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.

Providing quality services to enhance lives

By Richard Carlson, President and CEO

Iam pleased to report that Goodwill Industries of West Michigan was recently awarded its 14th consecutive, three-year accreditation from CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) International.

The accreditation award for our Goodwill includes these internationally recognized categories: Community Employment Services-Employment Supports, Community Employment Services-Job Development, Comprehensive Vocational Evaluation Services, Employee Development Services, Organizational Employment Services, and Governance Standards.

The goal of CARF is to ensure that persons served remain at the center of the service delivery process. By pursuing and achieving accreditation, Goodwill Industries of West Michigan has demonstrated that it meets international standards and is committed to pursuing excellence. This accreditation decision also represents the highest level of accreditation that can be awarded to an organization and recognizes that Goodwill Industries has put itself through a rigorous peer review process and has demonstrated to a team of surveyors during an on-site visit that its programs and services are of the highest quality, measurable, and accountable.

The CARF Survey Report contains comments on numerous areas of our organization strengths.

Here are a few excerpts from their findings:

  • Goodwill Industries of West Michigan is a mission-driven organization that provides person-centered services and demonstrates a remarkable commitment to continuous quality improvement of its business functions and service delivery practices. Particularly noteworthy are the organizations community engagement efforts and dedication to providing a safe work environment for persons served and staff members.
  • The organization maintains meticulous records and documentation that support compliance with Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Its attention to detail in this area demonstrates a commitment and unwavering promise to offer an array of employment choices to persons served. Parents and persons served express deep satisfaction with services they receive from Goodwill Industries of West Michigan. A common theme in their comments is the professionalism, dedication, and enthusiasm of staff members and how often they “exceed expectations.”
  • There appears to be excellent rapport and mutual respect among the management team, staff members and persons served.  The high level of professionalism among staff members and the organization’s collaborative and respectful working conditions are evident. Local funders describe Goodwill Industries of West Michigan as a strong collaborator with the flexibility to successfully navigate the changing landscape of employment for persons with significant disabilities.
  • Goodwill Industries of West Michigan invested resources in a significant event and professionally created video that highlight and celebrate successful employment outcomes of persons served. The event includes multiple persons served and broadens the organization’s reputation as a premier provider of employment support services in the community.

Attaining and maintaining our CARF-accredited status requires a significant effort, strong teamwork, and a commitment at all levels of the organization to providing quality services and enhancing the lives of the people we serve. My appreciation is extended to our Goodwill board of directors, leadership teams, and all staff members for their dedication and commitment to the never-ending story of Goodwill’s mission to enhance people’s lives through the power of work.

First sign of spring = Younkers Goodwill Sale

By Jim Cherney, Retail Operations Director

Each year – as we anticipate the end to our long, cold, Michigan winter and our donation stream trickles to a drip – we are blessed with the Younkers Goodwill Spring Sale. It is the much-needed, early March boost we can count on to lift our weary spirits!

This year, the sale kicks off on March 13 and runs through Saturday March 29. It’s the perfect incentive to inspire folks to start cleaning out their closets with the thawing of the snow and warmer days ahead.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the sale, it works like this: anyone donating to Goodwill during this two-and-a-half week period – either at a Goodwill store or Younkers – receives a 25% off Younkers coupon for each item donated. Donate six items and you get six coupons. Donate 25 items? Get 25 coupons! (You get the idea.) And the coupons are good toward items that rarely (if ever) go on sale.

Donors are not only rewarded with discounts on new spring items, but they help make a difference in our community by supporting Goodwill’s mission of job training and placement programs for people who need helping finding a job.

Savvy Goodwill shoppers also know that this is an excellent time to shop at Goodwill as a new crop of high-quality donations begin to refill our stores.

We are so grateful to Younkers and their ongoing support and belief in our mission. Held each spring and fall, the sale is the largest and longest-standing department store donation drive with Goodwill. Since its inception in 1994, the cause-marketing collaboration has generated an estimated value of more than $211 million in revenue to support Goodwill’s employment services.

So what are you waiting for? Start cleaning out your closets. Spring will be here before you know it!

For even more discounts, and a chance to win prizes, visit Younkers’ Million Acts of Goodwill website at Millionactsofgoodwill.com.