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.

note pads

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. 

VITA student recruitment (1)

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

We love our donors

By James Cherney, Retail Operations Director

James Cherney

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

carl lewis

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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.