SOUTH BEND, Ind. –  Jessica M. Brookshire, Associate Director for Public Affairs at the University of Notre Dame was honored with United Way of St. Joseph County’s 2016 Volunteer of the Year Award at a special dinner reception held in Indianapolis on March 17th.

For over 17 years, Ms. Brookshire has been the engine behind United Way of St. Joseph County’s (UWSJC’s) top workplace campaign at the University of Notre Dame.  This year, she was instrumental in assembling a panel of experts to speak at a luncheon among key campus communicators to create a better understanding of UWSJC’s new collective impact approach. The information shared was a critical component to the campus’s campaign success and further strengthened the understanding of UWSJC’s role in the community. 

“Jessica’s passion for United Way’s work is demonstrated by her involvement in special projects, fundraising, events and committee membership,“ said Matt Harrington, President and CEO of United Way of St. Joseph County, “We are so grateful for her commitment to our community and her selfless support of United Way’s mission, which is truly inspiring.”

As a volunteer on the Education [2010 – 2014], Health, Income and Basic Needs [2015] Investment panels, a significant amount of her time and attention has been devoted to determining the best way in which donor dollars can be responsibly invested among the best presented opportunities. Jessica currently sits on the Community Investment committee and is a member of UWSJC’s Poverty Strategy Team, where she collaborates with others to focus energies and resources toward the poverty reduction agenda.












SOUTH BEND, Ind. – JOSEPH DITS South Bend Tribune  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
by Joseph Dits

A less severe winter means that fewer low-income people are seeking help with their heating bills from local aid programs so far. And there’s still aid in case winter — and the size of utility bills — come roaring back in the next couple of months.

NIPSCO reports a 34 percent decrease in the number of customers who’ve qualified for its own aid programs November through January, compared with the same time frame last year. But the number of people who actually applied for the aid dropped just 18 percent.

In total, 11,692 customers have received help this winter in NIPSCO’s service territory across the northern third of Indiana, down from 17,792, said spokeswoman Denise Rodriguez.

At the United Way of St. Joseph County, the Team HEAT program served 380 households last winter, but so far it has helped about two-thirds of that number. And the program typically disburses all of its aid by February, said Cory Hankins, a spokesman for United Way.

There’s still room for about 126 more low-income households to seek help from Team HEAT, he said. And the nonprofit REAL Services is seeing about 20 percent fewer people seeking help from the Energy Assistance Program in Elkhart, Fulton, Kosciusko, Marshall and St. Joseph counties, said program director Ingrid Simmons.

“Our outreach has been the same as it has in the past,” Simmons said. “Mild winter probably has made a difference in the traffic.”

Thanks to federal and state funding, she said it has enough aid to continue taking applications through April.

Those who qualify for the Energy Assistance Program are protected from having their utilities shut off for the season. But NIPSCO’s Rodriguez points out that, just before that moratorium ends for the year on March 15, there’s always a rush of people seeking aid.

Temperatures were 3.8 degrees above average this past November and 10.6 degrees above average in December, though January was just 0.3 degrees above, according to the National Weather Service.

Compare that with last winter, when November was 6.3 degrees below average, December was 4.4 degrees above and January was 1.9 below. And remember that the winter of 2013-2014 was even colder.












SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Fighting Irish Fighting Hunger is the campus-wide food drive, held annually in September, which has been designated Hunger Action Month.  The funds collected are divided between two groups:  United Way’s People Gotta Eat initiative and The Food Bank of Northern Indiana.  People Gotta Eat is a group of 11 St. Joseph County food pantries that have banded together under the auspices of United Way of St. Joseph County to share resources and raise awareness and funds together.   Available PGE funds are distributed based on the number of households each pantry serves so that pantries serving more people will receive more funding to better meet the community need.

All eleven food pantries within United Way of St. Joseph County’s People Gotta Eat (PGE) network will be presented with a share of the $17,000 dollars raised during the University of Notre Dame’s annual Fighting Irish Fighting Hunger food drive.

“No one should go hungry when there are food and resources to share. Fighting Irish Fighting Hunger is proud to support United Way’s efforts to reduce poverty in our community,” shared Anne Kolaczyk, Chair of Fighting Irish Fighting Hunger. People Gotta Eat is an effort to help those in the community who cannot afford to adequately feed their families. United Way of St. Joseph County collaborates with these local food pantries to keep the pantries stocked and to develop a cohesive plan to effectively address systemic food distribution in our community.

“We are incredibly grateful for the Fighting Irish Fighting Hunger partnership and for the generosity of the Notre Dame community,” said Matt Harrington, President and CEO of United Way of St. Joseph County. “This is yet another way the University helps our organization stabilize local families and reduce the poverty that exists in our own backyard.”












Power of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015
By Steve Taylor

Congress on Friday passed a bill that will boost local economies and change the lives of millions of working Americans, improving family financial stability and positioning children for a lifetime of success. The bipartisan, Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015 made permanent some tax credits for businesses and working families. While not perfect, the package saves the current version of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit representing a big win for working families, and supports charitable giving in local communities. Now eligible American workers will have permanent access to the full Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, which will significantly benefit communities and businesses around the country.

The EITC and CTC are among our nation’s most effective pro-work, anti-poverty tools, putting families on a path to success and independence. The EITC is one of the most successful initiatives for moving mothers from welfare to work. It is so successful that every president over the last 40 years has expanded it with bipartisan support. The refundable aspect of the CTC is similarly designed to encourage and reward work.

These refundable working family tax credits allow parents to keep more of what they earn, and the stabilizing effect helps children and families far beyond the timeframe during which families claim the credits. Studies show that the EITC improves child health and academic achievement, increasing the likelihood of college attendance and success in adulthood. Additionally, these tax credits pump money into local economies, helping to support local business owners.

At United Way, we witness firsthand the tremendous impact of the credits through our more than 380 local United Ways around the country that help people connect to the EITC and CTC through Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites and In 2015, United Way-supported VITA efforts completed nearly two million returns leading to $2.35 Billion coming back to communities, including more than $681 million in EITC.

But beyond the numbers, United Ways see the faces of the people who are more financially stable because of the EITC and CTC, like the returning veteran’s family of five in Reno, Nevada, or the newly single mother in Jacksonville, Florida. United Way is committed to helping working families keep more of what they earn through accurate free filing, and Congress should be commended for holding up its end of the deal by keeping the credits whole.

Thank you, Congress, for passing such critical bipartisan tax legislation. Now, all two million military and veteran families, and 4.8 million rural families claiming the credits will continue to have full access. And the 16 million Americans in working families -- including eight million children – who were expected to fall into poverty without Congressional action, will now have greater financial stability moving forward.

If key provisions of the EITC and CTC had expired, the impact to working Americans would have be tangible and immense, and private charity would not have been able to fill the gap. The Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax credit have a history of bipartisan support, of fighting poverty and incentivizing work. The decision to pass the tax package grants millions of Americans the opportunity to thrive in the coming year, and for many years beyond.

Taylor is the senior vice president and counsel for Public Policy for United Way Worldwide. Source: