United Way Offers Free Tax Help Across Sacramento Region

Households throughout the Sacramento region are eligible for free help preparing their taxes and claiming credits this year, saving an average of $200 in preparer fees and often earning thousands of dollars in credits. United Way California Capital Region’s Free Tax Prep program, supported by Citi Community Development, kicked off in early February and continues across the region through April 15 at weekend community events and dozens of weekday sites throughout Amador, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic tax return preparation with electronic filing and help guests claim the maximum tax credits for which they are eligible. To receive help, households must have earned $60,000 or less in 2018. Services are available in several languages, and many locations require appointments. For locations and events: YourFreeTaxPrep.org. To make an appointment: call 2-1-1 or (800) 500-4931 (toll free).

“This is an important time of year for families in our community. They could be eligible to receive hundreds, even thousands, of dollars in refunds to help them become financially stable,” said Stephanie Bray, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “We encourage every eligible household to check out our locations offering free help throughout tax season and see how much money you are eligible for through the many tax credits available.” 

Households that earned $66,000 or less in 2018 are eligible to file their taxes for free online at MyFreeTaxes.org through a partnership with United Ways of California. The site provides households with free tax help they can trust and guides users through federal and state filing, including tax credits, with software powered by H&R Block. Users need a valid email address, income forms and Adjusted Gross Income from 2018.

This year, more households are eligible to claim federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC and Cal EITC), Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. Age qualification for Cal EITC has been expanded to include ages 18-24 and working adults ages 65 and up, giving more taxpayers the opportunity to earn up to $6,500 in credits, including those who are self-employed. Many Cal EITC-eligible households are not legally required to file taxes due to very low incomes; however if they do file, they can claim the state and federal credits for which they are eligible. Due to federal law, those who file for EITC, Cal EITC or Child Tax Credit should plan for their refund to be delayed until end of February, no matter who prepares their taxes. For more information about available tax credits, visit YourFreeTaxPrep.org.

Nearly 8,500 households in the Sacramento area took advantage of United Way’s Free Tax Prep services for the 2017 tax year, resulting in more than $10 million in money claimed through credits and refunds. With support from Citi Community Development, free tax help was significantly expanded across the region last year in Amador, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties, increasing the number of households helped by more than 2,500 and resulting in more than a $3 million increase in refunds for the region compared to last year.

“The Earned Income Tax Credit is a vital tool that provides families with a much-needed cash infusion, one that can help them pay down debts, cover expenses, and even get on the road to saving and planning for the future, ” said Mary Hogarty, vice president, Citi Community Development. “Through our support for United Way California Capital Region, we aim to expand access to tax credits like the EITC and free tax preparation for eligible people that help enable more working families to build resilient financial futures.”

Other sponsors of United Way’s 2019 Free Tax Prep program include the IRS, the State of California Department of Community Services and Development, and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

For nearly 100 years, United Way California Capital Region has brought local people together to make community change happen. Today, the nonprofit is bringing people together across Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties for its Square One Project, a 20-year promise to significantly increase the number of students in our region who graduate from high school ready for success in college and beyond. United Way believes ending generational poverty starts in school and is working to ensure kids meet important milestones and their families receive support and resources. To learn more and make a donation: YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

United Way to Hold Beer and Trivia Night Fundraiser

Sacramento-area young professionals can show off their knowledge of early 2000s trivia while raising funds to help local kindergarteners save for college at United Way’s Young Leaders Society’s annual Brews & Brains trivia night on Feb. 8 from 5:30-8 p.m. at the Sacramento Masonic Temple, 1123 J Street. Guests, who must be age 21 or older, will enjoy beer, food and chances to win prizes. Guests who register as a team of six by Jan. 28 will receive the early bird rate of $135, which includes a Brews & Brains pint glass, and food and drink tickets for each team member. Individuals and couples can register for $25 each to be placed on a team and receive food and a drink ticket. To learn more: www.yourlocalunitedway.org/brewsandbrains2019.

“Whether you want to show off your useless knowledge, enjoy beer, help kids or all of the above, this is the event for you,” said Creston Whiting-Casey, chair of United Way’s Young Leaders Society. “The energy in the room is always a lot of fun as we tackle questions ranging from pop culture to politics – all to help kids in our region get excited early about going to college.”

Research shows that children with even modestly funded college savings accounts are three times more likely to attend college – and four times more likely to complete college – than those without a college savings account. Parents and guardians who attend two free financial education and empowerment courses earn a $200 college savings account for their kindergartener. Parents, relatives and friends may make additional contributions to help grow the student’s account. The program recognizes that early intervention and continued parental involvement dramatically increase the probability that children will achieve higher education.

“We want to create the expectation very early in every child’s life that higher education is both a desirable and achievable goal,” said Stephanie Bray, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “It’s fantastic to see young professionals coming together to make sure all kids have the same access to education beyond high school.”

For nearly 100 years, United Way California Capital Region has brought local people together to make community change happen. Today, the nonprofit is bringing people together across Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties for its Square One Project, a 20-year promise to significantly increase the number of students in our region who graduate from high school ready for success in college and beyond. United Way believes ending generational poverty starts in school and is working to ensure kids meet important milestones and their families receive support and resources. To learn more and make a donation: www.yourlocalunitedway.org.

Women’s Empowerment Receives $25K From U.S. Bank

Women’s Empowerment has received a $25,000 grant from U.S. Bank Foundation’s Community Possible program. The grant will fund job skills training, career-readiness classes and financial literacy programs for Sacramento women experiencing homelessness.

“U.S. Bank continues to invest in the bright futures of homeless women through its generous donations to our job-readiness programs,” said Lisa Culp, executive director, Women’s Empowerment. “Our partnership with U.S. Bank ensures women can break the cycle of homelessness by gaining the skills needed to secure employment, regain a home and manage finances. When our mothers become financially self-sufficient, they create a better life for their children.”

Since 2001, Women’s Empowerment has been working to break the cycle of homelessness for women and children in Sacramento. In the initial nine-week program, women who are homeless receive free onsite child care in the group’s child development center and transportation assistance. Each woman works with a master’s level social worker to address her root causes of homelessness. She attends classes on job-readiness, confidence building, health and empowerment, as well as support groups for domestic violence and substance abuse. Financial empowerment courses are provided, including budgeting, improving credit score and second chance checking. With the help of volunteer teachers, women unlearn financial habits and create a step-by-step action plan for achieving their financial goals. Women then focus on job placement with their employment specialist and volunteer career mentor.

Women who have graduated from the nine-week program can enroll in the group’s graduate services at any point when they need assistance. Services include paid job training, vocational certifications, counseling with a social worker and employment specialist, access to a professional clothing closet, and job retention services for employer and employee. 

“At U.S. Bank, we invest in and support programs and organizations that help people succeed in the workforce and gain greater financial literacy,” said Jessica Cook, assistant vice president at U.S. Bank. “Through our Community Possible giving and engagement platform we are working to close the gaps between people and possibility. Our partnership with Women’s Empowerment is doing just that.”

Women’s Empowerment was featured on NBC’s The TODAY Show in 2015 for offering the most comprehensive job-readiness program in the Sacramento area designed specifically for women who are homeless and their children. The award-winning organization has graduated 1,554 homeless women and their 3,738 children. Last year, 82 percent of graduates found homes and 76 percent found jobs or enrolled in school or training. The program combines self-esteem courses, job training, health classes and support services to help homeless women across diverse ages, races and cultures. Women’s Empowerment is funded through private donations from the community and receives no government funding except for in-kind rent from the County of Sacramento. To make a donation: www.womens-empowerment.org.

Community Possible is the corporate giving and volunteer program at U.S. Bank, focused on the areas of Work, Home and Play. The company invests in programs that provide stable employment, a safe place to call home and a community connected through arts, culture, recreation and play. For more information: www.usbank.com/community.

Society for the Blind Joins National Fitness Challenge

Society for the Blind, a Sacramento-based nonprofit serving blind and low vision people in Northern California, has received a grant from Anthem Blue Cross and CareMore Foundations to create opportunities for individuals to participate in the National Fitness Challenge, an initiative founded by the United States Association of Blind Athletes and the parent Foundation of Anthem Blue Cross and CareMore. Society for the Blind is one of 17 organizations across the nation that is participating in the National Fitness Challenge and is using grant funding to offer adaptive yoga classes, walking groups, running clinics and other sports and fitness activities that can help people who are blind or low-vision to maximize healthy lifestyles. These activities will be offered over the course of eight months to help hundreds of youth and adults to increase physical fitness levels and live healthier lives.

“The goal of the National Fitness Challenge is to help people with visual disabilities to live more active lifestyles,” said Shari Roeseler, executive director, Society for the Blind. “The program launched during Blindness Awareness Month in October, and through May 31, 2019, will highlight what people with visual disabilities can do, rather than what they cannot do. We are lucky to live in an age where a person with vision loss can achieve most anything they set their mind to doing, and we are grateful to Anthem Blue Cross Foundation and CareMore Foundation for helping us to empower this year’s participants.”

This year’s challenge integrates technology and social media to inspire participants to set goals, create team environments and encourage leadership. Each participant has been provided with a Fitbit Flex 2 wearable – a universal way to measure activities, calories burned and number of steps taken. Participants also have the opportunity to utilize Fitbit Coach, which is a personalized training app that provides adaptive video workouts and audio coaching. Foundation grant funding is being used to provide Fitbits, fitness and nutritional instruction, performance prizes as well as technical and financial support for all participants.

“Research has consistently shown that individuals who participate in regular physical activity to improve their health have higher energy levels, lower risk of health-related diseases, improved psychological health, and lower rates of depression and anxiety,” said Ricardo Young, CareMore Health Medical Director. “We are proud to support members of the Society for the Blind through our collaboration with the National Fitness Challenge, and to create access to activities supporting healthier individuals and stronger communities.”

More than half of those who are blind or low vision in the United States do not participate in even a limited physical fitness routine, mostly due to barriers to accessible fitness or misconceptions about their abilities. Individuals of all abilities should have equal opportunities to engage in activities that improve health outcomes, so the National Fitness Challenge aims to increase access to fitness and health for blind and low vision people.

“Anthem Blue Cross Foundation is committed to removing barriers and increasing access to critical programs and services that help individuals and communities to lead healthier lives,” said Dr. Barsam Kasravi, Interim Anthem Blue Cross Medicaid Plan President. “We are proud of our Foundation’s ongoing support of people with visual disabilities and are confident that this support will go a long way in helping Californians to improve their overall wellness while enjoying the physical and emotional benefits of exercise and group sports.”

Since 2011, the parent Foundation of Anthem Blue Cross and CareMore has provided $1.3 million in grant funding to U.S. Association of Blind Athletes for the National Fitness Challenge initiative and has impacted thousands of Americans with visual disabilities by partnering with 40 different agencies across the country. To learn more about the National Fitness Challenge, visit www.usaba.org/NationalFitnessChallenge.

For more than 60 years, Society for the Blind has created innovative ways to empower individuals living with low vision or blindness to discover, develop and achieve their full potential. Society for the Blind has grown from a dedicated group of volunteers to a nationally recognized agency and the only comprehensive rehabilitative teaching center that provides services for a 27-county region of northern California. The nonprofit provides low-vision eye care, life and job skills training, mentorship, and access to tools to maintain independence for more than 5,000 youth, adults and seniors experiencing vision loss each year. For more information: SocietyfortheBlind.org.

Through charitable grant making, the Anthem Blue Cross Foundation LLC, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Association promotes Anthem Blue Cross’s inherent commitment to enhance the health and well-being of individuals and families in communities that the company serves. The Foundation focuses its funding on strategic initiatives that address and provide innovative solutions to healthcare challenges, as well as promoting the Healthy Generations Program, a multi-generational initiative that targets specific disease states and medical conditions. These include: prenatal care in the first trimester, low birth weight babies, cardiac morbidity rates, long term activities that decrease obesity and increase physical activity, diabetes prevalence in adult populations, adult pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations and smoking cessation. The foundation also coordinates the company’s year-round Associate Giving program that provides a 50 percent match of associates’ pledges, as well as its Volunteer Time Off and Dollars for Doers community service programs. ®ANTHEM is a registered trademark of Anthem Insurance Companies, Inc. The Blue Cross names and symbol are registered marks of the Blue Cross Association.

The CareMore Foundation is the philanthropic arm of CareMore Health, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Anthem, Inc. Together, with local, regional and national organizations, the CareMore Foundation works to enhance the health and well-being of individuals and families in the communities that CareMore serves. CareMore Foundation funding is focused on strategic initiatives working to address and provide innovative solutions for complex health conditions like diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and congestive heart failure, and those promoting prevention and healthy aging. It also supports programs and initiatives addressing social determinants and barriers to quality care.  CareMore Foundation also promotes the Healthy Generations Program, a multi-generational initiative with five areas of focus: Healthy Heart, Cancer Prevention, Healthy Maternal Practices, Type 2 Diabetes Prevention and Healthy Active Lifestyle.

Donate Gifts and Stockings for Foster Youth Through United Way

Many Sacramento-area children uprooted from their homes this holiday season and placed in foster care will enter the system too late to sign up for gift donations through Sacramento County Child Protective Services. To fill this need, United Way California Capital Region has expanded its Holiday Gift and Stocking Drive focus to include these children. Local residents can join United Way’s Women United and Young Leaders Society action groups in spreading holiday cheer to foster youth by purchasing gifts from United Way’s Amazon wishlist, donating $25 for a filled holiday stocking, or giving the Ultimate Gift Package – a $100 donation that provides a filled stocking and gift for foster youth, as well as a donation to United Way California Capital Region. To learn more about United Way’s Holiday Gift and Stocking Drive, visit www.yourlocalunitedway.org.

“Most nonprofits have to begin creating gift donation drives in the fall. That means many children uprooted from their homes through no fault of their own in the last couple months of the year will not receive a gift or stocking – that is unacceptable, so we’re filling that gap,” said Stephanie Bray, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “All children in our community deserve to feel cared for during the holidays, no matter where they live.”

A donation of $25 purchases one holiday stocking filled with personal items, a gift card, gloves and a blanket. Holiday gifts purchased through United Way’s Amazon Wishlist must be new, unused, unwrapped and received by Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m. at United Way’s office, 10389 Old Placerville Road, Sacramento.

For nearly 100 years, United Way California Capital Region has brought local people together to make community change happen. Today, the nonprofit is bringing people together across Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties for its Square One Project, a 20-year promise to significantly increase the number of students in our region who graduate from high school ready for success in college and beyond. United Way believes ending generational poverty starts in school and is working to ensure kids meet important milestones and their families receive support and resources. To learn more and make a donation: www.yourlocalunitedway.org.

Be Baby’s First Santa: Baby Basket Drive for Sacramento Life Center

Local residents are invited to be a baby’s first Santa as Sacramento Life Center holds its annual Baby Basket Drive for local women and teens spending the holidays preparing to become new moms in the coming year. The drive runs through Dec. 31 so the Sacramento Life Center can provide a basket of needed items to every patient who gives birth in 2019. Donations can be made online at www.saclife.org. Gifts can be made in any increment, but a donation of $50 buys one basket, which includes formula, diapers, newborn clothes, pacifiers and more.

“One of the most overwhelming feelings is learning that you’re pregnant and fearing you won’t have the resources to care for your vulnerable baby,” said Marie Leatherby, executive director, Sacramento Life Center. “Sometimes something as simple as a gift of diapers and newborn clothes can give expecting mothers the confidence that they have a support system to help raise their child. Gifts to our Baby Basket Drive give expecting mothers proof that they will always have a family here at the Sacramento Life Center and supporters out in the community rooting for their family.”

The Sacramento Life Center’s mission is to offer compassion, support, resources and free medical care to women and couples facing an unplanned or unsupported pregnancy. The Sacramento Life Center’s licensed Sac Valley Pregnancy Clinic includes a primary clinic and two Mobile Medical Clinics that provide all services for free, including pregnancy tests, STD tests, ultrasounds, peer counseling for men and women, education and resource referrals. The nonprofit also offers a school-based teen education program, a 24-hour hotline and a program for women experiencing reproductive grief. For more information about the Sacramento Life Center’s Sac Valley Pregnancy Clinic, visit www.svpclinic.com. For more information about the Sacramento Life Center or to make a donation, visit www.saclife.org.

Filled Stockings Needed for Formerly Homeless Women and Kids in Sacramento

Women's Empowerment graduate receives holiday stocking

Local residents can bring smiles to formerly homeless women and children in Sacramento this holiday season by contributing to Women’s Empowerment’s annual Holiday Stocking Drive. The group is seeking 250 unstuffed stockings and specific fillers for local infants and toddlers, children, teens and adult women by Dec. 5. For the list of items needed: www.womens-empowerment.org.

“The women and children in our program have known the coldest, loneliest holiday seasons. The community’s simple gift of stockings brings immeasurable joy along with warm winter accessories as they celebrate their first holiday season in a home they can call their own,” said Lisa Culp, executive director, Women’s Empowerment.

Those interested also can donate $40 to have a volunteer elf fill a stocking or donate $15 Target gift cards. Items can be dropped off at 1590 North A Street in Sacramento, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Women’s Empowerment was featured on NBC’s The TODAY Show in 2015 for offering the most comprehensive job-readiness program in the Sacramento area designed specifically for women who are homeless and their children. The award-winning organization has graduated 1,543 homeless women and their 3,710 children. Last year, 92 percent of graduates found homes and 77 percent found jobs or enrolled in school or training. The program combines self-esteem courses, job training, health classes and support services to help homeless women across diverse ages, races and cultures. Women’s Empowerment is funded through private donations from the community and receives no government funding except for in-kind rent from the County of Sacramento. To make a donation: www.womens-empowerment.org.

Sac Artists and Singers Go Underground to Raise Funds for Women’s Empowerment

Community members are invited to go underground on Oct. 27 to attend Cabaret on K, an evening of musical performances with a nod to Halloween, featuring a haunting mix of cabaret, jazz, classical and musical theatre pieces by Sacramento group Rogue Music Project. Guests are welcome to come in costume and will enjoy complimentary desserts and drinks for purchase.

The event, sponsored by Capital Public Radio, will take place in the Capitol Plaza Ballrooms basement, 1025 9th Street in Sacramento, and will raise funds for Women’s Empowerment’s job-readiness programs for homeless women and the group’s onsite center for homeless children. Nearly a dozen local artists will display and sell their work, with 50 percent of art proceeds donated to Women’s Empowerment. Tickets are $50 at www.womens-empowerment.org. Guests must be age 21 or older.

“Cabaret on K is the perfect opportunity to have a positive impact on your community while celebrating Sacramento’s thriving arts scene,” said Lisa Culp, executive director, Women’s Empowerment. “Guests will enjoy live music and art while helping to end homelessness for women and their children.”

Women’s Empowerment was featured on NBC’s The TODAY Show in 2015 for offering the most comprehensive job-readiness program in the Sacramento area designed specifically for women who are homeless and their children. The award-winning organization has graduated 1,543 homeless women and their 3,710 children. Last year, 92 percent of graduates found homes and 77 percent found jobs or enrolled in school or training. The program combines self-esteem courses, job training, health classes and support services to help homeless women across diverse ages, races and cultures. Women’s Empowerment is funded through private donations from the community and receives no government funding except for in-kind rent from the County of Sacramento. To make a donation: www.womens-empowerment.org.

Thousand Volunteers Needed for United Way’s Day of Caring

One thousand local residents are needed to spend a day caring for the community Sept. 21-22 by signing up for more than a dozen volunteer projects happening at nonprofits and schools across the region during United Way’s annual Day of Caring, sponsored by Nationwide. As part of Day of Caring, United Way and Robla School District will host the Robla I Care Fair for families on Sept. 22 at Robla Community Park, 625 Bell Avenue in Sacramento. The event will include family activities and resources for United Way’s Square One Project that is working to increase the number of students who graduate from high school prepared for college or career. To sign up to volunteer for a Day of Caring project or become a sponsor: http://www.yourlocalunitedway.org/day-caring.

Since United Way California Capital Region held its inaugural Day of Caring in 2013, 3,692 volunteers have donated 18,054 hours of service for 182 projects benefiting nonprofits and schools across the region.

“This is the single largest volunteer day in our region,” said Stephanie Bray, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “This is our opportunity to volunteer our time and energy as we dig our hands in to help the nonprofits and schools that do so much for our community every day.”

Day of Caring is part of United Way California Capital Region’s Square One Project, a 20-year promise to significantly increase the number of local students who graduate from high school ready for success in college and beyond. Through nine decades of work and research across Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties, United Way believes ending poverty starts in school and is working to ensure kids meet important milestones for success in college or career. To donate or volunteer: www.yourlocalunitedway.org.

Society for the Blind Receives $15K from Wells Fargo

Society for the Blind in Sacramento recently received a $15,000 grant from Wells Fargo to provide education, training and assistive devices to Sacramento-area seniors who are blind or have low vision. The funding will support Society for the Blind’s Senior IMPACT Project that empowers people age 55 and older with alternative, non-visual techniques and skills that enable them to perform daily tasks and activities so they can maintain or increase independence.

“As the senior population in Sacramento continues to expand, so does the need for services like our Senior IMPACT Project that help seniors not only cope with vision loss, but also regain their independence,” said Shari Roeseler, executive director, Society for the Blind. “We are so thankful that Wells Fargo has invested in active aging and vitality of older adults in our region.”

Society for the Blind’s Senior IMPACT Project includes an eight-day retreat offered monthly at Society for the Blind that gives seniors an immersion experience where they learn alternative techniques and skills to travel safely, efficiently and independently. They practice techniques and use adapted tools to perform tasks of daily living including cooking, cleaning, shopping, home maintenance, organization, personal finance and more. They learn how to use the latest in assistive technology to operate computers and mobile devices for home, school and work, and they learn Braille. Participants receive individualized attention from instructors and mentors who are blind or low vision, can join discussion groups with peers on issues around vision loss, participate in community activities, attend monthly peer support groups in English and Spanish, and attend workshops throughout the year. For those unable to attend retreats, Society for the Blind sends instructors to their homes to teach skills and offer resources.

“Wells Fargo understands the importance of empowering individuals who are in need of critical community resources,” said Kären Woodruff, community affairs senior consultant. “Our investment in this program builds confidence and independent living skills for these seniors and goes a long way to strengthen and reinforce the efforts of Society for the Blind’s overall programming.”

For more than 60 years, Society for the Blind has created innovative ways to empower individuals living with low vision or blindness to discover, develop and achieve their full potential. Society for the Blind has grown from a dedicated group of volunteers to a nationally recognized agency and the only comprehensive rehabilitative teaching center that provides services for a 27-county region of northern California. The nonprofit provides low-vision eye care, life and job skills training, mentorship, and access to tools to maintain independence for 6,000 youth, adults and seniors experiencing vision loss each year. For more information or to make a donation, visit SocietyfortheBlind.org.

Wells Fargo provides monetary support, expertise and volunteers to national and local nonprofit organizations and causes that align with their business priorities, values, business expertise and geographies. The company focuses its philanthropic activities on creating long-term strategic relationships with nonprofits and other organizations to create innovative, sustainable solutions to meet local needs. Wells Fargo supports thousands of national and community-based nonprofits annually to help revitalize and strengthen communities. The company is among the top corporate cash donors among U.S. companies, donating $286.5 million to 14,500 nonprofits in 2017 to support critical social, economic and environmental challenges. To learn more, visit WellsFargo.com.