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SOUTH BEND, Ind. – It’s official—United Way of St. Joseph County turned 100 years old on October 14, 2014. As the oldest United Way in the state of Indiana, the organization plans to use the next year to commemorate its rich heritage and remind the community how its mission of reducing poverty is more important than ever before. “We’ve identified poverty as the issue of focus in St. Joseph County, however our mission will still be achieved by addressing and improving the building blocks for a good life: education, income and health,” said Matt Harrington who recently joined the organization as President & CEO. “We can reduce poverty by 25,000 individuals by 2025, but need to get everyone invested—this includes businesses, individuals, governmental and educational entities and non-profits alike.”

In addition to celebrating past successes and mobilizing the community to “Live United,” United Way hopes to better communicate the role it plays in St. Joseph County. “Many people are aware that United Way exists, but few actually understand how it makes an impact,” stated Rachel Bradley, United Way Director of Mission Advancement. “We plan to be much more consistent about reporting positive outcomes and encouraging individuals and companies to find their true philanthropic passions so they can get excited about making a difference in this community.”

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. – As the United Way of St. Joseph County embarks on a ten-year journey to reduce poverty by 25,000 individuals by 2025, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program or VITA, as it is often called, will play an integral role in reaching this goal. From 2013-2014 the VITA program provided services to more than 3200 households, was responsible for bringing over $4 million of processed refunds back to St. Joseph County and helped low-income taxpayers save over $1 million in tax preparation fees.

Recently, 1st Source Foundation, the philanthropic arm of 1st Source Bank, provided a grant of nearly $25,000 in support of United Way’s VITA program. The funds will primarily be used to increase marketing and advertising efforts in an attempt to reach, and ultimately serve, as many low-income, disabled and senior taxpayers as possible.

As a key partner in the betterment of St. Joseph County, 1st Source Bank continues to be a model of what it means to “LIVE UNITED.” As United Way prepares for next year’s tax season, the organization plans to make the absolute most of the grant money and bring even more tax refund money to qualified taxpayers in St. Joseph County. At the close of the 2015 tax season Dawn Chapla, Director of Labor and Financial Stability and Rachel Bradley, Director of Mission Advancement plan to work closely with 1st Source Bank’s senior marketing staff to report record-breaking outcomes in our community.

 


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One of the highlights at the completion of the South Bend Community School Corporation's United Way campaign is the drawing for gifts.  Each of the hundreds of employees names who contribute to the campaign, no matter the dollar amount, is put into a hat for an anonymous drawing.  There are a large number of donated gifts awarded ranging from restaurant gift cards, to annual passes to all SBCSC sporting and fine arts events.  For the grand prize, SBCSC superintendent and United Way board member Dr. Carole Schmidt offers to do the winners' job for half a day.  The winner for the 2013 campaign was Julie Craig, a second grade teacher at Swanson Primary Center.

On April 23rd, Dr. Schmidt arrived at Swanson Primary Center bright and early to meet her students.  She followed Ms. Craig's lesson plans and took attendance, got the lunch count to the cafeteria, instructed students about adjectives, led a discussion after students read a story about heroes, discussed symmetry and had students draw a mirror image of a butterfly, and finally read the book, Pete the Cat:  Rocking in My School Shoes.  It was a busy morning with the students, but very rewarding for both Dr. Schmidt and the teacher, Julie Craig, who enjoyed a much-deserved morning off.

This is the second year Dr. Schmidt has rewarded a United Way donor teacher with a half day of doing their job.  Who knows whose job she'll do next year - a principal, school secretary, custodian, or cafeteria worker?  With the large number employees from SBCSC who participate in the United Way campaign each year, we'll see who is the lucky winner after their fall campaign!

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Eloise Erickson, a relationship manager from SPEC’s Indianapolis Territory, was working at the VITA site sponsored by United Way of St. Joseph County when she witnessed the remarkable gesture of goodwill.

When VITA volunteer Kathi Hale walked into the site, few people could have predicted what was in the box she was carrying. It was a brand new laptop that she gave to the United Way as a gift.
"I had points on my bank card and didn't have anything I really needed,” said Kathi, a VITA volunteer for four years. “I knew how much the VITA program could use a new laptop."

The United Way of St. Joseph’s County VITA site is a member of the Prosperity Building Campaign Tax Team, and is a three-year VITA Grant recipient. So far this year, their volunteers have filed more than 2,300 tax returns for taxpayers in the South Bend area.

"This is absolutely amazing! I was just working on an old laptop, which is almost fried," said Dawn Chapla, the Director of Labor and Financial Stability for the United Way of St. Joseph County. "Kathi volunteers every Saturday wherever I need her."

For Eloise, the SPEC relationship manager who works with the VITA program in South Bend, the act of generosity was unexpected, but not completely surprising.

“The dedication of our VITA and AARP volunteers across the State of Indiana is amazing, and is represented by Kathi,” said Eloise. “It was definitely the highlight of my trip, if not the entire filing season.”

 

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