Hays United Way celebrates 30 years of helping neighbors

For three decades, volunteer board members, local partner agencies and donors of the United Way of Hays County have invested and developed programs that address Hays County’s critical needs in education, income/financial stability and health.
The public is invited to honor and share in the 30th anniversary celebration reception that will recognize board members, volunteers, partner agencies and business workplace campaign participants on Thursday, Aug. 22 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the City Recreation Hall (next to the Lions Club Tube Rental).
UWHC was born in 1983, as founders planted the seeds of greatness and have continued to build stronger families and a successful community.
“Each year, individuals and businesses that have contributed to United Way and its partner programs help more than 50,000 of our less fortunate neighbors and friends in need in the areas of education, income and health. We continue to help children graduate, guide families toward financial stability and create opportunities for people to live healthy, vibrant lives,” said current board chair and San Marcos City Council member Kim Porterfield.
Porterfield said that United Way makes it easy for people to donate to local organizations to help better the entire community.
“Government can’t do it all. United Way and its partner programs have had a positive impact on the lives of thousands of Hays County residents over the past 30 years, reducing the demand for social services borne by cities and the county,” Porterfield said. “Local control over funding decisions is key. Funds donated here stay here. Decisions about who and what to fund are made by local volunteers who live here, work here and know our community needs. That’s why I volunteer.”
During the past 30 years, there have been many organizational changes for UWHC. The non-profit group continues to focus on helping fund a variety of locally-needed resources and its own initiatives, such as Born Learning/Born to Read, Get Connected and the FamilyWize prescription discount card.
“The significance of the role United Way has changed through the last three decades, both locally and nationally, particularly in how we now positively impact the community in a more holistic way. Rather than operating simply as a pass-through organization, United Way recently has sought to identify the most important needs Hays County faces,’” Porterfield said. “Evidence is sought for how potential funding recipients would stand to impact community needs in the areas of education, impact and health, with a greater emphasis on accountability.”
Born Learning/Born to Read is another program initiated by United Way to focus on early childhood development. UWHC has partnered with Central Texas Medical Center, Seton Hospital Hays, Women’s Infants and Children Program and the San Marcos Public Library to provide a packet to every new mother who delivers a baby in Hays County.
The packet includes a booklet of parenting materials on how parents can incorporate learning into every-day activities, early childhood development information, a local resource guide for social and health services, a flier on reading, a voucher for a library card and a new book of 50 first words to start an at-home library.
Studies suggest there is a direct correlation between the number of books at home and the level of educational attainment.
“This program addresses our goal to help increase the number of children entering kindergarten ready to learn, the percentage of children reading on grade level by third grade, and the number of young people who graduate from high school on time. UWHC also aims to provide increased access to books and increased parental awareness of the value of literacy,” Porterfield said.
Sunday Stories family literacy events held the second Sunday of each month at the San Marcos Public Library, features an afternoon of guest readers, crafts and free books.
United Way of Hays County also supports a prescription discount card, available free to all Hays County residents. FamilyWize cards are wallet-sized cards that are accepted at most major pharmacies, including CVS, Walgreens, WalMart, Target, Sam’s Club, and others. Area residents have saved more than $83,000 using the card.
Free “FamilyWize” prescription discount cards are available through United Way of Hays County. Participants present the card at their pharmacy and receive a lower cost. The card works as a reusable prescription coupon, saving money on each pharmacy visit.
The newest UWHC initiative is connecting volunteers with placements in Hays County.
“In an effort to increase the collaboration, connections, and relationships among local non-profits and community members, United Way is sponsoring a new online volunteer and donor opportunity system called ‘Get Connected,’” Porterfield said. “This web-based system is increasing the capacity of the community to meet the ongoing needs of local charities while facilitating the engagement process for non-profits.”
Get Connected is an easy-to-use web-based platform that matches the right donors, advocates and volunteers with the right opportunities in our neighborhoods. Users can search for needs based on their own interests, they can reach out to likeminded agencies, and find meaningful ways to give back.
As United Way of Hays County celebrates its 30th anniversary, the organization is pursuing a “1,000 Give 30” donation drive, encouraging monetary donations of $30.
“We have set a challenge to the members of our community: Help United Way of Hays County raise $30,000 for the 1,000 Give 30 campaign,” Porterfield said, adding that the drive has already raised almost $3,000 and will continue until the end of the year. “Each year, thousands of people receive life-changing treatments, opportunities, programming and services funded through annual UWHC community investment grants.”
Porterfield, who can often be seen around town sporting her “Live United” T-shirt, is thankful for the community support for United Way of Hays County
“It’s a credo. A mission. A goal. Live United is a constant reminder that when we reach a hand out to one another, we influence the condition of all. We build the strength of our neighborhoods. We bolster the health of our communities, and we change the lives of those who walk by us every day,” she said.
UWHC board members include: Kim Porterfield, Texas State University; Joel Williams, Butler Manufacturing Co.; Scott Gregson, Gregson Investments; Shelley Henry, San Marcos Baptist Academy; John Navarrette, CenturyLink; Julie Hollar, San Marcos Youth Service Bureau; Wayne Becak, community volunteer; Brian Bondy, San Marcos Chamber of Commerce; Rose Brooks, community volunteer; Diane Dupont, community volunteer; Lucy Johnson, mayor of Kyle; Michelle Hamilton, Texas State University; Brian Magnuson, HEB Dripping Springs; DerryAnn Martinez, WIC San Marcos; and Kenneth R. Williams, Buda City Manager and Heather Campbell, Texas State University
 Current partner agencies include: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas; Boy Scouts of America, Capitol Area Council; Burke Foundation; Camp Fire USA, Balcones Council; CASA of Central Texas; Cento Cultural Hispano de San Marcos; Combined Community Action, Meals on Wheels; Early Childhood Intervention, Hays County Homespun; GENaustin; Greater San Marcos Youth Council; Hays Caldwell Women’s Center; Hays Caldwell Council on Alcohol & Drug Abuse; Hays County Dispute Resolution Center; Hays County Food Bank; Retired and Senior Volunteer Program; San Marcos Housing Authority Resident Services; San Marcos Youth Service Bureau; and Southside Community Center.
For more call (512) 353-1420 or visit unitedwayhaysco.org.