Head back-to-school with Goodwill!

By Rachael Kaminski

Okay, parents and students—we’re in the homestretch now for the back-to-school season. As far as snapping up the coolest styles and other accessories it’s now or never! Don’t let yourself get dragged into stores with long lines and high prices. Come to Goodwill instead! You’ll be able to cross every item off of your shopping list (from dorm-worthy dishes to kindergarten kicks) all in one place while at the same time bringing job opportunities into your neighborhood.

pexels-photo-225017Shopping with little ones can seem so impossible at times, but bringing them along for the ride is also the only way you can be really sure about the fit of your finds for them. So what do you do when the countdown to the first day of school is in single digits and you still don’t have what you need?

Read these super helpful tips for thrifting for your back-to-school needs from Amiyrah of the blog Four Hats & Frugal!

She’s got some bold tricks up her sleeve that will help you survive the season, kids in tow. My favorite is to give each kiddo their own cash to shop with. This will help them learn to budget and take charge of their own style. What better way to warm up their brains for school-thinking after months of summer fun? Even the littlest kids can help with this! Read her helpful back-to-school shopping tips here.

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Middle school and junior high shopping brings its own unique set of problems. Teens will probably want to pour their whole back-to-school budget into fashion pieces. But don’t let them skip the organizational elements that will streamline life between classes. 

 I’m talking about little hanging baskets, pint-sized mirrors, and other tiny items to keep their locker tidy and useful. While rushing through the hall, your student would be able to quickly swing in to swap out books, grab a new pencil, hair elastic, or calculator without having to dig around for them all. Then, with a quick peek in their hanging mirror, they’re off to their next class before the bell rings. Scope out your local Goodwill for little baskets, bins, and locker accessories like this then grab some strong magnetic hooks to keep them in place.

Check out these DIY videos on how to make your own back-to-school locker organizer, dry erase or corkboardneon shoes and much more!

Once college rolls around, the priorities and shopping needs for students change once again. And yet, Goodwill can still help. From stocking your dorm room to the off-campus apartment, Goodwill will be your best friend. Cost-effective, brand new and gently loved items will help fill your kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and living room with function and fun pieces. From pots, and pans to lamps, dressers, couches, and the best part decor! 

Check out this blog about a DIY Lamp Makeover I completed a few years ago, it’s still one of my favorites!

Goodwill can help you find much more than just back-to-school and dorm room supplies! We have part-time job opportunities and volunteer experience that can help build your resume while still going to class. We’re looking for fun, energetic part-time retail employees the help on nights and weekends. It’s the perfect opportunity to earn a little spending money! Interested? Apply online today.

Looking for volunteer, internship and work experience opportunities? Our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program is ideal for those college students. Read all about Brett’s experience as a student volunteer tax preparer. Not only did he receive a $500 stipend he also got hired right after graduation! Interested in volunteering? Call Brett at (231) 722-7871 x 1073. 

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VITA Volunteer: Brett

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By Jasam “Brett” Layne-Roy, Goodwill Tax Program Coordinator

My name is Jasam Brett Layne-Roy, I was a student volunteer tax preparer for the VITA program this past year and it was an amazing experience. I was able to make an impact in my own community, fulfill my work experience requirements at Baker College, and was able to apply my current coursework directly in my daily tasks.

I was put in touch with Carl and the VITA program near the end of last year. I had been searching for a job for several weeks thinking I would capitalize on the tax season but most places either had full classes for training or they had no open positions. I went to Baker College to speak with someone to help me find something to fulfill my work experience credit and ended up speaking with one of the program directors who told me about this volunteer program that provided tax preparation assistance. She had also thought there was a stipend of some kind so it wouldn’t be completely unpaid.

The volunteer work alone was incredibly rewarding but the additional assistance that the stipend afforded was just what I needed. I was able to cover most of my book costs with that stipend…which was the bare minimum that I was going for at the time. That allowed me to focus on volunteer work and not need an additional job that wouldn’t further my career or impact my home life or coursework. The stipend helped me to recruit more students that wanted to volunteer and needed some additional support for their school costs. In addition to the added benefit of the work experience and the stipend, volunteering with the VITA program has given me a few new opportunities in potential scholarship funding as some requirements for scholarships include of performing community service.

Over the summer months and throughout the fall, we will be recruiting volunteers for the VITA program for the next tax season. We are looking for individuals that can volunteer around 10 hours per month to aid in our recruitment drives by attending brainstorming meetings, setting up and run a table or booth at a local event, and spreading awareness about the VITA program! We will need your assistance from July through October, and hopefully again when the new tax season hits early next year. If you are interested, please call me at (231) 722-7871 x 1073

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Don’t let gossip guide your charitable giving

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By Kim Harsch, Resource Development Coordinator

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. A time for family gatherings, warm fires, showering those we love with gifts, for cold noses and hot chocolate, and …spreading false rumors about charitable organizations? Yes, it happens each year around the holidays: negative falsehoods that spread like a California wildfire throughout social media. These rumors are designed to cover well-known nonprofits in a cloud of doubt and suspicion. Mostly, however, copied negative memes draw the focus away from those in need and reflect much more poorly on the person posting them then they do on the organization.

Why? If you post something that is not true, you admit to the general masses that you do not take the time to verify the truth and therefore WANT TO BE A NEGATIVE GOSSIPER. Yes, I said it. You want to gossip. Sorry, I know that isn’t a very Christmassy thing to say but even your elf on the shelf wouldn’t hit “post” without verifying the accuracy of such damaging information.

Bad holiday humor aside, these lies are damaging. Let me give you an example. You may have noticed on social media, the so-called “Think Before You Donate” viral rumor has been circulating. I know it’s popped up on my Facebook feed and has even been shared by a few of my friends. Here is an image of the actual meme:

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This gets shared and shared every year and every year I tell my friends again that this information is false and I give them links to properly research the information. To set the record straight on this particular rumor about Goodwill, an organization I hold so dear, no person named Mark Curran has ever been a CEO at Goodwill Industries and no one in the organization earns the $2.3 million in compensation mentioned in the rumor! Also, Goodwill is not owned by any individual, but in fact is a network of 161 community-based, autonomous nonprofit 501(c)3 organizations. The one that I work for, Goodwill Industries of West Michigan, is headquartered in Muskegon with a service territory encompassing, all or portions of, 12 surrounding counties.

All of this factual information is easily available on Goodwill’s website at http://www.goodwillwm.org. It is also verifiable through www.guidestar.org, a third party nonprofit dedicated to researching and rating charitable organizations according to their financial transparency and mission delivery. On Guidestar, you can look at each nonprofit’s actual 990 tax forms to see their revenue sources and how they are spending it. It’s an invaluable resource if you wish to make charitable donations. And it is easily accessible by anyone on the internet.

As a strong believer in Goodwill’s mission as well as an employee of Goodwill, it is incredibly frustrating and disheartening to have to combat this bogus information year after year. Time and money we spend trying to educate misinformed people only detracts from our mission.

I know most of you are aware of the positive impact our organization has on the West Michigan community. Through the revenue generated by your generous donations of household items and monetary contributions, we offer vital employment placement, job training, and support services to members of our community, including people with disabilities, ex-offenders, displaced workers, and more.

My friends who have unknowingly circulated these lies believe in helping our community and they are not thinking about the nearly 5,000 people in West Michigan our Goodwill helps each year. But those are the people affected if donations drop – not some fictitious person named Mark Curran. Remember, as a leader in our community, your voice matters. If you see the “Think Before You Donate” rumor circulating in your social networks, I hope you’ll join us in stopping negative gossip and correcting the information head on. And I hope that you will continue to help us change lives through the power of work by not letting fake news dissuade you from giving! http://bit.ly/2AGyvEe

New tax season= New options

By Carl Lewis, Tax Preparation Coordinator

Another tax season is rapidly approaching and we are gearing up to serve the community. Each year it is a challenge to serve the increasing demand, but it’s also a very rewarding experience to be a part of an effort that positively impacts so many people and families in West Michigan.

Last year, our dedicated Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) volunteers filed nearly 3,000 federal and state tax returns, and returned more than $3 million to the community!

Recruiting VITA volunteers continues to be a challenge. This year, thanks to a generous grant from the Community Foundation for Muskegon County, we were able to offer eligible college students – many studying finance or accounting – a $500 stipend each for their efforts. Thanks to some helpful collaborative professors at MCC and Baker, we were able to recruit 15 new volunteers through this initiative.

All of our tax preparers must be thoroughly trained and pass an IRS certification test. It has been a pleasure to train and share my experience with others. Knowing how to do taxes is a valuable life-long skill!

Also new this year is a “drop and go” full-service option. Filers meet with an intake specialist to deliver necessary documents and pick up their completed returns a week later. This eliminates wait time and gives volunteers more flexible work hours and an opportunity to work at their own pace.

Helping people with their taxes also presents opportunities for us to help and advise people on their overall financial wellness. Goodwill’s MoneyWorks financial services can help people achieve their financial goals, such as owning their own home or getting out of debt.

If you are interested in volunteering, please contact me at (231) 722-7871, ext.1071 clewis@goodwillwm.org

For more information on VITA, including a list of tax site locations and hours, visit www.vitawestmichigan.org

Three great reasons to donate during the Younkers Goodwill Sale

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articipating in the Younkers Goodwill Sale has never been so rewarding!

Here’s how the sale works:
Bring your gently used apparel, shoes, handbags, etc. to Younkers
Earn a 25% off Younkers coupon for each item donated. It’s that easy!

Here are three great reasons to donate items and shop now through March 26.

You directly impact your community by donating to Goodwill.
Funds generated by the sale of your donated items supports our job training and employment support services that help people right here in West Michigan. Goodwill offers and broad range of programs for people with disabilities and other disadvantages, and Goodwill Career Centers in both Muskegon and Holland are open to anyone needing help finding a job.

It’s easy to donate and save on spring fashions, beauty, and home.
Donors receive 25% off Younkers coupons for every item donated. Coupons are valid on nearly everything in the store (and online) including items that rarely go on sale.

It’s a great time to shop at Goodwill also … all those fresh donations are directly distributed to our Goodwill stores.

Enter to win a $100 daily prize and a $15,000 spring wardrobe makeover!
Visit the Million Acts of Goodwill website to enter for your chance to win a $15,000 spring style and wardrobe makeover. The winner will receive a consultation with a celebrity stylist, a closet review, and a shopping spree with the stylist at their local Younkers department store.

You can also visit the site daily for your chance to instantly win a $100 gift card!

What are you waiting for? Start your spring cleaning early and head over to Younkers for great savings!

 

We love our donors

By James Cherney, Retail Operations Director

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Happy New Year! I would like to thank everyone who donated, shopped, volunteered, and assisted, Goodwill Industries of West Michigan in 2015. Your generous contributions helped someone in our community find a job, keep a job, and earn a paycheck. Work is something we should never take for granted; just ask a person who has a barrier to employment. Work provides a sense of purpose, self-esteem, and independence. The power of work really does change lives!

Goodwill’s mission, and our ability to serve others, comes from community. As we enter February — one of the coldest months of the year — I’m asking you to bear the snow and ice, and please donate your gently used items to any one of our 18 conveniently located donation centers.

Donations are the lifeblood of our mission; a mission that never stops or takes a time out due to inclement weather. Goodwill staff are ready to greet you and accept your unwanted clothing, toys, housewares, furniture, electronics, and more. Your donations are handled with great care, and sorted and processed for their fullest value, for someone else to use and enjoy.

Need a receipt? Our easy online donation calculator does the math for you and allows you to print out an itemized receipt for your tax records.

Thank you for a wonderful 2015, we are looking forward to an even more prosperous 2016, and with your assistance we will be able to serve more people this year and many more years to come.

To find a Goodwill store and donation center nearest you, visit: http://www.goodwillwm.org/donate/where-to-donate/

To utilize the Goodwill donation calculator, visit: http://www.goodwillwm.org/donate/donation-calculator/

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.