SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Celebrating its 100th Anniversary, the United Way of St. Joseph County also announces the appointment of its new board members for the 2013-2014 year. Just as they have in the past, United Way board members serve an integral role by helping the organization make decisions, overcome challenges and achieve goals. Without their wholehearted efforts, United Way would be unable to make the difference it has today and cast a vision for the future of the community.

United Way of St. Joseph County welcomes the following new board members to their roles: Joseph T. Barkman, Chief Financial Officer, Oaklawn Psychiatric Center, Inc.; Kurt A. Meyer, Chief Human Resource Officer and VP of Support Services, Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center; and Aaron Perri, Executive Director, Downtown South Bend, Inc. Aforementioned board members will be joining the Finance, Administration and Facilities; Governance and Personnel; and Community Investment committees, respectively.

Meeting five times a year, the board currently includes 33 members and represents a diverse array of businesses and organizations across St. Joseph County. To view a complete list of the volunteer United Way of St. Joseph County Board of Directors, please visit

A very sincere thank you goes out to all past and present United Way of St. Joseph County board members, officers, committee chairs, and campaign co-chairs for committing their valuable time and continual support of the United Way mission.

Celebrating its 100th Anniversary, United Way of St. Joseph County is a nonprofit organization whose newly-revised mission statement is the following: To mobilize the community to collectively reduce poverty. The organization works in conjunction with 23 local agency partners and 53 programs to address key priorities in St. Joseph County.

St. Joseph County to Participate in Regional STEM Education Initiative
K-12 Districts can apply for program funding

PLTWSouth Bend, Ind. (March 1, 2014) – United Way of St. Joseph County and the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce announced that all K-12 schools in St. Joseph County are eligible to participate in the regional STEM Education Initiative announced Saturday morning by Project Lead The Way (PLTW), the nation’s leading provider of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs, and the Corporate Partnership for Economic Growth (CPEG) at a STEM teacher training program held at the University of Notre Dame.

PLTW announced that Northern Indiana was selected to become a model region for PLTW, providing all K-12 schools, both public and private, in a five-county area with the opportunity to implement PLTW’s rigorous, world-class STEM programs in engineering, biomedical science, and computer science. The partnership creates a $4.4 million matching grant pilot program to offset startup costs associated with teacher training, participation fees, and required equipment and will be available to schools beginning with the 2014-15 school year and continuing through 2016. Schools in the five-county area of Elkhart, Fulton, Kosciusko, Marshall, and St. Joseph may begin applying for grant funds immediately. Applications for the 2014-15 academic year are due March 31, and schools will be accepted and notified in April.

In St. Joseph County, PLTW programs are currently being utilized at Mishawaka High School, Penn High School, Riley High School and South Bend Career Academy. In addition, Kennedy Primary Academy in South Bend is participating as a pilot site for a new program, PLTW LaunchTM, during the 2013-14 school year. The leaders of these schools have voiced support for expanding PLTW and providing these learning opportunities to a greater number of students in the coming years. “The most immediate impact of PLTW will be specialized training and support for teachers and the opportunity to engage students in new ways,” says Larry Garatoni, local business leader and co-founder of The South Bend Career Academy and Magnet Investors. “The long-term impact will be a more productive, innovative and entrepreneurial workforce and a more vibrant local economy. This is an investment in our future.”

To be selected as a model region, each participating county had to raise a percentage of the matching funds, based on the number of schools in their county. In St. Joseph County, the United Way of St. Joseph County, with support from the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce and community leaders, secured over $800,000 in financial commitments for St. Joseph County schools to participate. The funding to support implementation in St. Joseph County schools was generously provided by a combination of business and industry, private and community foundations, colleges and universities and individual philanthropists. “United Way of St. Joseph County is proud to play a role in bringing Project Lead The Way to our schools,” said Kay Ball, President/CEO of United Way of St. Joseph County. “Our engagement with PLTW is one component of United Way’s commitment to a comprehensive vision for sustainable, transformative education reform and equal access for all students.”

In addition to providing every student with access to PLTW, the regional partnership with PLTW engages the local community, business and industry and will help develop a robust talent pipeline for those businesses and industries. Jeff Rea, President and CEO of the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce states, “Recent studies indicate that there are more than 300 vacant STEM jobs in our region and more coming in the future.  These are jobs that typically produce incomes that pay and grow above the national average. Implementing PLTW programs can play a key role in helping to prepare our students for these career opportunities.”  The other counties participating in this regional initiative with St. Joseph County are Elkhart, Fulton, Kosciusko and Marshall.

PLTW is a national nonprofit organization headquartered in Indianapolis, providing STEM programs and high-quality teacher professional development to more than 5,000 schools across the United States, including 345 schools in Indiana. PLTW’s five programs include PLTW LaunchTM for grades K-5, PLTW GatewayTM for students in grades 6-8, and PLTW EngineeringTM, PLTW Biomedical ScienceTM, and PLTW Computer ScienceTM for high school students. By aligning with PLTW, CPEG and its member organizations are able to offer more students access to the rigorous STEM programs that will prepare Northern Indiana students for the global economy.

STEM jobs are growing at a rate of 18 percent, nearly twice the rate of other fields. By 2018, the U.S. Department of Commerce estimates 1.2 million unfilled jobs in STEM fields due to a widening skills gap. In Indiana, 123,000 new STEM jobs will exist by 2018, the majority of which will be computer and mathematical scientists, engineers, and engineering technicians. STEM jobs are among the country’s highest paying jobs.

Click here to read the January/February 2014 PLTW Newsletter

WNDU_logoLast year, four million dollars was returned in tax refunds, all thanks to the United Way tax assistance program.

This year it continues and will help anyone that makes 52 thousand dollars a year or less.

This is the eighth year for the program. It's not just in St. Joseph County but five counties in Michiana. Last year volunteers filed 26-hundred returns electronically.

People are encouraged to make an appointment by calling 211.

Dawn Chapla from United Way of St. Joseph County says, “We figured we saved over a million dollars in prep fees and loan fees and those loans are one of our big targets. We don't want you to borrow your own money just to get it back sooner than a few days. We can usually get your return back from the federal government in 7 to 11 days. Why pay 400 dollars of your own money to get your taxes when you can keep it all and have it work for your own family?” Keep in mind United Way doesn't handle businesses.

However, this year there is a free service on-line so people can file their own taxes just by going to their website.
Also students from Saint Mary's and Notre Dame volunteer their time to do taxes for free. It helps them get some real life experience and helps out the community. The program is known as "TAP" which stands for the "tax assistance program."

It was started in the early 70's, about the same time earned tax income credit was developed. Anyone that makes 40 thousand dollars can show up for help.

Students file paper forms, not electronic ones, so they can practice what they've learned in the classroom.

TAP program manager and Saint Mary’s accounting professor John Cerjnul says, “The calculation and determining the eligibility and the amount of income is very complicated, very complicated. So students are determining if they are eligible and B, how much they will get. This is money the federal government says they are entitled to.”

Students and CPAs typically volunteer at various libraries in St. Joseph County. They helped five thousand people last year.

Unlike United Way, since there are experienced CPAs on hand that are trained on how to properly handle complicated tax problems. Click here to watch the video!

Source: WNDU

Chronicle_of_PhilanthropyThe Chronicle of Philanthropy recently released an article about the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty coming up in 2014. The article features perspectives from Avi Poster, co-founder of a grass-roots antipoverty coalition in Nashville, who explains that next year is an ideal time to get policy makers thinking about how to help Americans who are struggling to make ends meet. Click on the image to the left to read the full article.