United Way Launches Literacy Effort, Needs Big Day of Giving Donations

United Way California Capital Region is launching a new literacy effort called STARS that pairs volunteers online with local kids learning to read. With the recent launch of the program, United Way California Capital Region will be raising funds for STARS on May 6, Big Day of Giving. Local residents are invited to participate by donating at various giving levels and sharing photos of themselves reading on social media.

“We know that if kids aren’t reading at grade level by fourth grade, they will have a hard time keeping up across multiple subjects for years to come,” said Amber Lovett, interim president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “Big Day of Giving is a great opportunity for community members to help local kids succeed in school and career and ultimately in life.”  

Though the STARS curriculum is funded by Union Pacific’s Community Ties, Big Day of Giving donations will help fund other costs of the program, including volunteer recruitment, background checks and supplies. To make a donation on Big Day of Giving or schedule a gift ahead of time starting April 22, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org/Big-Day-Giving. Participants also are invited to upload a photo reading a favorite book on social media using hashtags #BDOG2021 and #STARSLiteracy, and challenge friends to participate.

United Way’s STARS program already has paired nearly two dozen volunteers with children at Robla School District and CHOC housing sites in Yolo County to provide online tutoring through the platform Book Nook so kids struggling with literacy can reach grade level reading. Each student has already received an average of eight hours of tutoring and reading practice. The program will continue through the rest of the school year and will include a summer curriculum for children at the housing sites. United Way plans to expand STARS to additional schools in the fall and is in need of virtual volunteers year-round. For more information about STARS and to sign up to volunteer, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org/STARS-0.

The local United Way has been helping children improve literacy for more than four years, most recently through its AARP Experience Corps program that paired retirees with children in schools before the pandemic hit.

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 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, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

United Way Free Tax Help Shifts

United Way California Capital Region is shifting its free tax help program from virtual one-on-one assistance to virtual group assistance and a do-it-yourself option, due to a rise in demand and the new filing deadline of May 17. Eligible households can now visit YourFreeTaxPrep.org to file their taxes online for free by themselves or to sign up for a free April 10 Zoom webinar where United Way’s IRS-certified volunteers will assist the group in filing their taxes online. Space is limited in the Zoom session, so eligible residents should sign up as soon as possible. United Way’s virtual one-on-one appointments are booked through the rest of tax season.

Households throughout the Sacramento region are eligible for free virtual help preparing taxes and claiming credits this year, saving an average of $200 in preparer fees and earning up to $8,000 in credits. More households are eligible to participate in United Way California Capital Region’s Free Tax Prep program this year, including those earning $65,000 or less in 2020. Qualified households can prepare tax returns online for free and claim the maximum tax credits for which they are eligible, including the federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC and CalEITC).

“After a year where many people lost employment and income, it’s more important than ever for households in our region to take advantage of this program that helps people save money on tax preparation fees and ensures they apply for the maximum refund and credits for which they are eligible,” said Stephanie Bray, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “This program is an important way for our community to jumpstart the local economy in 2021, and it’s a key element of our Square One Project that provides resources for local families so their children can graduate from high school prepared to succeed in college or career.”

This year, more people are eligible to receive the CalEITC and Young Child Tax Credit, including qualifying ITIN holders, after Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1876. Households may be eligible for CalEITC if the taxpayer is at least 18 years old and the household earned less than $30,000 in 2020. Many CalEITC-eligible households are not legally required to file taxes due to low income; however, if they file, they can claim state and federal credits.

Despite the deadline extension, experts recommend everyone files early, noting that many people do not realize that unemployment income may be taxable. Recent legislation exempts $10,200 of unemployment income received in 2020 for individuals with less than $150,000 of income. For those who have already filed, guidance will soon be provided by the IRS. Amended returns should not be filed at this time for these adjustments.

Filers also may qualify for the new Golden State Stimulus if they have filed their 2020 tax return and qualify for CalEITC or hold an ITIN and make less than $75,000. Filers must be California residents when the payment is issued and cannot be claimed as dependants.

United Way’s Free Tax Prep program was shifted online last year when the pandemic and stay-at-home order hit. Even with the pivot to virtual services, United Way’s Free Tax Prep volunteers filed 7,060 returns for the 2019 tax year and put $10.5 million back in the pockets of local families through federal refunds.

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 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, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

Local United Way President and CEO to Step Down

Stephanie McLemore Bray, president and CEO of United Way California Capital Region, will leave her position in mid-April as she transitions to her new role as chief engagement officer for Seattle Foundation in May. Amber Lovett, chief resource development and marketing officer at United Way California Capital Region, will transition to interim president and CEO on April 1 while the organization undergoes a nationwide search.

“It has been a privilege to lead United Way California Capital Region for the past seven years,” Bray said. “I am proud of our work to end poverty, starting at school, by removing barriers to student success for low-income children. Through our partnerships with nonprofits, government, school districts, donors and community members, we have helped many families move from crisis to thriving. Our local United Way is well-positioned for its next leader to continue that great work.” 

Bray launched United Way’s Square One Project in 2015, which continues to show improved education outcomes for low-income children in the region. She also completed a successful merger with Woodland United Way and brought in more than $16 million since March 2020, including a $10 million gift from renowned philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

As chief engagement officer for Seattle Foundation, the Seattle region’s community foundation, Bray will oversee engagements and relationships with the organization’s hundreds of philanthropists, investors and donors. With more than $1 billion in charitable assets and committed bequests, Seattle Foundation awards more than $100 million annually to nonprofit organizations working to make Greater Seattle a stronger, more vibrant community for all.

“Stephanie has been a tireless advocate for people who are marginalized in the greater Sacramento area, and Seattle is fortunate to have her join the community,” said Steve Lins of SMUD and chair of United Way’s board of directors. “We are grateful for all she has done for United Way, and we know she is leaving us in an outstanding position to continue accomplishing important change in our community under a new leader.”

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 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, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

United Way Announces First Wave of Community Funding From MacKenzie Scott Donation

United Way California Capital Region has approved a first wave of funding totaling $500,000 from the $10 million gift received in December from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. The first wave of funding will help individuals and families in the region gain social and financial capital, support United Way’s digital equity work across the capital region, empower Sacramento residents to have a voice in a local redevelopment project and provide COVID-19 relief funding in Yolo County.

“We knew this gift from MacKenzie Scott would be a game-changer for our community, and I’m thrilled that we are able to begin distributing this much needed funding,” said Stephanie Bray, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “This first wave of funding will go a long way toward reaching the goals of our Square One Project that is working to provide family support and stability so kids can stay on track in school and graduate from high school prepared for success.”

$200,000 of the funding will go toward United Way’s Capital Region Independence Initiative that is providing direct investment in local individuals and families to amplify their financial and social capital. The initiative aims to address inequities in the region, increasing average monthly income, decreasing subsidies, improving children’s grades, increasing savings and improving families’ overall economic impact on the community through increased spending.

United Way is investing $150,000 of the funding in its digital equity work, with a match of $150,000 from SMUD over the next three years to fund local digital literacy and training programs, distribute laptops and hotspots to those in need, and address underlying factors that contribute to the digital divide. Working with community-based organizations, United Way will remove technological barriers to education and employment and build the digital capability of those in the community who are most acutely affected by the digital divide, prioritizing low-income households with children and senior citizens.

United Way will invest $50,000 in its work to give residents of Mirasol Village in Sacramento greater engagement and influence in its redevelopment and resettlement. United Way is working with residents to develop a comprehensive, results-driven plan based on a needs assessment and other data. The work will help residents self-advocate about how Mirasol Village is redeveloped, how the surrounding community is built and how they can reach their own life goals.

The first wave also is providing $100,000 in funding toward United Way’s Yolo County COVID-19 relief program, providing households in need in Yolo County with a one-time $500 payment. Local nonprofits will identify and qualify low-income families who are experiencing an increased financial hardship from unpaid leave due to isolation, care of a vulnerable or infected relative, loss of wages due to involuntary cancellation of work or unpaid leave due to school or daycare closures.

Scott chose the local United Way chapter to receive the $10 million gift in December because of the group’s work to fill basic needs while also addressing long-term systemic inequities that have deepened during the pandemic.

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 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, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

United Way Offers Free Tax Help

Households throughout the Sacramento region are eligible for free virtual help preparing taxes and claiming credits this year, saving an average of $200 in preparer fees and earning up to $8,000 in credits. More households are eligible to participate in United Way California Capital Region’s Free Tax Prep program this year, including those earning $65,000 or less in 2020. Qualified households can upload documents online and a United Way IRS-certified volunteer will call them to help claim the maximum tax credits for which they are eligible before submission, including the federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC and CalEITC). The IRS will not begin accepting electronically filed returns until Feb. 12, but United Way recommends filing as soon as tax documents are in hand and it will submit the returns on Feb. 12. To learn more, visit YourFreeTaxPrep.org.

“After a year where many people lost employment and income, it’s more important than ever for households in our region to take advantage of this program that helps people save money on tax preparation fees and ensures they apply for the maximum refund and credits for which they are eligible,” said Stephanie Bray, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “This program is an important way for our community to jumpstart the local economy in 2021, and it’s a key element of our Square One Project that provides resources for local families so their children can graduate from high school prepared to succeed in college or career.”

This year, more people are eligible to receive the CalEITC and Young Child Tax Credit, including qualifying ITIN holders, after Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1876. Households may be eligible for CalEITC if the taxpayer is at least 18 years old and the household earned less than $30,000 in 2020. Many CalEITC-eligible households are not legally required to file taxes due to low income; however if they file, they can claim state and federal credits. Experts recommend everyone files early, noting that many people do not realize that unemployment income is taxable.

United Way’s Free Tax Prep program was shifted online last year when the pandemic and stay-at-home order hit. Even with the pivot to virtual services, United Way’s Free Tax Prep volunteers filed 7,060 returns for the 2019 tax year and put $10.5 million back in the pockets of local families through federal refunds.

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 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, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott Donates $10M to Our Local United Way

MacKenzie Scott announced today that she has made a donation to United Way California Capital Region. The philanthropist chose the local United Way chapter to receive a $10 million gift because of the group’s work to fill basic needs while also addressing long-term systemic inequities that have deepened during the pandemic.

“This is a game-changer for our local United Way and our community as a whole,” said Stephanie Bray, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “With a gift like this, we can expand our work to end poverty through our Square One Project so kids can succeed in school. This gift also will help us and our nonprofit partners provide more relief and forge a path toward recovery and resilience for our community. There truly are no words to express our gratitude to Ms. Scott. We are humbled and honored that she chose to invest in our work in the greater Sacramento area.”

Scott’s gift to United Way California Capital Region is part of the Giving Pledge she signed in 2019 to donate the majority of her wealth. Her donations to organizations across the country have focused in part on promoting economic parity, racial equity, public health and education. Scott is the former wife of Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.

“Last year I pledged to give the majority of my wealth back to the society that helped generate it, to do it thoughtfully, to get started soon, and to keep at it until the safe is empty,” Scott said in a Medium article she published in July. “There’s no question in my mind that anyone’s personal wealth is the product of a collective effort, and of social structures which present opportunities to some people, and obstacles to countless others.”

United Way California Capital Region has invested more heavily in addressing inequities this year with the onset of the pandemic. The group raised $572,000 in three months through the United Way COVID-19 Local Relief Fund to provide 1,145 families in need across the region with a one-time $500 distribution to help offset costs of rent, bills and other basic needs. Through a partnership with the City of Sacramento, United Way is working to bridge the digital divide that has widened during the pandemic, with a focus on low-income children and senior citizens. Through this Digital Equity Program, the partnership is providing free broadband access for up to 10,000 low-income Sacramento households, and free computers and digital literacy training for up to 1,000 Sacramento households. United Way also joined a partnership with the County of Sacramento to provide financial assistance to individuals and families in Sacramento County who are quarantined due to a positive COVID-19 test or are in isolation from being exposed to someone who has tested positive. 

“Our team has been working tirelessly to stretch our resources as far as possible to help families in our community through this difficult year,” Bray said. “We cannot thank our staff, donors and volunteers enough for their investment in our work that is now being recognized on a national stage. This gift has brought us to the next level, and we are grateful to have our community of supporters by our side as we expand our Square One Project to create stronger, healthier and more compassionate communities across the greater Sacramento region.”

United Way’s current work includes removing barriers to success in school for low-income students, helping families achieve financial stability and self-sufficiency, and providing support to youth who are transitioning out of foster care.  

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 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, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

United Way Launches Shine Your Light Holiday Drive

At the end of a year that has been dark for many communities across the country, United Way California Capital Region is asking residents across the region to join its Shine Your Light holiday campaign, which includes opportunities for community giving and safe volunteering during the holiday season. Visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org/Holiday-Giving.

“This is a year no one will forget – a year filled with deep pain, division and hardship,” said Stephanie Bray, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “Children are being asked to attend school virtually and help younger siblings. Parents have lost jobs that support their family’s needs. Neighbors are struggling to stay afloat while small businesses close around them. During this dark year as we enter the holidays, we are asking residents across the greater Sacramento area to join our Shine Your Light campaign by contributing to our nonprofit partners’ gift drives, volunteering and making financial donations.”

For the Shine Your Light campaign, United Way has gathered the needs of nearly 50 local nonprofits across the region on its website, including which need clothing, blankets, shelf-stable food, hygiene items, winter items, holiday gifts, gift cards and volunteers this holiday season. Shine Your Light participants also can make a financial donation to United Way California Capital Region to help lift up neighbors who are struggling, including children, foster youth, students impacted by COVID-19 and families trying to make ends meet. As part of the campaign, United Way’s Women United action group that supports local foster youth is matching new donations to the group until they reach $35,000, giving donors the opportunity to double their gift.

“In these difficult times, your gift can be a much-needed light in someone’s life during the holidays and in the months to come,” Bray said.

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 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, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

United Way Launches REMIX Virtual Speaker Series for Young Professionals

United Way’s Young Leaders Society is hosting a virtual speaker series this fall to meet the most pressing work-related and mental health needs of young professionals during the pandemic. The REMIX speaker series will launch on Oct. 6 with a free virtual presentation by Celeste Sekigahama of the Yoga Seed and will be followed by a free virtual presentation on Oct. 27 by Nihal Satyadev, MPH, founder of The Youth Movement Against Alzheimer’s. The series will culminate on Nov. 17 with a virtual presentation by Isaac Serwanga, TEDx-featured speaker, best-selling author, and founder of Inform and Inspire. Tickets for Serwanga’s presentation are $15 for general admission and $10 for members of United Way’s Young Leaders Society. To get tickets to any or all of the three events, visit www.YourLocalUnitedWay.org/YLSREMIX2020.

“The challenges of 2020 have tested our community’s creativity and resilience,” said Alison Leary, chair, United Way’s Young Leaders Society. “As we work remotely or differently in light of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s important that young professionals continue to build professional and leadership skills while also taking time to support their personal well-being and health of communities. We hope young professionals across the region will join us as we work to REMIX our lives and the rest of 2020.”

On Oct. 6, Sekigahama will provide insight on prioritizing self-care to achieve work-life balance during the pandemic. Later in October, Satyadev will share his story and offer tips on amping up one’s role in the community and taking on more leadership. The series will end with Serwanga’s presentation on establishing a healthy professional network online, leveraging personal brand to establish more quality connections, and keeping motivated and inspired to take action.

United Way’s Young Leaders Society harnesses the passion and energy of the Sacramento region’s young professionals to create stronger, healthier, more compassionate communities. The group volunteers and holds fundraisers for United Way’s Square One Project, a 20-year project to significantly increase the number of students in the region who graduate from high school ready for success in college and beyond. To join or learn more, visit www.YoungLeadersUWCCR.org.  

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. United Way believes ending 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, visit www.YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

United Way and City of Sac Partner to Offer Free Broadband, Computers and Training During Pandemic

Up to 10,000 Sacramento households affected by the pandemic, particularly low-income households with children and seniors, will receive free broadband access this fall through a new pilot program launched by the City of Sacramento and United Way California Capital Region. Funded through the federal CARES Act, the Digital Equity program also will provide free computers to up to 1,000 households as well as digital literacy training on how to use the technology. To qualify, an applicant must be a City of Sacramento resident and eligible for public assistance programs such as the National School Lunch Program, Medicaid or WIC. To apply and learn more, call 211 or visit  sacramentocovidrelief.org/digital.

The Digital Equity program aims to address unequal access to technology, known as the digital divide, which has expanded during the pandemic.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected our low-income communities and made it even more crucial that we close the digital divide,” said Mayor Darrell Steinberg. “Providing reliable Internet access to families in Sacramento means more children can learn and more adults can work or take advantage of education and retraining that will help them succeed in today’s job market.”

Participating households will receive broadband at no cost through December and will be offered service through the Comcast Internet Essentials program at a discounted rate after that. Households receiving computers will be offered refurbished Dell Chromebooks. The program will contract with community-based nonprofits and school districts to provide outreach, identify households in need and house “digital champions” who will work on outreach, case management and training in targeted geographic areas. Digital champions are community residents with technology skill sets who are trained to help households with broadband application and provide basic digital literacy education.

“The pandemic has brought the digital inequities in our community to the forefront, and I am happy to see our city working to provide residents with access to Internet and computers to be able to learn, work and stay connected with others,” said Mayor Pro Tem Angelique Ashby. “This program will help close these digital gaps by providing equipment, connection and digital literacy to those most in need.”

Of the more than 24 million unconnected households nationwide, the digital divide  disproportionately affects minority and low-income populations. According to the Federal Communications Commission, 35 percent of adults who do not use broadband at home are older, poorer, less educated, more likely to be a racial or ethnic minority, and more likely to have a disability than those with a home connection.

 “We are honored to partner with the city to provide Sacramento residents in need with equal access to the technology necessary to succeed during the pandemic,” said Stephanie Bray, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “This project is an important element of United Way’s Square One Project that is working to make sure families have the tools and resources they need so kids can graduate from high school ready for success in college or career. There is no doubt that Internet access and technology will play an increasingly vital role in kids’ success in 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 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, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

United Way COVID Relief Fund Helps 1,145 Local Families

In a span of three months, United Way California Capital Region’s COVID-19 Local Relief Fund raised $572,000 to provide 1,145 families in need across the region with a one-time $500 distribution to help offset costs of rent, bills and other basic needs. United Way worked with 11 nonprofit partners in Amador, El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties to identify low-income families whose lives were disrupted by the pandemic and ensure they received the help they needed. The fund closed at the end of June, but the structure remains in place in case of a second wave.

“Stories continue to pour in from families across our region who have received help through our Local Relief Fund,” said Stephanie Bray, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “The vast majority of those we served lost income during the stay-at-home order and needed help paying rent and bills. With so many families in our region just one paycheck away from homelessness, gifts to our fund helped avert an immediate crisis for these families and our community.”

The fund’s nonprofit partners included 3 Strands Global Foundation, Amador Tuolumne Community Action Agency, Birth and Beyond, Black Child Legacy Campaign Neighborhood Centers, Empower Yolo, International Rescue Committee, Kids First, Lighthouse Community Counseling, Opening Doors, RISE Inc. and Yolo County Children’s Alliance.

In addition to individual and corporate donations to the fund, all dollars donated to Donate4Sacramento’s Support Families area were distributed to Sacramento families through United Way’s fund. For a full list of donors to the Local Relief Fund, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

“It’s very meaningful to me to receive this funding because I can continue paying my bills and provide food and clothing for my children,” said Nayely, a Local Relief Fund recipient in Sacramento. “When I learned that the funds come from people in the city, I was very grateful to see how they care about the community and that they are always willing to help others during hard times.”

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 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, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org.