United Way for Greater Austin brings together a cross-sector collaborative dedicated to improving health outcomes and expanding access to resources for local families. As part of that work, the organization is building out a network of Community Health Workers in underserved communities.

Recently, United Way partnered with Williamson County, Cities Health District and STARRY on a Community Health Worker program and is growing its impact in Williamson County. The goal is to provide new and expecting moms with the resources they need, when they need them, and improve health outcomes for everyone.

The Community Health Workers (CHWs), or promotores de salud, help new and expecting mothers and their families access housing, healthy food, medical care, insurance, transportation, education and more.

United Way CEO David C. Smith said the organization is dedicated to helping families get the resources they need.

“Having a baby is one of the most joyful experiences in a parent's life, and it can be stressful, too,” Smith said. “Here at United Way, we're committed to helping new and expecting moms find the resources they need, when they need them. We're grateful to partner with many talented Community Health Workers like Olivia to make that happen for parents here in our community.”

Connecting moms with local resources

CHW Olivia Gonzales shared insight from her experience working with moms in the Greater Austin area.

Gonzales said most of the moms she works with are referred by Women, Infants and Children (WIC), a supplemental nutrition program for pregnant women, or Lone Star Circle of Care, a healthcare clinic providing patient-centric care.

For any moms who’ve been referred and haven’t already been connected with WIC, Gonzales said that’s a top priority.

“WIC’s a big one because they help with nutrition information, getting moms formula and breast pumps, and they also get a WIC card,” she said.

Gonzales said The Caring Place is another good option for moms in the Georgetown area. The community-serving organization has two thrift stores where clients can shop for clothing and furniture as well as a food pantry where clients can get food once a month. The food pantry is a free-choice model, which means clients can select a number of items that will be best utilized in their homes from designated categories. Clients are able to get a month’s worth of food for their entire family, based on the family size.

If necessary, Gonzales also helps moms become members of Texas’ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and makes sure clients have health insurance through Medicaid.

“Through our program, once the mom is enrolled, we can serve the entire family,” Gonzales said. “I work with a family right now where the mother is on Medicaid, but her partner doesn't have any health coverage. We’ve been looking at different resources and figuring out how to get him help.”

A rewarding experience

Gonzales said her job as a Community Health Worker is amazing.

“It’s been really rewarding because you get to build connections in this job,” she said. “Doing home visits is more of a personal level of getting to know somebody, and that person is putting a lot of trust in you by welcoming you into their home.”

Gonzales said the connections she and her colleague Veronica Serrano have built are incredible and have truly helped moms and families.

“Veronica is bilingual and works with many immigrant families. She helps connect them with immigrant services to navigate legal challenges,” Gonzales said. “She’s that person who can listen to families’ stories and bridge that gap.”

Find help, get connected

Gonzales said she wants new and expecting moms and their families to know they’re not alone and it’s okay to ask for help.

“Oftentimes we come across families who don't want to come off as being a burden or they're afraid of being turned away,” she said. “We’ve also seen families who've had bad experiences with certain organizations, which has caused them not to reach out for that help.”

Letting clients know they are supported is CHWs’ number one priority, Gonzales said. Whether moms need someone to accompany them to a doctor’s visit or need help going to the grocery store for WIC, CHWs are there to help.

United Way plans to expand its network of CHWs to Taylor and other areas soon.

United Way for Greater Austin builds opportunity to break the cycle of poverty in the community. With a new strategic framework rooted in nearly 100 years of community building, the organization works to ensure every child is set up for success with high-quality care and education and that everyone is connected to the essential resources they need, when they need them.

Looking for a way to give back? Make a difference with United Way for Greater Austin by donating to the organization. Visit the website for more information.

The above story was produced by Senior Multi Platform Journalist Summer El-Shahawy with Community Impact's Storytelling team with information solely provided by the local business as part of their "sponsored content" purchase through our advertising team.