Tag: united way for greater austin

The Austin Summer Survival Guide, and Not the One You Would Think…

This is not your average summer survival guide. I am not here to talk about Float Fest or Amy’s Ice Cream. While both are great summer staples, the purpose of this survival guide is to provide our community with a list of resources that will make sure everyone gets the best out of their summer vacation.   Remember that you can call 2-1-1 24/7 for community information and resources. Connect with a compassionate call specialist, like Arnoldo who has been on staff for more than six years.   “2-1-1 is the most effective way of getting resources out into the community.” Arnoldo, 2-1-1 Call Specialist said. “It is a gathering of many people, many facets, that create one big jewel.”   STAY FED From breakfast to lunch to after-school snack, many kids in Austin rely on school meal programs. Often times the meals they are fed at school, are the only thing they will eat all day. According to Feeding America and the Community Advancement Network Dashboard for Travis County, 25 percent of children in Travis County are food insecure. That means more than 63,000 kids in Austin often go hungry when school is out.     Thankfully, through the Summer Food Service Program, Austin ISD will continue to serve FREE breakfast and lunch to local children and teens ages 18 and younger. Your child can get FREE meals even if they don’t attend AISD, regardless of economic status. No registration or identification is required.    To access FREE summer […]

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A Different Kind Of First Responder: 2-1-1 Navigation Center Specialists

It has been two months since Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas Coast, but recovery efforts are far from over. Since the storm touched down on August 25, 2017, United Way for Greater Austin’s (UWATX) 2-1-1 Navigation Center has fielded more than 300,000 calls. In just two months, 2-1-1 took 98 percent of its 2016 call volume and the calls are still coming in. From evacuation information to FEMA assistance and volunteer aid, approximately 10 to 20 percent of 2-1-1 calls remain related to Hurricane Harvey disaster response.   The 2-1-1 Navigation Center is a principal part of a statewide support network that participates actively with emergency and disaster support. During Hurricane Harvey, 2-1-1 remained open and responsive 24/7 for nearly three weeks to help the network handle an overwhelming number of calls for rescue, support and recovery resources. In addition to dramatically extending overtime hours, the Navigation Center welcomed support from more than 60 volunteers UWATX staff, Board members and other community volunteers.   Harvey taught us that anyone can end up needing help in times of disaster   Picture this: you and your family are in a strong and stable place financially, you live in a nice two story house and you’ve never had to worry about where to get your next meal. Then, Hurricane Harvey hits. The entire first floor of the home you’ve worked so hard for is destroyed. The carpet is rotting and the sheetrock, drywall and insulation are mold-ridden. The damages to your home could be tens […]

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Partner Spotlight: Foundation Communities’ Free Tax Help Returns $33.8M to Hard-Working Families

While Austin is a city brimming with opportunities, many families find simply affording our city a growing challenge, this is particularly true for families raising children. One critical provision preventing many of Austin’s low- and moderate-income families with children from sliding into poverty are tax returns bolstered by the refundable credits – the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. It can be a relatively substantial infusion of cash for families making ends meet with low or unpredictable incomes and may be the only opportunity a family has to purchase a vehicle, pay a large security deposit, or address a pressing repair. Foundation Communities is a long-time partner of United Way for Greater Austin and has been a cornerstone of this family-sustaining work. In addition to ensuring hard-working families can access their full tax returns for free, they offer a service designed to be convenient, trustworthy, and available year-round. “I’m grateful to all of our volunteers and community partners, including United Way, who make it possible for us to provide free, high-quality tax preparation services each year,” shared Kori Hattemer, Director of Financial Programs at Foundation Communities. “We couldn’t offer this vital community service without their time, commitment and energy. Our tax centers save hard-working families thousands in tax preparation fees and, this year, returned nearly $34 million in refunds to the local economy.” More than 600 volunteers dedicated their time to assisting families, coming together to achieve an incredibly tangible impact. People relying on private tax preparation […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: Jimmy, Jenny & Cristian

On Wednesday, May 17, United Way for Greater Austin celebrated the contributions of students in UWATX’s Youth Engaged in Service (YES!) program at Webb Early College Prep Academy. The YES! program has been an opportunity for students to learn about philanthropy and volunteerism while exploring careers throughout the Austin community.  Students have gone on field trips to local companies and non-profits and have completed tons of volunteer hours on projects after school. Our staff sat down with a few phenomenal Middle School volunteers to learn more about what volunteerism means to them. Jenny Dominguez (J-Dog), Jimmy Aguirre (Bigfoot) and Cristian Dominguez (C-Money) are Webb students who participated in the YES! program and were are excited to share their thoughts with you.   What was the most fun volunteer experience so far for you? Jimmy  |  I liked last week when we planted plants and helped the environment. Cristian |  Painting a giant Jenga set at the MLK Day of Service in 2015. Jenny |  Visiting the Austin Humane Society to donate toys and play with a puppy.   What is an issue that is important to you? Jimmy |  World hunger, because if we go hungry, we won’t survive! Jenny |  Getting a new phone, it freezes a lot and it’s slow. Cristian |  So many issues! I want to government to not use bombs or start wars.   What do you want to be when you grow up? Jenny |  A basketball player for the Austin Spurs. Cristian |  the President of the United States. Jimmy | […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: Mary Velarde

Mary Velarde is a Literacy Coach with United Way’s Success by 6 programming.  In the Literacy Coaching Project, Classroom Coaches are placed in child care center classrooms serving children ages 3-5 for the length of a school year. The coaches are trained to deliver age-appropriate, engaging early math and literacy games and activities during the day– these are usually provided in small group or one-on-one settings.  As an AmeriCorps member, Mary has dedicated this year to supporting students in this program and it’s easy to see that she will continue to have a huge impact on our Austin community when she is done.  We asked Mary about her experience as a volunteer, and she was happy to share her answers with us: Why do you think it is important to give back? I think it is important to give back to our community because it strengthens communities, improves the lives of the people we serve, and provides the tools they need to succeed in life. What inspires you to volunteer? I’m inspired to volunteer because I know I will make a positive difference in the lives of those I serve, which I believe will then have a greater impact for our community; it will strengthen our community. Another reason why I am inspired to volunteer is because it transforms my life and those I serve and it becomes a rewarding experience.  I like to encourage others to volunteer because through volunteer work, individuals are able to discover more about themselves that […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: Cat Duong

Cat Duong is a fantastic volunteer leader from H-E-B and a great partner of United Way for Greater Austin in many of our volunteer events throughout the year. We were honored to have her as a member of our Cheer Team at Ruthless Good: The Great Austin Scavenger Hunt on April 8. Not even her birthday could keep Cat from giving back and on May 5, she’ll be part of our upcoming Spring Day of Caring, sponsored in part by H-E-B. We encourage anyone interested in giving back on May 5 or 6 to join H-E-B in making this huge volunteer event a success! Cat is also an integral part of planning and running the H-E-B Feast of Sharing where around 14,000 holiday meals are served at the Palmer Events Center each November.  It is hard to keep track of all of the ways that Cat is giving back to the Austin community and we were honored that she took the time to share some insight with us about what volunteering means to her. Tell us a little bit about how H-E-B gives back to the community. Where to begin?  H-E-B has done so much for the community since 1905, that it’s almost hard to quantify everything.  The numerous organizations that H-E-B gives back to in Central Texas is amazing.  We support our communities in the following areas: education, environment, diversity, disaster relief, health & wellness, hunger relief, military appreciation and volunteerism. H-E-B gives back in so many different ways.  All of […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: Ahmad-Rauf Hardy

Ahmad-Rauf Hardy is a full-time volunteer in United Way for Greater Austin’s Literacy Coaching Project. He works directly with young children at Open Door Preschool to help bolster their literacy and math skills. Low-income children can be exposed to 30 million fewer words than their higher income peers by the time they reach 3 years old and the Literacy Coaching Project aims to fill in the gap for students at child care centers with subsidized spaces for low-income children. This is Ahmad’s first year as Literacy Coach, second year as an AmeriCorps member and he plans to continue making an impact for Austin children when this school year is over. United Way for Greater Austin could not provide such robust services to low-income families without the help and dedication of phenomenal AmeriCorps members like Ahmad. How much do you volunteer as an AmeriCorps member through UWATX’s Literacy Coaching Program? I find myself on campus 40 hours a week through my AmeriCorps position, and I split that time between two Open Door Preschool facilities, the one at M-station, and Open Door East. What made you interested in starting to volunteer? My sister is a teacher, and I had experience teaching in other programs with older students before this.  I think it is important to give back to the community when possible, and I like to see kids start off on the right foot with quality educational child care. What is next for you when your time with Americorps is over? I […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: Jeff Eads

Jeff Eads, of Public Consulting Group – title sponsor of Ruthless Good: The Great Austin Scavenger Hunt, is currently serving on the Ruthless Good Logistics Committee. UWATX is thrilled to have his help planning the challenges that Ruthless Good participants will compete in!!  Jeff is also a member of UWATX’s Young Leaders Society a diverse group of young professionals who raise funds to support UWATX’s critical work in the Austin community. We asked Jeff a few questions about why he and Public Consulting Group volunteer with us. Enjoy his answers below. How long have you been involved with UWATX? I have been involved with UWATX since July 2016. Tell us about your experience volunteering on our Ruthless Good logistics committee. I’ve had the pleasure of volunteering on the committee since September 2016. I was lucky enough to volunteer on the committee with people I served alongside in the Army in addition to people doing great work in Austin’s philanthropic community. My main responsibility was to develop a method to score Ruthless Good. I created a system that allocates points to stops based on the distance from the Long Center. The scoring methodology will be incorporated into the technology platform that participants will use to submit their responses. Overall, the experience has been a great way to get plugged into UWATX! What are other Public Consulting Group employees saying about working with United Way for Greater Austin? Public Consulting Group (PCG) is excited for the opportunity to help raise funds for Austin-based charities supporting early childhood educational success. […]

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Ruthless Good, a scavenger hunt with social justice and equity in its sights

On April 8, Ruthless Good: The Great Austin Scavenger Hunt will dispatch dozens of teams from the Long Center to crack clues, solve trivia challenges, and discover photo-worthy landmarks and locales. But the rolicking hunt’s true aim is problem solving on a much grander scale–bolstering equitable community-wide access to health, education and work. I’m serving as honorary chair for the hunt, because I love the way this event shows that every Austinite can be a philanthropist and that giving is fun. Each one of us can leave the comfort of our homes, join a team, cultivate curiosity about our community, and give time or money (however limited) to support the causes we care about. And when we do it together we can have a huge collective impact. Those who join the hunt will raise awareness and funds for the United Way for Greater Austin, a powerful force for good. Each year, thousands of community members contribute to United Way through workplace campaigns and special events like Ruthless Good. United Way then pools those resources to make transformative investments in vital community programs. When you show up on April 8th or encourage others to do so, you help important initiatives that United Way funds, such as Success By 6, which launches Austin’s youngest citizens into bright futures. The early years are crucial for preparing children for school and life beyond, yet in Austin high-quality childcare often runs $10,000 or more per year, pricing out those who need it most. Success By […]

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2-Gen Network Focuses on Economic Mobility for Next Generation & Parents Too

Austin faces challenges in creating a community where all children and families have the opportunity to succeed. Social mobility in the U.S. is significantly lower than in most developed countries (about 8% compared to 11% in Denmark and 13% in Canada) (Corak, 2013) and in Austin we’re behind two-thirds of metro areas in the U.S in economic mobility. To extend opportunities to all kids regardless of zip code, we need to look at how we can help children and parents, together. That’s why United Way for Greater Austin (UWATX) and our partners are diving head first into cultivating 2-Gen programming in Austin. “2-Gen” refers to two generations. It’s a paradigm for the coordinated approach to services, policies and systems that addresses the needs of low-to-moderate income children and their parents. In Austin there are individual programs addressing parents’ economic opportunities from workforce to post-secondary education, children’s education and especially high quality early childhood education, and the wrap-around support to make the impact lasting, but few have put them together in an intentional, intensive, coordinated way, yet. We want to impact families of all kinds, but we know that families with young kids are uniquely poised to benefit from 2-Gen interventions. Research shows that increases in a parent’s education or income during the first few years of a child’s life have a powerful effect on a child’s development (Chase-Lansdale & Brooks-Gunn, 2014; Kaushal, 2014; Sommer et al., 2012). In addition, high quality early childhood education programs provide a safe, nurturing place […]

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