Northfield Area United Way

‘MyFreeTaxes’ Offers Free Tax Prep

 

United Way site helps tax filers with free online tax prep and filing

NORTHFIELD, Minn. (January 29, 2016)  Seventy percent of American tax filers are eligible for free tax filing, and some don’t know they can save $200 in tax preparation fees every year by using MyFreeTaxes, the first free national, online tax filing platform.

MyFreeTaxes, sponsored by United Way, provides free federal and state tax preparation and filing assistance to individuals and families who had household incomes of $62,000 or less in 2015. MyFreeTaxes can be used to file federal and state taxes in Minnesota.

Last year, more than 200,000 tax returns were filed on MyFreeTaxes.com, a 2,400% increase since the platform launched in 2009.

Offering free English and Spanish tax support, MyFreeTaxes allows taxpayers to self-file for free using a simple step-by-step process that includes free telephone, email and online chat support from IRS-certified specialists. Those who prefer in-person tax preparation help can contact the Northfield Senior Center, a Northfield Area United Way partner organization, at 507-664-3700. 

MyFreeTaxes is an interactive resource for information regarding tax preparation, valuable credits including the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, and personal finance. It’s funded by a $1.3 million grant from the Walmart Foundation, and made possible through the collaboration of 1,000 partners, including the IRS, colleges and universities, nonprofit organizations, and state and local government agencies.

About United Way Worldwide: With 2.6 million volunteers and 9.6 million donors worldwide, and more than $5 billion raised every year, United Way is the world’s largest privately-funded nonprofit. We’re engaged in nearly 1,800 communities across more than 40 countries and territories worldwide to create community solutions that improve life for everyone. United Way partners include global, national and local businesses, nonprofits, government, civic and faith organizations, along with educators, labor leaders, health providers, senior citizens, students and more. For information about the local Northfield Area United Way, see http://www.NorthfieldUnitedWay.org.

About Philanthropy at Walmart
Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are committed to helping people live better through philanthropic efforts that draw on the strengths of Walmart in the arenas of sustainability, economic opportunity, and community. To learn more about Walmart’s giving, visit http://www.foundation.walmart.com.

 

Partner Highlight: TORCH Lights the Way

By Michaela Marcinic

Applying to college is a year away for Nicky Vazquez, but already he is focused on college and career, thanks to the Northfield TORCH program. TORCH stands for Tackling Obstacles, Raising College Hopes.

“I kind of want to be a mechanical engineer,” says Vazquez, a Northfield High School junior. “This upcoming year I’ll take the engineering classes Northfield provides.”

Nicky from TORCH

Nicky Vazquez

TORCH has seen its scope and influence evolve since its inception in 2005. A decade ago TORCH focused on helping Latino students. “At the start, TORCH pointed toward a gap, pointed toward a community not supported,” says Teddy Gelderman, co-coordinator of the TORCH high school program. “We know people go to college when they feel supported.”

  • In 2001, just 36 percent of Northfield area Latino students graduated from high school
  • In 2014, 96 percent of TORCH students graduated and 87 percent applied to college. (All were accepted.)

TORCH no longer is a program solely for Latino students; it welcomes all. Today TORCH aims to close the “achievement gap”—education-speak for how students of lower socio-economic status among all ethnic groups fall behind other students. TORCH has gone from serving 17 students to serving 513 students who may lack access to opportunities, time or resources needed for academic success. This explosive growth is a tribute to welcoming mentors, as well as program successes.

“Our primary role is to be an ally and an advocate for students,” says Kim Horner, who coordinates the TORCH high school program with Gelderman.” The most important part of my job is forming relationships with students so that you know their strengths but also where they struggle.”

Community Ties

Bolstered by TORCH, students begin to think big–beyond high school and even college–to careers they may want to pursue. Vazquez first encountered the field of engineering during a University of Minnesota engineering challenge during a high school class.

TORCH organizes career panels of community members, and those panels have had an impact on Vazquez: “Getting to hear from those people gave me a boost to push myself further.” 

Another focus for is community involvement.

Once afraid to speak out, Vazquez began his community involvement in middle school as a representative on TORCH’s Youth Advisory Board. This year he serves on the Mayor’s Youth Council, where students receive briefings on the mayor’s projects and proposals and offer their perspective on community needs.

Vazquez hopes to create bridges between Northfield’s Latino communities and its majority population. Living side by side, residents are often separated by language and cultural barriers.

One hope of the TORCH coordinators is that TORCH alumni come back to Northfield after they have graduated from college to be leaders and role models in the community. With the program now in its eleventh year, many alumni are doing just that. TORCH alumni now work in the schools, in local banks, and at the colleges.  

Gelderman says, “Through community involvement, students gain a voice and are inspired to give back to a community that has helped them achieve their goals.”

— Michaela Marcinic is a St. Olaf College senior who is interning with the Northfield Area United Way.

Program Helps Pay for Prescription Drugs

FamilyWize-Logo-(4-Color)Northfield Area United Way and FamilyWize Community Service Partnership, an organization focused on improving the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities, today announced that local residents saved $7,381 on prescription costs in the first 10 months of 2015, as a result of the successful partnership between the two organizations.

FamilyWize, a long-time partner of United Way, works with nearly 1,000 local United Ways to help make all FDA approved prescription medication more affordable for individuals with high prescription costs through the free FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card. Over the years, FamilyWize and United Way have partnered to help more than eight million people save more than $830 million on the prescription medications they need.

Key highlights of the recent Health Impact Report from the Northfield Area United Way include:

  • 41.55% savings on prescription medications
  • 298 prescriptions filled

Since the program began the numbers are higher:

  • $58,791.15  in community savings on prescriptions
  • 2,067 prescriptions filled

“Thanks to our partnership with FamilyWize, we are able to make a difference by providing a way for our neighbors to stay healthy,” said Elizabeth Child, executive Director of the Northfield Area United Way. “By reducing the burden of high prescription medication costs for those who are uninsured or underinsured, we are helping to build a stronger community.”

The FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card, which is accepted at more than 60,000 pharmacies nationwide and nearly all local pharmacies, covers all FDA approved prescription medications. The card is free to all consumers, insured and uninsured, and has an average savings of 42 percent. The FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card functions like a reusable prescription discount coupon, and does not require any personal information or eligibility criteria from the user. To take advantage of the savings that FamilyWize offers, consumers can download a card from FamilyWize.org, call 800-222-2818 and request a card to be sent to them, or download the free FamilyWize app.

FamilyWize also offers a Drug Price Lookup Tool, an online resource to compare prescription medication prices and find the local pharmacy with the lowest price. Consumers can access the easy-to-use tool on FamilyWize.org or through the FamilyWize app.

 

One gift reaches thousands in our community

When you choose which nonprofits to support consider this: one gift to the Northfield Area United Way touches one in three Northfield area residents, and it reaches them in ways you may not have imagined:Greenvale Park Student

  • Parents who have lost a child receive nurturing support.
  • Children who could not otherwise afford books get age-appropriate books sent to them at their home from ages 0 to 5 to prepare them for school.
  • Women and children are sheltered from domestic violence and given a new start.
  • Adults receive interview and job skills training so they can support themselves… and lower their stress.
  • Children receive medical care that is not covered by insurance.

When you donate to the Northfield Area United Way, you make a difference in more ways than you may know.

Meet a High School Super Hero!

Patty Mondaca-Morales2

Patty Mondaca-Morales is a super hero volunteer – and Northfield High student.

Patty Mondaca-Morales may fearlessly chatter your ear off in the first minute of knowing you, but don’t think for a moment she isn’t also listening.

This bright-haired and warm-hearted senior from Northfield High School was recently honored as one of Northfield’s Hometown Heroes by the Northfield Area United Way.

Led by her love for people, Mondaca-Morales volunteers with Northfield Shares Give 5, TORCH, Northfield Arts Guild, District One Hospital, a local retirement center and more. Such magnanimity inspired Northfield community members to vote Mondaca as one of their Hometown Heroes, an honor bestowed by the Northfield Area United Way to acknowledge supreme dedication to community involvement.

St. Olaf College Senior Michaela Marincic had the opportunity to chat with her about her volunteerism.

Q: What is the earliest volunteer experience you can remember?

A: “In seventh grade I volunteered at the historical society; I was a cashier. I enjoy history—it’s one of my favorite subjects, so that was fun to do. And then I didn’t really do much until this year. Now I’m really—whoosh!—into it. I love volunteering.”

Q: What do you enjoy about volunteering?

A: “I like the feeling of helping others and being able to walk out and be like, ‘I did a nice job. I made people happy, and I did it for free,’ you know?”

Q: You help many community organizations. Are any especially dear or important to you?

A: “The Northfield Shares Give 5. That’s where it all started. I was like, ‘Well, if I’m going to be preaching to others to give five hours [of volunteer service per month], I might as well start that too.’”

Q: Do you ever wish you had more time for sports, clubs, or just hanging out with friends?  A: “Yeah, sometimes I just want to go home and watch TV or play on the computer, but it doesn’t fulfill me in the same way that helping somebody does. I like to be with other people … There’s a lot of people who tell me, ‘Why would I ever want to volunteer—it’s a waste of my time.’ But it’s actually really great if you try it out once … I feel like if [those people] volunteer once somewhere they really like, they’re gonna continue it.”

Q: Plans for after graduation?

A: “Uuuuh, run around in circles? Probably college, the normal.”

Q: What would you like to study?

A: “Probably education … I would love to work at TORCH [Tackling Obstacles and Raising College Hopes]. I love TORCH so much.”

Q: I can see your excitement about TORCH. Why do you love this program so much?

A:  “I feel so grateful towards them. I volunteer so much because of them, I have good grades because of them. I don’t know where I would be without TORCH.”

Q: If you had to tell me one fun fact?

A: “I’m boring. I don’t know, now I’m on the spot. Well, I love choir. You can put that as my fun fact.”

Q: In your various volunteer experiences, you must see a lot of people who need help and the organizations that support them. Can you think of any issues in the community that still need solutions?

A: “Mental health.”

Q: Where have you seen the need for mental health services?

A: “Through my volunteering, through Laura Baker, even through my friends at school. It can really affect people if they’re not treated. I feel like if everyone’s mental health is well, then they can go on and get a better education, and they can also start helping other people.

“[Poor mental health] can lead into poverty. Some people in poverty have mental health issues that may be why they are in poverty.”

 

Q: What can we do to promote psychological well-being?

A: “End the stigma. A lot of people are very hush-hush about it, they don’t like talking about what’s going on with them, so maybe if we say, ‘It’s alright if you’re depressed, you know, it’s alright. You can always get help.’”

Q: What is one thing every person could do to help their community?  A: “Just listen. There’s always people that need help, always something you can do, so go and try to find it and find people that want to support you. We just need to listen.”

 

 

 

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