March 2017 eNewsletter: Give Back to Your Community During Tax Season
It has been a very busy winter at United Way of Western Connecticut (UWWC) and the spring is shaping up to be just as exciting. We have been mobilizing volunteers throughout the community at our Mobile Food Pantries, through our Youth Volunteer Corps, through customized corporate projects, and even through Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA).
With tax season upon us, UWWC is proud to support VITA programs in our community that help individuals and families keep more of their hard-earned money through earned income tax credits and additional child tax credits. VITA volunteers prepare accurate tax returns at no cost for families making less than $54,000 per year, saving them hundreds of dollars in costly tax preparation services. A tax refund can mean a little extra spending money for some, but for ALICE® (Asset Limited, Income, Constrained, Employed) households, a tax refund can help alleviate the strain of living paycheck-to-paycheck, or can be saved for those future unexpected costs like a car repair or medical bill.
In the update below, you’ll see the many different projects and programs like VITA that you can support. Join us in acting as champions for local, hard-working households.
Chief Executive Officer
United Way of Western Connecticut
United Way of Western Connecticut is proud to support Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs in our community every year that help put more hard-earned money back in our community.
VITA is a safe, simple way to file your taxes. With volunteers, VITA prepares tax returns at no cost for families that earn less than $54,000 per year by working as a team to make sure everything is right and that all returns are quality reviewed. Increasing the amount of Earned Income Tax Credits and returns, while providing a free service to ALICE households, has been shown to improve economic security.
UWWC works alongside the Connecticut Association of Human Services (CAHS) and other community partners to provide this service
For more information about VITA sites or to volunteer, visit www.uwwesternct.org/vita
United Way of Western Connecticut and the Connecticut Food Bank have a new partner for the Danbury-area Mobile Food Pantry. As of last month, Walnut Hill Community Church has graciously offered their space to host the event, taking place every fourth Wednesday of the month. The Church is located at 156 Walnut Hill Rd, Bethel, CT. Dates and locations for additional Mobile Food Pantry events can be found here.
Applications are now being accepted for the Roberta K. Eichler Heart of Gold Scholarship, a $5,000 scholarship awarded annually to support and promote the continuing education of an outstanding student volunteer from our community.
We invite and encourage your participation in nominating a current high school senior for this rewarding scholarship opportunity. Applications will be accepted online through Sunday, March 5 at 5pm, and may be submitted at https://www.uwwesternct.org/heartofgoldscholarship
The scholarship will be awarded at UWWC’s 23rd Annual Heart of Gold Award Dinner taking place on Thursday, May 18, 2017 at the Stamford Marriott Hotel. John Ciulla, President of Webster Bank, will be honored that evening with the 2017 Heart of Gold Award.
For more information about the Roberta K. Eichler Heart of Gold Scholarship, including eligibility requirements and the online application form, please visit https://www.uwwesternct.org/heartofgoldscholarship
Picture above: 2016 Scholarship winner Alexandra Bergman, right, poses with 2016 Heart of Gold Honoree Tracie Wilson, SVP, Programming and Development with NBCUniversal, left and United Way EVP Bridget Fox, center.
Save the date! The 23rd Annual Heart of Gold Award Dinner will take place Thursday, May 18, 2017! Please join us as we honor John Ciulla, President of Webster Bank. Registration for the event will begin soon.
The Heart of Gold Award was established in 1995 to recognize and encourage business leaders to build volunteerism into their strategic business plans. We are committed to celebrating the importance of business leadership in building healthy communities through volunteerism.
For more information, please contact Bridget Fox at 203.883.0960.
The Youth Volunteer Corps of Western Connecticut was named a Gold Level YVC Affiliate, one of less than 15 YVC programs throughout the US and Canada awarded this honor. The youth service program hosted by the United Way of Western Connecticut offers volunteer opportunities for more than 150 youth who complete more than 3,000 volunteer hours each year.
“The program has had such a profound impact on both the Youth Volunteers and the community they are serving,” said David Battey, founder and president of the Youth Volunteer Corps.
A total of 3,084 volunteer hours was completed with the YVC of Western Connecticut in 2016, assisting places such as senior centers, food pantries and historic sites.
“We’re so proud of this honor for the YVC program and the Youth Volunteers involved,” said Stacy Schulman, Program Director for the YVC of Western Connecticut. “We look forward to seeing all the great things that our youth will accomplish this year.”
UWWC partnered with Praxair, Inc. to orchestrate volunteer activity to celebrate the meaning of service on Martin Luther King, Jr. this January. The project involved Praxair employees assembling 80 literacy kits for first grade students of Ellsworth Avenue School in Danbury, giving back to the local community and enriching the children’s literacy skills. The literacy kits were comprised of an age-appropriate Martin Luther King, Jr. book, and activities with a focus on Black History Month designed to make reading interactive and enjoyable for young children. Praxair has scaled this activity across its other major US locations including Houston, Chicago, Indianapolis and Buffalo.
Additionally, Pitney Bowes partnered with UWWC in the development of an in-house volunteer activity. More than 50 Pitney Bowes employees assembled 600 midterm survival kits to inspire sixth-grade students preparing for their first midterm exams. The transition from elementary school to middle school is a critical step in a student’s academic life. The care packages help reduce student stress by ensuring that they have everything they need for the test, including handwritten notes that provide encouragement and build confidence.
Students from Cloonan, Rippowan and Turn of River Middle Schools in the Stamford Public School District were the beneficiaries of the project.
In December 2016, 23 parents graduated from the Abriendo Puertas (Opening Doors) program at Park Avenue School in Danbury. This 10-week program focuses on helping Latino parents of children ages birth to five understand their important role in the development of their children and the long-term impact they have on their children’s educational outcomes.
“Opening Doors is an amazing program, a valuable education resource. Thank you for offering us a free opportunity to educate ourselves and be better parents and a better family,” said one parent who graduated from the program.
“Sometimes the daily issues, problems and stress make us forget the importance of being parents. Opening Doors has given us the tools to help our kids in their development,” said another parent. “I am on track to build a strong base for my 1 and 3 years old kids and overall invest more time in my priority, my kids.”
The program is part of UWWC’s Strong Start Neighborhood Initiative at Park Avenue School.
Fairfield County’s Giving Day is a powerful 24-hour online fundraising competition that unites our community around local causes close to your heart. Last year, this amazing day of giving had extraordinary results: $1,246,964 donated by 11,000+ individuals for 410 nonprofits, including United Way of Western Connecticut. Join us in achieving a new record this year!
Help Me Grow needs your support once again. Funding for this important program, which connects children and their families to the services they need when a physical, developmental, or social/emotional needs is identified, has been eliminated in the Governor’s 2018-2019 State Fiscal Year recommended budget. Please consider advocating on behalf of this important program!
In 2016, thanks to your support, funding for Help Me Grow was restored in the final budget allowing approximately 10,000 families, annually, to continue receiving the support they need to succeed.
Please visit http://advocacy.ctunitedway.org/ to send a letter to your state legislators asking them to restore funding for Help Me Grow.
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