United Way Seeks Volunteers for Free Tax Prep Program

Volunteers are needed to help families across the region file their taxes and apply for tax credits as part of United Way California Capital Region’s Free Tax Prep program. No experience is needed, as participants receive training to become IRS-certified volunteers. The training includes five full-day sessions and an open-book test at the end of training for certification. Volunteers must be signed up by end of November. Tax preparation certification training begins Nov. 5. For more information or to sign up to volunteer: YourLocalUnitedWayFreeTaxPrep.org.

“Our Free Tax Prep volunteers play a big role in ensuring local families receive help applying for the maximum tax benefits for which they are eligible,” said Dr. Dawnté Early, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “Many families in our region have earned these tax credits, but do not know they are eligible. These are important funds they can use to meet immediate needs and increase their household’s financial stability.”

Each year, United Way and hundreds of volunteers help families and individuals earning less than $66,000 annually file their taxes for free. Last tax season, our Free Tax Prep program helped more than 4,000 families receive more than $9.5 million in tax refunds, including CalEITC.

United Way California Capital Region has been working to fight poverty for nearly 100 years by creating stronger, healthier, more compassionate communities, now serving Amador, El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties. The local United Way has found one place in each community to reach the most families in need: School is square one for ending family poverty. United Way uses its Square One approach to end poverty for local families by helping children excel in school, investing in families, and strengthening schools with resources to address increased poverty and deep roots of racial inequality. To learn more and make a donation: YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

Volunteers Needed to Help Kids Read with United Way

Volunteers are needed in person at schools in Woodland and Sacramento, as well as virtually, to help children improve their reading through United Way California Capital Region’s STARS program. No prior tutoring knowledge is needed, as United Way provides training for volunteers, all of whom commit to at least one hour each week split into two 30-minute sessions of small group tutoring for three months. In-person volunteers are especially needed, and teens are welcome to apply. For more information or to sign up to volunteer: YourLocalUnitedWay.org/STARS.

“Our STARS volunteers play such an important role in helping kids get on track with reading, but they also become role models for the kids and help them build confidence,” said Dr. Dawnté Early, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “We know that if kids aren’t reading at grade level by fourth grade, they will have a much harder time keeping up in all school subjects. We also know that education is a ladder out of poverty. Our STARS volunteers can truly change the course of a child’s life.”

The local United Way has been helping children improve literacy for more than five years, including through its AARP Experience Corps program that paired retirees with children in schools before the pandemic hit. United Way’s STARS uses the BookNook platform to virtually work through literacy curriculum with participants and build their vocabulary, fluency and comprehension skills through a variety of games, books and lessons provided in the online portal during the pandemic. The program is now offering in-person opportunities alongside its virtual platform.

United Way California Capital Region has been working to fight poverty for nearly 100 years by creating stronger, healthier, more compassionate communities, now serving Amador, El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties. The local United Way has found one place in each community to reach the most families in need: School is square one for ending family poverty. United Way uses its Square One approach to end poverty for local families by helping children excel in school, investing in families, and strengthening schools with resources to address increased poverty and deep roots of racial inequality. To learn more and make a donation: YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

United Way and Partners Help 50 Kids Avoid Summer Slide in Reading

Fifty local children have headed back to school this summer with more confidence in their reading skills, thanks to United Way California Capital Region’s Summer STARS program that took place at seven CHOC affordable housing sites throughout Sacramento and Yolo counties. Through the program, AmeriCorps Summer Vista volunteers worked with participants on maintaining and improving reading levels using United Way’s STARS literacy program to avoid the summer learning gap known as “summer slide.”

“Summer slide is a very real issue that can cause children, especially those from low-income households, to fall behind multiple years in grade-level reading if they do not have support while school is out of session,” said Dr. Dawnté Early, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “We know that education is a ladder out of poverty, so we are grateful to our partners that helped us reach these 50 kids so they could keep learning during the summer and continue to excel in school.”

Through United Way’s Summer STARS, an acronym for Students and Tutors Achieving Reading Success, AmeriCorps Summer Vista volunteers used the platform Book Nook to work through the literacy curriculum with participants and build their vocabulary, fluency and comprehension skills through a variety of games, books and lessons provided in the online portal. The Sacramento Literacy Foundation provided funding for the program at the CHOC sites located in the Sacramento Promise Zone. Through a longtime partnership between CHOC and the Dairy Council, Summer STARS participants also received healthy lunches and nutrition education to combat summer hunger when free school lunch programs are not in operation.

United Way’s STARS program primarily runs during the school year and uses the same curriculum and platform, working with school districts in Sacramento and Yolo counties. The program needs volunteers for the 2022-2023 school year, including virtual tutors in Sacramento County and in-person tutors at Woodland schools. No prior tutoring knowledge is needed, as United Way provides training for its volunteers, all of whom commit to at least one hour each week split into two 30-minute sessions for three months. Volunteers are especially needed during the hours of 3-5pm. For more information or to sign up as a volunteer: YourLocalUnitedWay.org/STARS.

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

United Way California Capital Region has been working to fight poverty for nearly 100 years by creating stronger, healthier, more compassionate communities, now serving Amador, El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties. The local United Way has found one place in each community to reach the most families in need: School is square one for ending family poverty. United Way uses its Square One approach to end poverty for local families by helping children excel in school, investing in families, and strengthening schools with resources to address increased poverty and deep roots of racial inequality. To learn more and make a donation: YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

United Way Expands Guaranteed Income with City of Sacramento

The Sacramento City Council recently approved an allocation of $750,000 in funding from its American Rescue Plan dollars to expand United Way California Capital Region’s guaranteed basic income program. The additional funding will expand the number of families served from 100 to 180, providing 80 new families with $500 in unconditional guaranteed income every month for one year. United Way’s current program is providing 100 families with $300 a month for two years.

“We are excited to partner with the City of Sacramento to expand our Direct Investment Program to more community members,” said Dr. Dawnté Early, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “At United Way we’re committed to ending poverty for local families and what we know through our work and our relationships with community is that poverty is a policy choice. To truly end poverty, we must have meaningful policy changes at the local, state and federal level. The City of Sacramento is making the choice to address poverty directly by giving community members the money they need to meet their basic needs – housing, food cost and childcare for example. We are hopeful that this program can provide some relief to families in need during these difficult economic times.”

United Way’s Direct Investment Program is the first guaranteed income program launched in the California Capital Region. Eighty-six percent of current program participants indicate they cannot pay cash or cash equivalent for an unexpected $400 expense. Seventy-two percent of participants are women and people of color, and 1 out of 3 participants is working multiple jobs. The average participant would need two and a half full-time minimum-wage jobs to meet the Real Coast Measure for a household size of four, according to United Ways of California.

“We know that other basic income programs have been very successful in improving the financial stability of households currently living on economic margins,” said Mayor Darrell Steinberg. “We are putting dollars directly into the hands of our residents and empowering them to decide how best to use it.”

United Way launched the Direct Investment Program in July 2021 as part of a nationwide trend offering guaranteed income, particularly for communities historically undervalued and underinvested. Funding for the program came from a portion of the $10 million gift United Way California Capital Region received from renowned philanthropist MacKenzie Scott in December 2020. Rather than mandating conditional services or specific direction, families in the program come together to empower themselves and are trusted to improve their lives in their own way.  United Way works with a third-party academic institution to measure outcomes. The program aims to invest in 1,000 families by 2025.

United Way California Capital Region has been working for nearly 100 years to create stronger, healthier, more compassionate communities, now serving Amador, El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties. When the local United Way saw poverty rising in 2016, it found one place in each community to reach the most people in need: School was square one for ending family poverty. United Way’s Square One approach works with schools to help children excel in school, invest in families, and strengthen schools with resources to address increased poverty and further exposed racial inequality. For more information: www.YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

West Sac’s Washington Unified School District Receives $200K to create Community Schools with United Way

Two preschool girls play with stamps and an orange stamp pad to make shapes on a piece of white paper

Washington Unified School District in West Sacramento has received a $200,000 grant through the California Community Schools Partnership Program to launch two full-service community schools as neighborhood hubs that provide access to a variety of services that support children, strengthen families and improve community health. The district will partner with United Way California Capital Region, which has nearly 100 years of experience convening community groups and coordinating services among providers.

“Washington Unified School District is laser-focused in its commitment to excellence, equity and empowerment for every student, every day,” said Dr. Cheryl P. Hildreth, superintendent for the school district. “Investing in community schools takes our commitment to the next level, ensuring that students have increased access to services that reinforce academic and social-emotional development.”

Through case managers and site-level coordinators, the community schools will provide access to health care, mentoring, expanded learning programs, adult guidance and other services. Each school will include a Wellness Center that provides direct support and trauma-informed care to students and will hire a restorative justice and equity coordinator to reduce punitive actions and promote trust, respect and sense of safety between the school, students and families. The district is launching the community schools to improve academic success and overall health of its students while decreasing chronic absenteeism and adverse disciplinary actions.

United Way will help with the planning process, including establishing a core leadership team, deploying a needs assessment and asset mapping analysis, engaging school representatives, providing students with leadership opportunities, convening agencies to expand school-based service delivery models, and developing a shared vision and implementation plan.

“We are excited to be working with the Washington Unified School District in the City of West Sacramento and look forward to partnering to ensure students have even more opportunities to succeed,” said Dr. Dawnté Early, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region, and a West Sacramento city council member. “At United Way, we’ve made a 20-year commitment through our Square One Project to end poverty for local families starting in schools. Our partnership with Washington Unified will play an important role in that work.”

Washington Unified School District is the premier provider of high-quality education in West Sacramento, serving nearly 7,500 students across seven K-8 schools and three high schools. The district offers cutting-edge opportunities featuring free college savings accounts for kindergarteners, Spanish dual language immersion, visual and performing arts, career technical education, AVID, MESA, before and after school care, and more. For more information: www.wusd.k12.ca.us.

United Way California Capital Region has been working for nearly 100 years to create stronger, healthier, more compassionate communities, now serving Amador, El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties. When the local United Way saw poverty rising in 2016, it found one place in each community to reach the most people in need: School was square one for ending family poverty. United Way’s 20-year Square One Project works with schools to support families, help children succeed, and strengthen schools with resources to address increased poverty and further exposed racial inequality. For more information: www.YourLocalUnitedWay.org

United Way’s Women United to Celebrate 20 Years Helping Local Foster Youth

September Hargrove stands at a podium that says Women United in black and white while she wears a red shirt and skirt

United Way California Capital Region’s Women United action group is inviting community members to its 20th anniversary luncheon on March 25 from 11am-1pm at the Croatian American Cultural Center in Sacramento, where influential professional women from across the state will gather to raise awareness and funds to support local foster youth. The event, which takes place during Women’s History Month, will celebrate the power of women working together to prepare local foster youth for adulthood and will include stories of youth whose lives have been changed over the past 20 years. The event will include lunch, presentations by local foster youth who participated in a writing partnership with nonprofit 916 Ink called “Find Your Voice,” and information about how to get involved. Tickets and sponsorships will benefit United Way California Capital Region’s programs for foster youth. Ticket sales end on March 4: YourLocalUnitedWay.org/WU2022.

“This is a remarkable opportunity to celebrate what women in our community have done together for local foster youth over the past two decades,” said Dr. Dawnté Early, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “As we move into a new decade of work, we face new challenges, but we know that this powerful group of women will continue to find new ways to meet the most pressing needs of foster youth in our community so they are prepared for success in adulthood.”

United Way’s Women United, founded as United Way’s Women in Philanthropy in 2002 with 35 members, has grown to 250 members and is now part of a global United Way network of more than 75,000 women taking action and impacting change. Local members have raised $2 million for United Way’s foster youth programs, also offering hundreds of life skills workshops and holding special events to showcase career opportunities and bring foster care professionals together to address current needs in the California capital region. Since 2011, the group has helped nearly 1,500 foster youth open bank accounts called Individual Development Accounts, a type of matched savings account, so they can leave the foster care system with money they have earned. Learn more about Women United: YourLocalUnitedWay.org/Women-United.

For nearly 100 years, United Way California Capital Region has brought local people together to make community change happen. With a mission to build stronger, healthier and more compassionate communities, the local United Way starts at square one: helping every family succeed so their community can too. Serving Amador, El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties, the local United Way is working to meet its 20-year commitment to significantly reduce poverty in the region by helping kids excel in school, investing in families, creating meaningful partnerships and organizing to lift impacted families. For more information or to make a donation: YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

File Taxes Online for Free with United Way, Earn Up to $8K in Credits

Local residents throughout the Sacramento region are eligible to file their taxes online for free through United Way California Capital Region’s Free Tax Prep program through April 18. Households that earned less than $65,000 in 2021 can file for free and receive up to $8,000 cash back from state and federal credits, including the federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC and CalEITC). The local United Way’s Free Tax Prep program saves qualifying residents an average of $200 in preparer fees. When needed, the program provides free tax help virtually and in person in multiple languages. Two virtual tax workshops will be held on Feb. 26 and March 12 where certified volunteers will help participants prepare their own returns and answer questions before filing. To learn more about United Way’s Free Tax Prep program or begin filing, visit YourFreeTaxPrep.org.

“Many families in our region have earned these tax credits, but often do not know they are eligible,” said Dr. Dawnté Early, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “These are important funds that local families can use to meet immediate needs and increase their household’s financial stability. Our Free Tax Prep program is a key piece of United Way’s work to help every family succeed so their community can too. That is square one for ending poverty in our region.”

Households may be eligible for the CalEITC tax credit if the taxpayer is at least 18 years old and the household earned less than $30,000 in 2021. Many CalEITC-eligible households are not legally required to file taxes due to low income, but if they file, they can claim state and federal credits.

Families that received advance payments of the Child Tax Credit must file a tax return and could be eligible for additional Child Tax Credit payments. United Way’s Free Tax Prep program can help non-U.S. residents apply for their ITIN, as ITIN holders are eligible for some tax credits. Experts recommend everyone files early, noting that many people do not realize that unemployment income is taxable. Even if people owe money, it is not due until April 18 no matter how early they file.

In 2021, more than 4,000 households across the Sacramento region filed their taxes through United Way’s Free Tax Prep program, claiming a total of more than $7.5 million in credits and saving a total of $885,000 in tax preparation fees.

For nearly 100 years, United Way California Capital Region has brought local people together to make community change happen. With a mission to build stronger, healthier and more compassionate communities, the local United Way starts at square one: helping every family succeed so their community can too. Serving Amador, El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties, the local United Way is working to meet its 20-year commitment to significantly reduce poverty in the region by helping kids excel in school, investing in families, creating meaningful partnerships and organizing to lift impacted families. For more information or to make a donation, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

United Way Launches “United We Shine” Holiday Campaign

This holiday season, the local United Way is shining a light on its nonprofit partners working to end poverty in the Capital Region. Each day for 12 days starting Nov. 29, United Way’s United We Shine campaign will feature a different nonprofit partner that is working to build equity and end poverty in the region, including a specific need each is facing and how local residents can help. To participate, follow United Way California Capital Region on social media. For more: YourLocalUnitedWay.org/post/United-We-Shine.

“We are proud of the work we do at United Way to bring nonprofits together to work toward equitable systems and reduce poverty so all families in our region can thrive,” said Dr. Dawnté Early, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “After another difficult year, we can come together this holiday season to generously support the important work being done in our community. Over these 12 days, I hope everyone will join us in supporting as many of our local nonprofits as possible.”

Featured nonprofits include Community Housing Opportunities Corporation, St. Vincent de Paul Sacramento Diocesan Council, Urban Strategies Inc., Computers 4 Kids, Yolo County Children’s Alliance, Amador Tuolumne Community Action Agency, Bless Child Community Association, YMCA, Sacramento County Gifts from the Heart, New Morning Youth and Family Services, and Empower Yolo. On Nov. 30, Giving Tuesday, United Way will share more about the work it is doing and how local residents can get involved.

For nearly 100 years, United Way California Capital Region has brought local people together to make community change happen. With a mission to build stronger, healthier and more compassionate communities, the local United Way starts at square one: helping every family succeed so their community can too. Serving Amador, El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties, the local United Way is working to meet its 20-year commitment to significantly reduce poverty in the region by helping kids excel in school, investing in families, creating meaningful partnerships and organizing to lift impacted families. For more information or to make a donation, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

United Way Seeks Free Tax Prep Volunteers

Volunteers are needed to help local families file their taxes and apply for refunds as part of United Way California Capital Region’s Free Tax Prep program that will open again in early 2022. No experience is required, and training is provided through a combination of self-study and online live sessions to become an IRS-certified volunteer with the program. To learn more: YourLocalUnitedWay.org/freetaxprep-volunteer.  

“After a tumultuous year, it’s more important than ever that local families receive help applying for the maximum tax benefits for which they are eligible,” said Amber Lovett, interim president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “Our Free Tax Prep volunteers play a big role in ensuring families have the financial resources for their kids to succeed in school and career.”

Each year, United Way California Capital Region works with hundreds of volunteers to help households earning less than $66,000 annually file their taxes for free. Last tax season, the program helped more than 4,000 families receive $7.5 million in refunds.

“United Way’s Free Tax Prep program helps put tax dollars in people’s pockets,” said Katherine Green, program volunteer. “As a Free Tax Prep program volunteer, I look forward to meeting new people and helping them think beyond daily survival so they can have greater control over their resources and their life. I believe in strengthening vulnerable communities to reduce poverty, and this program opens doors for the community.”

For nearly 100 years, United Way California Capital Region has brought local people together to make community change happen. With a mission to build stronger, healthier and more compassionate communities, the local United Way starts at square one: helping every family succeed so their community can too. Serving Amador, El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties, the local United Way is working to meet its 20-year commitment to significantly reduce poverty in the region by building capacity in undervalued communities, creating meaningful partnerships, seeking equity in education and making social justice investments in families. For more information or to make a donation, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

Local United Way Names New President and CEO

Dr. Dawnté Early has been named president and CEO of United Way California Capital Region. She will begin the position on Nov. 16, leading the local United Way chapter into its 100th anniversary year.

“I am excited to lead this amazing organization of passionate regional leaders committed to reducing poverty and investing in the education of our most vulnerable community members,” Early said. “As we near the 100th anniversary, I look forward to growing our partnerships to help the region emerge from the pandemic with an even sharper focus on increasing economic security and reducing disparities.”

Early joins United Way after serving as chief of research and evaluation for the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission, where she guided the commission’s statewide policy and evaluation initiatives on school mental health, suicide prevention and reducing justice involvement among those with mental health needs.  She previously led racial and gender policy reforms and evaluation of the Affordable Care Act at the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. A resident and city councilmember of West Sacramento, she served on the city’s Aging Commission for seven years. She began her career as a public health researcher with the State of California after receiving her PhD in human development and master’s degree in child development, both from UC Davis. Early and her husband have two children, and she serves as a Girl Scout troop leader and basketball coach for the West Sacramento parks and recreation league.

“Dr. Early is a passionate, dedicated community leader and will bring a renewed, energized vision to United Way and the capital region,” said Oyango Snell, chair of the local United Way board of directors. “As an experienced researcher and statistician, Dr. Early has a unique ability to leverage data-driven research to address complex community issues and enhance outcomes.”

Stephanie McLemore Bray served as president and CEO of United Way California Capital Region for seven years until mid-April when she transitioned to her new role as chief engagement officer for Seattle Foundation. Amber Lovett, chief resource development and marketing officer at United Way California Capital Region, has been serving as interim president and CEO while the organization underwent a nationwide search.

“Dr. Early is a proven advocate who is committed to our square one approach of working to end poverty by tackling difficult issues that impact children and families,” said Carolyn Mullins, member of United Way California Capital Region’s board and chair of the search committee. “She has dedicated her life’s work to addressing issues that impact people from low-income and historically marginalized communities. We are proud to bring her on board.”

For nearly 100 years, United Way California Capital Region has brought local people together to make community change happen. With a mission to build stronger, healthier and more compassionate communities, the local United Way starts at square one: helping every family succeed so their community can too. Serving Amador, El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties, the local United Way is working to meet its 20-year commitment to significantly reduce poverty in the region by building capacity in undervalued communities, creating meaningful partnerships, seeking equity in education and making social justice investments in families. For more information or to make a donation, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org.