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United Way Hero

Meet VITA Volunteer Javier Romero
Helping people one tax return at a time

The success of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is not possible without the tremendous support of our VITA volunteers. They go through countless hours of training, dedicate their weekday and weekends to filing returns, and help families save hundreds of dollars in tax preparation fees. While most volunteers have been filing their own taxes for years, Javier Romero began helping individuals and families long before he had to file his own taxes.

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Saluting our AmeriCorps VISTA members
We are proud to lead the VISTA program in our region

It’s National AmeriCorps Week, and we’re excited to celebrate! This year through United Way, 20 AmeriCorps VISTA members, 20 Summer Associates and 12 National Civilian Community Corps members will serve the Sacramento region! These individuals dedicate a summer or a year of their lives to bringing change to local communities across the nation. Many are assigned to projects far from where they grew up, and they gain valuable experience through their service to communities in need.

Success Story Written by: Amy Williamson, Financial Stability Program Officer

Coaches need coaching too
On June 6 and 7, thanks to support from Citi Community Development, our United Way hosted nationally-renowned financial coaching expert Saundra Davis of Sage Financial Solutions for a regional training event.

After we’ve flown a certain number of times in our lives, we tend to tune out the emergency instructions given by the flight attendants. Yes, yes, we think subconsciously – I already know that I need to put the oxygen mask on myself before I try to assist others.

But how many of us apply this advice in our own lives on the ground? This is an especially important issue for people working in helping professions. How can we help others tackle challenges and pursue their goals and dreams if we’re not fully doing that for ourselves?

United Way Hero Written by: Amy Williamson, Financial Stability Program Officer

Spotlight on VITA Coordinator, Diana Clay

Last year at about this time, I was thrilled that our United Way decided to take on the leadership role for Sacramento’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) coalition at the request of Community Link, which ran it for its first decade.

VITA is an amazing program that saves thousands of local low-income families lots of money by offering free filing by IRS-certified volunteers, and also helps them claim (collectively) millions of dollars through the state and federal Earned Income Tax Credits. Households who file through VITA get average refunds of more than $2,000, and some get as much as $6,000. My job is to help people build financial stability, and that money goes a long way toward that end.

Sounds great, right? And it is. But while I was thrilled, I was also a bit daunted to say the least. VITA is a very complex endeavor and I knew we needed to bring in the right expertise. While I was immediately thinking about the fundraising I’d need to do, I got an invitation to last year’s tax season wrap-up and debrief at our local IRS office. It was there that Diana Clay introduced herself to me.

Post Written by: Stephanie M. Bray

We’re celebrating all we are thankful for in 2015
During this season of Thanksgiving, we have a lot to be thankful for!

During this season of Thanksgiving, we have a lot to be thankful for! Children at risk of falling behind in school are reading at grade-level. Low income families are becoming more financial stable. Hungry children in afterschool programs in low income communities are being fed. We could not do this work without the support of donors and volunteers like you.

We are especially thankful for those we are honoring this year for outstanding service and support of our United Way.

Blog Stephanie McLemore Bray Written by: Stephanie M. Bray
Stephanie McLemore Bray
President and CEO, United Way California Capital Region

Why do YOU give to United Way?
There a many reasons why giving to United Way is THE best way to help those in need.

For 25 years I have worked in the nonprofit community. During that time, I have seen many changes in how people give to support their favorite causes. When United Way was started in the late 1800s, it was a way for people to contribute to a community chest to help their neighbors. Through direct mail, online giving and now crowdfunding, people have more choices than ever when it comes to how they give to the charities they want to support. So, I am not surprised that people are wondering why give to United Way when I can give directly to my favorite charitable organization?

There a many reasons why giving to United Way is THE best way to help those in need.

  • When you give to United Way, you are helping to improve literacy rates for children at risk of dropping out of school, providing a safety net for foster youth who have no other resources, and you are helping to provide healthy, nutritious meals to children who often do not have enough to eat.
  • United Way connects donors to nonprofit organizations that would have a tough time doing it on their own. Most charitable organizations have under $100,000 in assets which means that they don’t have marketing budgets or even fundraising budgets. United Way provides them with a way to get in front of people to tell their story.
  • United Way makes it easy for donors to support local nonprofits. We ensure that those organizations are fiscally sound so that donors don’t have to and we enable donors to give small amounts over time that make a BIG impact in the community.
  • We help companies that want to give back to the community by matching them with nonprofits. Our annual Day of Caring is one example of how we help business leaders and their employees support their local communities. This year, more than 116 companies and groups participated in the day contributing more than 4,206 volunteer hours!

Why do YOU give to United Way?

Success Story Written by: Erica Lee, Health Education Council

Health Education Council and Young Leaders Society Ask Students to Rethink Their Drinks
In Sacramento County, 30 percent of children are considered overweight or obese.

Unless you’ve been reading this blog with your eyes closed lately, you likely already know about the outstanding work the Young Leader’s Society (YLS) has done to raise more than $25,000 to support United Way’s Hydration Station Initiative in the Robla School District. What you may not know is that in order to support the use of the hydration stations, United Way has teamed up with the Health Education Council to ask Robla students and their families to Rethink Your Drink.

Blog By Maihnia Lee
Practicing what we preach – Healthy Eating & Active Living

Practicing what we preach – Healthy Eating & Active Living

I had the pleasure of attending the HEAL Collaborative Promising Practices Exchange 2015. More than 100 agencies came together at the beautiful Falls Event Center in Elk Grove to discuss promising practices and celebrate the work surrounding health policies, programs, and services within low-income and high-need communities.

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My Day at the Grant High GEO Garden
Lauren Lee, Government Relations Manager

I have to admit, on my way to my volunteer activity for Young Leaders Society I was tired and almost cancelled at the last minute. My email inbox was full and I was behind on some projects. It would have been so easy to cancel. But then I reminded myself that would the easy way out and that I’ve never gone to a volunteer event that I’ve regretted. I always walk away with a sense of fulfillment and pride; a feeling that I helped make my community a better place. So I got out of the car and went to the Grant High Geo Garden with a (forced) smile on my face. 

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Let’s Play!
#PlayMatters

I can remember the thrill of swinging high in the air on the swing set at my local park when I was a kid. My friends and I would try to see who could swing the highest, then jump off the swing mid-air to see who could jump the furthest. It was freeing, it was exhilarating and let’s face it, it was FUN.

I can remember the fear, the good kind of fear, which would present itself the first time I did a flip on the uneven bars on the playground and how fun it was once I finally overcame my fears.

Post Diana Vo

Find the right opportunity to get engaged
Introducing the United Way Volunteer Center!

Last week, I volunteered my time at Women’s Empowerment by leading a course on relationship building in the workplace for the new “Get a Job Kit” training program. I have to be honest, initially I said, ‘you want me to lead what?’ But I did my research, put together my presentation and went for it. I have to tell you, it was one of the most proud moments of my life when the women I spoke to related to my material, asked the best questions and thanked me for the valuable information. I volunteered my time and made a difference. If just one of the women in the course uses any of the skills I offered to help with a new career, I’m simply humbled and honored.

All of us have skills to offer whether we realize it or not. It may not being leading a course, but you might be excellent with a hammer or paint roller, maybe you excel at turning a messy closet into an organized and useful space. Maybe you are a gardener and want to help with community garden builds? The point is, you can offer something. Multiple studies show Sacramento has a much lower volunteer rate than other comparable cities across the county, so the time is now to get involved and change these numbers. But how do you get connected to the right opportunity for you? Well, I am proud to introduce your new solution for that: the United Way Volunteer Center.

Post Diana Vo

Who doe$n’t want to $ave money?
My story about using keepyourtaxrefund.com

With a big push from United Way and other important community partners to get the word out about the www.keepyourtaxrefund.com website, I found myself telling folks in our community about this awesome resource and received some questions I couldn’t answer. I’m the kind of guy who wants to fully get behind something I’m asking others to do, so naturally my solution was to use the website myself to complete my 2013 tax return. In the past I’ve used other online software and with this website being FREE to those with income under $58,000 in 2013 and reduced cost compared to other ways to file for those who make over $58,000, how could I resist?

Post Diana Vo

90 Projects for 90 Years: Project Number 90!

Back in January when we announced we would try to accomplish 90 volunteers projects in one year to celebrate United Way California Capital Region’s 90th Anniversary, I received some funny looks and eye rolls. I’m fairly certain many people didn’t think it could be done. Well guess what? I am ecstatically proud to tell you that September 11, 2013 marked Project Number 89, which means that the United Way Day of Caring’s 26 projects on Friday, September 13th will bring life to Project Numbers 90-115! That’s right, not only did we as a community collectively work towards meeting our goal of 90 projects, but so far we’ve gone over the goal by 25 (and we still have two and a half months left of 2013!). If you haven’t been involved yet, now’s your chance!

Let’s do the math (not including the 26 Day of Caring projects):

                +89 projects
                +over 1,500 volunteers
                +over 5,000 volunteer hours
                +Over $60,000 value of volunteer labor
                =WOW!