The April 12 United Way-Arlington Report to the Community Luncheon at Mediterranean Villa celebrated how a collaborative spirit and problem-solving partnerships make Arlington a community that comes together to advance the education, financial stability and health of Arlington citizens.
Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams (shown here) spoke about his city’s new Kindness Initiative, which embodies the spirit of working together for a common good. He said the new initiative was inspired by similar efforts in other cities. While the mayor noted that “we have always been a hospitable city,” the new initiative will provide additional encouragement to exhibit courtesy and compassion toward others through small acts such as mowing the yard of an elderly neighbor or not honking at another motorist. “We have got to do more than just raise our own kids or grandkids,” he said. The mayor is confident, though, that through the “can-do spirit of Arlington” and kindness toward others, “great days are ahead.”
Jennifer Weber, Executive Director of Arlington Urban Ministries, spoke about her organization’s partnership with the Tarrant Area Food Bank that provides thousands of families with fresh produce through a mobile food pantry. “This food pantry affords many of these families the only opportunity to have fresh, nutritious food,” she said. She went on to tell how last October, Arlington Urban Ministries partnered with United Way, Walgreens and the FamilyWize Community Service Partnership to provide over 140 free flu shots to people who came to the mobile food pantry. “This provided protection to them and those around them in a familiar setting,” Jennifer said. She added that 40% of those who opted for the shots said they usually don’t get a flu shot or had not had one in over three years.
Bowie Hogg, Arlington ISD Board of Trustees member and past United Way-Arlington Steering Committee Chair, noted some of the ways United Way supports education in Arlington. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which United Way sponsors and Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County underwrites, mails free developmentally-appropriate books to children from birth to age 5 in their homes each month. Currently 824 Arlington children are receiving the books in designated ZIP codes. “I look at my daughters and see how many books they have,” said Bowie, “and then you look at all of the children who don’t have books.”
United Way and corporate underwriters also have installed seven “reading oases” in Arlington ISD elementary schools, providing reading spaces for families complete with hundreds of new books, comfortable furniture and books on CDs. “It’s amazing what one book can do to get a child prepared and ready to succeed in school,” said Bowie. “The United Way of Tarrant County has more reading oases than any other United Way in America, and that’s something we should all be proud of.”
Education of a different kind—character education—is the focus of Character Playbook™, said Aaron Perales, Arlington ISD Director of Parent and Community Engagement. The digital, interactive, comic book-style Character Playbook™ curriculum was introduced into eighth grade Arlington ISD classrooms this year through a partnership of Arlington ISD, United Way, the NFL, Dallas Cowboys and EverFi. “The teachers loved it,” said Aaron. Thirty-five teachers and staff were trained to use Character Playbook™ at AT&T Stadium, and the program officially kicked off last October at a Workman Junior High assembly featuring Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and other Dallas Cowboys. So far the program about managing emotions, communicating effectively and resolving conflicts has impacted 3,487 students at 10 Arlington ISD junior high schools. “United Way is a truly engaged organization in our community,” Aaron said.
The Report to the Community event included a raffle for Texas Rangers tickets and a silent auction for autographed sports gear, including a signed Dez Bryant Dallas Cowboys helmet. They netted hundreds of dollars that will be used to further United Way’s work.
Sponsors of the luncheon were Arlington Today Magazine (media sponsor), Anna and Justin Chapa, and the Rotary Club of Arlington. Special thanks to Mediterranean Villa. Click here to see more photos from the luncheon and United Way-Arlington’s latest publication, “Out of School Time Annual Report.”