the region,” said Jodee O’Brien, former CEO of United Way of Williamson County. “This is an exciting growth […]

Partnering with child care centers to make a real difference for local children and families

Here at United Way for Greater Austin, we believe that every child deserves a strong foundation for success. That’s why we run programs like Pre-K Partnerships with Austin ISD.  Through this partnership, we work with child care centers across Greater Austin to expand access to high-quality, full-day pre-K for children ages 3 and 4. Success in life begins with a quality education, but less than 50% of children in Travis County are ready for Kindergarten. Our youngest years are the most active period for brain development, a crucial time to lay a firm foundation for all future growth. That’s why this partnership ensures children get a strong start in life and are ready to succeed in Kindergarten and beyond.  We currently partner with 13 child development centers that are 3- and 4-star Texas Rising Star certified, to deliver high-quality pre-K and provide those centers with resources to help improve and sustain quality services for children. One of those child care centers is Angels Care and Learning Center.  Angels Care and Learning Center is a 4-Star Texas Rising Star certified center opened by Navy veteran Chuck Cohn in 2017. A bilingual center that serves children from varied socio-economic backgrounds in South Austin, they joined the Pre-K Partnerships program at the beginning of 2020.  As part of the program, Angels Care and Learning Center received funding which allowed them to hire an additional teacher with higher qualifications. However, Chuck quickly realized that partnering with United Way with more than just financial support.  […]

Collage of 3 photos with children reading

Black Pearl Books and the Greater Austin Reading Coalition: Getting culturally-relevant books in the hands of young readers

The current reality in our community is that only three in 10 children from families with low income pass their 3rd grade reading STAAR test.  Here at United Way for Greater Austin, we believe that reading is a crucial, foundational skill. That’s why we lead a local movement — the Greater Austin Reading Coalition — to ensure that ALL children are reading on grade level by the 4th grade, which is a pivotal point in a child’s reading development.  Launched in 2021, the Greater Austin Reading Coalition is a diverse group of nonprofit and community leaders, librarians, teachers, and parents. The coalition is convened by United Way as part of our collective impact work to fight poverty. In just our first year, together with our coalition members, we have gotten more than 50,000 books in the hands of young readers across our community! One member that has been instrumental in making this possible is Black Pearl Books. Owned and operated by Katrina Brooks, Black Pearl Books is an indie, Black-owned bookstore in Austin with a mission to promote diversity, inclusion, equality, cultural awareness, and community through literature. This mission is what drove Katrina to join the Greater Austin Reading Coalition, as one of the coalition’s goals is to increase access to culturally-relevant books for children. “Having culturally-relevant books available to children is a necessity to get them to read on grade level.”  – Katrina Brooks  Culturally-relevant books are titles that illustrate the beautiful diversity of our community. It’s important for […]

Collage of three photos: photo on left is young child in red shirt holding a yellow bag that say Greater Austin Reading Coalition, photo on top right are two school-aged children reading, and photo on bottom right is an adult woman in a blue shirt reading to a school-aged girl standing wearing a read shirt and yellow backpack.

The Greater Austin Reading Coalition: First year, big impact!

Earlier this year, we announced our expansion beyond early childhood education and into the K-12 space, with an initial focus on bringing together a diverse coalition of literacy advocates to increase the number of children reading on grade level by the 4th grade — a pivotal point in a child’s reading development. Convened by United Way for Greater Austin as part of our collective impact work to fight poverty, the Greater Austin Reading Coalition has been hard at work over the past year and has already made a huge impact in the lives of local children. We’re excited to continue to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into building a coalition to create equitable systems changes in our community.  We all know that a good story highlights the who, what, where, when, why, and how. But, these are also critical questions and factors that we engage with in our systems change work. Today we’re going to look at “the what” and “the how.” Throughout 2021, what work has the Greater Austin Reading Coalition engaged in, and how is it impacting local children?  In addition to building a strategic plan and laying the foundation for the coalition’s future work, we have been hard at work distributing culturally-relevant books. Just this year, together with our partners, we have gotten more than 50,000 books into the hands of young readers!  It’s important that children have access to books. Not only do they expand a child’s world, but are critical tools in […]

Two young girls stand in a playground smiling

Free December holiday meals and events in Greater Austin

Every holiday season, United Way’s Navigation Center helps local families access free or low-cost meals and holiday events across the Greater Austin area. To make it easy for community members to find these seasonal events, we’ve compiled a calendar of meals and celebrations happening throughout the month of December.  From drive-thru light trails and gift giveaways for kids, to holiday festivities with Santa Claus, each event is open to the public. Check it out below! Know someone looking for assistance with food, transportation, housing, or other resources? Tell them to give us a call at 2-1-1 to get connected to help in our community. 2-1-1 is free and available 24/7.

Woman sitting down in front of computer. Wearing headset looking at computer monitor

Connecting our neighbors to food, vaccines, transportation, and more through ConnectATX

ConnectATX is a complement to our 2-1-1 helpline that offers people in Travis County more holistic support. While 2-1-1 has the capacity to provide service to thousands of people every week, ConnectATX goes deeper with callers and online users to proactively and holistically address many needs. Help through ConnectATX is available online and via phone, text, email, and chat. Here at United Way for Greater Austin, we believe that everyone should be able to meet their basic needs. That’s why we run programs like ConnectATX, which connects people to help for food, vaccines, transportation, and more. From July 2020-June 2021, ConnectATX responded to 2,162 requests for help. When a person reaches out for help through ConnectATX, they are connected with a passionate, kind person like Cecilia Torre. It’s really nice to have a 2-way conversation with a client where we can listen to them, prioritize their needs, and do our best to help meet those needs. – Cecilia Torre  One of the biggest needs that Cecilia has seen in our community is access to transportation. In fact, over the past year ConnectATX scheduled 1,642 free Lyft rides for individuals seeking rides to medical appointments, job interviews, job training, and college classes.  One woman looking for transportation to a critical dialysis appointment sticks out in Cecilia’s mind.      This is just one of thousands of stories of community members having their needs met through ConnectATX. And YOU can make more of them happen. When you make a gift this holiday […]

Kids at an outdoor event spinning a prize wheel at a booth

Family Resource Fair: A family-friendly event offering free books, rent assistance, and more

The pandemic put a long pause on in-person events, attributing to fewer families receiving the resources they need for their little ones. These in-person events allow parents to feel heard and supported, ultimately encouraging engagement in their child’s development.  With vaccine rates rising, and in-person learning back in place, United Way and Austin ISD partnered to bring back the Family Resource Fair for a second time. On Saturday, November 13, the Family Resource Fair took place at Uphaus Early Childhood Center in south Austin. Families in the surrounding area were invited to an outdoor event offering resources like ECE/ESL registration, rent assistance programs, parenting groups, career services, camps, and more.  A special thank you to our partners for coming out and supporting families and children.  Have questions about participating in the next Family Resource Fair? Contact Martina Santesteban at Martina.Santesteban@uwatx.org.