Let’s Celebrate 2-1-1 and Think About Taxes!
BY CHRISTINE ROBERE, PRESIDENT AND CEO, UNITED WAY OF THE LAKESHORE
2-1-1 is the human service life-line. On February 11th each year we celebrate the 2-1-1 system for human service referrals in Michigan. It’s a lifeline to people across Muskegon, Michigan, and the United States.
“2-1-1 didn’t just give me help, they gave me hope.”
Michigan 2-1-1 is a free, confidential service that connects you with local community-based organizations across the state offering thousands of different programs and services for people seeking answers. Last year more than half a million Michigan residents turned to 2-1-1 for health and human service information and referrals and the numbers continue to grow. If you need help for yourself, a neighbor or a loved one, call 2-1-1 or search the 2-1-1 website to find out where to get help. 2-1-1 has information on more than 30,000 different programs and services across the state.
In Muskegon County, Community Access Line of the Lakeshore (CALL 2-1-1), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency and United Way Community Partner, has been providing 2-1-1 service since 2005. CALL links people and services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Stacey and Sara of 2-1-1. Photo: Community Access Line of the Lakshore CALL 2-1-1 Facebook Page
2-1-1 is a simple, three digit dialing code that allows the user to make personal contact with a staff member who can provide information, answer questions and help the caller problem solve. 2-1-1 connects Muskegon County residents with community and faith-based organizations, government agencies and volunteer opportunities. It’s a great way to Get Help or Give Help. The service is free, confidential and multi-lingual. By making services easier to access, CALL 2-1-1 helps people avoid crisis, fosters self-sufficiency and helps individuals find ways of becoming part of their community.
Donations to United Way of the Lakeshore’s annual giving campaign help provide funding to operate C.A.L.L. 2-1-1 in Muskegon County, ensuring that this valuable lifeline is available for those in our community who need help finding information or assistance on health and community services. Visit http://www.mi211.org/ to learn more.
Free Tax Help: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is a community partnership between the IRS and local nonprofit organizations, including United Way of the Lakeshore, and led by Goodwill Industries of West Michigan.
VITA coalition partners work year round to plan and organize free tax preparation services, recruit and train volunteers, and conduct outreach activities and events to increase awareness of tax credits and free tax preparation services available to hardworking families.
The coalition partners are committed to tax credit outreach and free tax preparation services because both help to raise incomes for local families and increase financial stability. In addition, free tax preparation programs help increase the amount of refund dollars returned to area communities, which helps increase local economic activity.
The volunteers who complete and electronically file tax returns at the VITA sites are required to complete a series of online and classroom training sessions developed by the IRS and local tax experts. The volunteers must also obtain IRS certification as qualified volunteer tax preparers by passing a series of tests. Along with requiring detailed knowledge of tax law, filing statuses, and deductions and exemptions, the volunteers must also pass tests covering privacy rules and ethics.
At each site, experienced volunteers who have passed additional certifications in quality review and site coordination oversee the work of the volunteer tax preparers and review and check each return before it is electronically filed.
These volunteers commit hours of service because they want to help their communities by ensuring hardworking individuals can claim and keep all of the tax credits they have earned.
If you still need to do your taxes and have a household income less than $64,000, you may qualify for this free tax preparation. Contact CALL 2-1-1 – dial 211 or 1-877-211-5253 – to determine if you are eligible for free tax services, and to find a VITA site that is located near you.
The call specialists will help you determine which service is best for you and will take your information to schedule an appointment, or will direct you to your best option for your circumstance. The call specialist will also advise you of the identification, forms and documents you must bring with you to the VITA site in order to have your tax return prepared.
Interested in volunteering? All volunteers will be fully trained and certified, with multiple service sites and volunteer times to choose from in Muskegon, Newaygo and Oceana counties. Appointment sites operate at various times Monday through Friday, with a few select sites operating on Saturdays. If you are interested volunteering or want to learn more, please contact Goodwill Tax Program Coordinator Carl Lewis at (231) 722-7871 x1071 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also learn more about VITA at http://www.vitawestmichigan.org/vita/home/.
Check Off on your Michigan State Tax Form to Help United Way!
It's easy to Live United by "checking off" the United Way Fund this tax season. Tax form 4642 (Voluntary Contributions Schedule) allows you to donate all or part of your 2017 Michigan tax return to the United Way Fund, a fund that enables local families to gain access to continued education, job training and other services that can help them build lasting financial independence and success.
By donating all or part of your state tax refund to the United Way Fund, you are directly supporting United Way of the Lakeshore and helping families in our community build for their future!
United Way of the Lakeshore is uniting to inspire change and build thriving communities. Our Bold Goal – 10,000 more working families meet their basic needs by 2025. For more information, contact United Way of the Lakeshore at (231) 722-3134. Learn more about United Way of the Lakeshore at UnitedWayLakeshore.org, like the organization on Facebook and receive up to date information from Twitter at twitter.com/uwlakeshore.