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COMMUNITY VOICE

Tax preparation, managing a budget among areas of United Way assistance

Friday, April 5, 2013 - 12:01 am

United Way of Allen County has four areas of focus: education, income, health and basic needs. With much discussion and many worries in our nation today about individuals and families being able to support themselves, I wanted to share some of the work being done by United Way and many partners in the community.

Our income focus at United Way is to ensure families have the tools and support to create financial stability and independence. But what does that look like? With the dollars contributed by thousands of donors in Allen County, we invest in job training and coaching, adult literacy and GED classes, coaching to manage expenses, building savings and assets and tax preparation.

Starting with the latter, United Way helps coordinate the Free Tax Preparation Program each year along with the Financial Stability Partnership and, in particular, Volunteer Center RSVP and Community Action of Northeast Indiana (CANI).

Any family or individual earning less than $57,000 annually qualifies for the Free Tax Preparation Program. As a result, last year marked claims of more than $3 million. As much as $6 million in tax credits go unclaimed in Allen County annually, and each year the number of returns filed and people applying for tax credits goes up thanks to this effort. The Free Tax Preparation Program continues to run through April 13, and residents can call 2-1-1 for information on sites and times.

Another important program that United Way is a part of is Money Smart Week, which is coming up with the kickoff fair on Wednesday, April 24, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the downtown Allen County Public Library.

The fair is organized by the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, United Way, the Allen County Public Library and the Financial Stability Partnership. Attendance is free; parking is free. There will be dozens of exhibitors and workshops ranging from shopping on a budget to health care costs to home ownership. Again, residents can call 2-1-1 for information about Money Smart Week.

Finally, we support many agency partners who have programs that help Allen County be a stronger, more financially stable community. The Literacy Alliance provides centers for individuals and families to work on reading skills and prepare for GED tests. Genesis Outreach provides transitional housing and programs to help families get on their feet and stay that way.

The Fort Wayne Rescue Mission’s Charis House provides a safe place for women and children to stay while they gain employment, strengthen parenting skills and get help with substance abuse issues.

These are but a few of the 34 agency partners and more than 60 programs United Way supports, many of which are focused on helping individuals and families live productive and economically stable lives. United Way recruits people and organizations from all across the community who bring the passion, expertise and resources needed to get things done, and we invite you to join us. You can give, you can advocate and you can volunteer.

When we work together in common purpose, we LIVE UNITED. If you’d like to give to United Way’s community campaign, you can do so at www.unitedwayallencounty.org. If you’re interested in any of these programs, you can visit our website or call 2-1-1 or (260) 422-4776..

Todd Stephenson is United Way of Allen County’s president/CEO.