Your change changes lives

By Kim Harsch, Resource Development Coordinator

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I love my job at Goodwill because of you – Goodwill donors and shoppers. Because of you, I get to meet people whose lives are forever changed by Goodwill’s mission – to provide work opportunities, skill development, and family strengthening resources in all communities we serve.

This mission is funded in large part by your purchases and donated goods. Another way you help fund programs for people in our community, is through our “RoundUp” program. “RoundUp” means if your Goodwill store purchase is $10.50, you can opt to “round up” to an even $11.00 and that extra 50 cents goes directly to support Goodwill’s services, listed here. If you choose not to, that’s okay too and we sincerely thank you for your business!

So why do we do this? Not all of our programs and services are self-supported through our business enterprises and need a little extra help.

Your spare change adds up to thousands of dollars each year, and 100% of these funds go to help someone in your community get back on their feet. Last month your RoundUp change helped Adam move his family from dire living conditions to safety. He was able to receive the financial coaching he needed free at Goodwill so that he could afford a home for his young family. Your change changed Adam’s life. Read Adam’s story here.

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If you always RoundUp – thank you! If you haven’t, please consider it next time you shop at Goodwill. Thank you again for positively “changing” lives!

 

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Opportunity knocks … but sometimes it rolls

By Amanda Grover, Career Supports Manager

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One thing that can be consistently changing is a person’s financial situation. Managing your money, planning for the future, and identifying resources is incredibly daunting. Money doesn’t need to be a taboo subject; and I personally have found incredible value in financially planning ahead for emergencies and reaching longer term goals. There was nothing more fulfilling than paying off my first car loan.

Luckily, there are resources available right here in our community and it’s exciting to be a part of the Fifth-Third Financial Empowerment “eBus” event here at the Goodwill Career Center on Wednesday, July 26 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Everyone’s invited!

This 40-foot bus is a mobile classroom equipped with workstations and friendly Fifth Third Bank staff ready to connect people with the financial tools they need. After traveling to many communities throughout the country, the Fifth Third eBus staff have a strong understanding of what individuals need and want from banks and financial institutions.

Just inside the Career Center, we will be hosting a Goodwill Financial Fair. There will be other community partner organizations on site to share vocational and education programs, and to help identify ways to increase income through employment. There will also be programs to help people with goals and issues related to home ownership and housing. Additionally, for those looking for more immediate employment, GoodTemps Staffing will be conducting open job interviews.

I’ve had lots of people come to me with great stories that have been a result of attending previous financial events. Personal stories such as gaining access to a bank account for the first time (in some cases after being repeatedly denied), enrolling in vocational programs that have increased their income, learning that earning a degree or owning their own home is possible, overcoming difficult debt struggles, and more … prove these events can be life changing.

It’s exciting to work with so many community partners and to see support from organizations all working to help people achieve their personal goals. Come join us and tell anyone you know who could benefit from these services!

The Goodwill Career Center is located at 271 East Apple Avenue in Muskegon. We are around the corner from Goodwill Headquarters. The entrance and parking lot are located off of Sophia Street.

Gearing up for tax season

By Carl Lewis, Tax Program Coordinator

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ach tax season brings a great opportunity to assist more people in the community. As the new Tax Program Coordinator at Goodwill, I am excited to be a part of this positive impact.

I have several years of volunteer experience with Goodwill’s free tax preparation program, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). It has always been a pleasure to work with people and assist them. In my former position as a financial coach, I found that tax time is the perfect opportunity to help people get back on track with their finances. The lump sum of money a person receives from a return, allows me a chance to identify an individual’s financial goals and help to achieve them.

I have a strong appreciation for the education the free tax preparation program provides, and it has been a pleasure to train and work with others. It is satisfying to share my knowledge and know that I am helping others learn a valuable life-long skill. All of our volunteers providing tax assistance are certified by the IRS.

With constant changes occurring on a state and national level, people requesting assistance have access to capable volunteers who can provide the answers. Changes with the healthcare system and the Affordable Care Act have caused great concern. We like to utilize the tax program as a platform to help clarify the impact of insurance on tax returns as well as provide information on resources. Filers also often have questions about the numerous forms, the legal requirements of filing, exemptions they are eligible for, and more. We can help!

There has always been a passion for volunteerism and community in my life. I am excited for this new endeavor as a leader with this program. I am looking forward to a robust tax season and helping individuals and families receive the funds they are entitled to.

If you are interested in getting help with your taxes, learning about our service offerings and eligibility requirements, or want to find out where and when services are offered, please visit our all-in-one website: www.vitawestmichigan.org or call 2-1-1 to schedule an appointment.

If you earned less than $62,000 last year, and would like to file on your own, visit www.myfreetaxes.com and file for free using easy, safe, and secure software provided by H&R Block.

Donate a little time. Make a BIG impact.

By Amanda Grover, Tax Program Coordinator

How many volunteer opportunities have you heard of that can make a $5,000 difference in someone’s life? Volunteers involved in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Services for West Michigan can tell you it is a very rewarding experience. Last tax season, volunteers assisted more than 2,200 households in West Michigan, and the economic impact of our efforts was greater than $2.4 million.

We are always looking for new volunteers! No accounting or tax experience is required – you only need a little time, some basic computer knowledge, and the desire to learn.

This free tax preparation program assists low-to moderate-income individuals, and for some, this is the largest lump sum of money they will receive all year. For some struggling families, these tax returns make a big difference – enabling them to stay in their homes, pay overdue bills, and buy groceries.

The program has been hugely beneficial to our community, and volunteering is a great opportunity to learn something new and develop a useful life-long skill. Our VITA volunteers have enjoyed getting to know each other and experiencing the camaraderie that results from our common goal. A few of our student volunteers turned the experience into an internship and a way to gain future job references. Regardless of the various benefits, volunteers agree that the biggest reward comes from the gratitude of people receiving the service, and learning first hand how much the return is going help that person or family.

The free tax preparation program has had a presence in Muskegon for over a decade. Goodwill became the lead agency for the program four years ago. There are lots of volunteer times and locations to choose from! This coming tax season, there will be 11 sites in four counties: Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, and Lake. Sites operate at various times but appointments are available anywhere between 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. There will also be select sites operating on Saturdays.

To learn more about volunteering with VITA Services for West Michigan, please contact me at 231-722-7871, ext. 246 or send me an email at agrover@goodwillwm.org

VITA volunteers change lives

By Jane Drake, Prosperity Center Manager

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is an IRS-sponsored program that helps thousands of low-income taxpayers with free tax preparation assistance each year. The assistance is provided by volunteers who complete free training in tax law and pass IRS certification tests.

Why would anyone volunteer to go through hours of tax law training, take tests, and then sign up for shifts to prepare tax returns for strangers?  Our over 30 volunteers who worked at the VITA sites last tax season will tell you they do it because they are helping their communities, and they really do change lives. They help taxpayers who are struggling to claim all the refunds they have earned so they can pay bills, reduce debt, and even build savings.

I became a certified VITA volunteer last tax season. It was my first year managing the program. I thought it was important to have hands-on experience at the VITA tax sites. The work turned out to be more rewarding than I ever imagined.

First, I really enjoyed working with my fellow volunteers. Volunteers are by definition nice people – and VITA volunteers are no exception. They really do care about others and they want to make a difference.

Second, the clients were so appreciative and grateful for the services they received. It was not unusual for clients to hug us, send thank you notes, and even cry with joy and relief with the help we were able to provide them.

Finally, I was surprised to discover that I enjoyed doing taxes! Each return and client situation was different. I would apply all my new tax knowledge and sort out all the information the client provided, enter it into the tax software, and then make it all come out correctly in a nice, neat tax return.

More volunteers are needed! If you would like to spend some time with a great bunch of people, work with clients who will truly appreciate your help, and enjoy great satisfaction from doing worthwhile work, please join us and sign up to be a VITA volunteer. Contact Amanda Grover, Goodwill VITA Volunteer Coordinator, at 231-722-7871 ext. 246, or agrover@goodwillwm.org; or register online at www.abc-wm.volunteerhub.com.

You won’t regret it.