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Archive for the ‘Volunteering’ Category

Get involved with United Way of King County’s Free Tax Preparation Campaign and join the nation’s largest anti-poverty effort! Help low-and moderate-income individuals and families in King County keep more of what they earn! With the assistance of over 530 volunteers, the 2009 Campaign filed 13,631 tax returns, and returned over $17.3 million in federal refunds; $5.2 million in Earned Income Tax Credits. All of this was accomplished at no cost to our tax customers, and we estimate that we saved our customers over $1 million in tax preparation fees!

The United Way Free Tax Campaign Needs Volunteers!

By volunteering once per week during the 2010 tax season, you can help us meet our goal of putting more than $17 million back into the pockets of low-and moderate-income working individuals and families in King County. Speakers of Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish, Somali, Korean and Russian languages are especially needed.

No Experience Necessary! All volunteers receive free tax preparation training and are certified by the IRS. Slots at some sites tend to fill up very fast, so don’t wait! Sign up now! And then send this along to someone else who should sign up. You can select your own site and shift, and select your preferred days of training. It’s really easy. And you’ll feel better.

If you need more information or have any questions, feel free to contact Courtney Noble (cnoble@uwkc.org, 206-461-5048), Patrick Kelley (pkelley@uwkc.org, 206-461-5083) or Matt Levin (mlevin@uwkc.org, 206-461-4562).

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hHighlight_photo1That’s the phrase used quite a bit these days when we talk about impacting something on a societal level, “moving the needle”. I get asked a lot in my work about what I think an individual can really do in terms of that process. Like, how can I get involved where I can be relatively sure that what I’m doing is going to have a long-term impact? Here’s what I tell them:

Read to a child. It doesn’t take a lot of time. It’s so simple. And it’s highly entertaining. And you absolutely will be helping achieve something better and brighter for tomorrow.

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This Friday, United Way of King County will hold its annual Day of Caring.

To be honest, I’ve never been fond of that name. I know I’m over-simplifying, but to set aside one day to “care” makes about as much sense to me as offering up a box of chocolate on February 14th to make up for all the other times we’ve messed up in our relationships throughout the year. This will be my 12th DoC since coming to United Way, and to me, over the years this day has become a Celebration of Caring, a chance to recognize that ‘caring’ is something that we do, generally, all the time…whether it’s for ourselves, our families and friends, or complete strangers.

This year, it will also be a chance for me to reflect, because our Day also happens to fall on the 8th anniversary of September 11th. [For those of you not aware, it has been named a National Day of Service and Remembrance.]

Since 9/11, the proximity of these two dates (Day of Caring always happens on a Friday in September) has always created mixed emotions on my part. Back in 2001, Day of Caring occurred on September 14th. My work assignment for that morning was to stand in the parking lot at Seattle Center and guide volunteers to where they could park. As I stood there by myself, I watched the sky get brighter over the Cascades, and noticed a dot come out of the mountain shadows. It was the first morning that air flights were allowed to continue after the attack. And I remember tears. I didn’t want to be there, volunteering or otherwise.

I still get knots in my stomach thinking about that day. I still get moody and a little sad when I think about finding out later that I knew 2 people in the World Trade Center.

But this year, on this day, I get to assist homeless individuals and families at our Community Resource Exchange. I get to celebrate caring, celebrate service, and remember how lucky and grateful I am for the opportunity to do so.

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My co-worker Yuri wrote a great post yesterday about the Community Resource Exchange. I liked it so much, I want to refer to it again. Not only does this event offer people currently dealing with homelessness an opportunity to connect with a variety of different resources in one place on a single day, but it also offers something unique to those of us lucky enough to volunteer.

We get to talk with people attending the event. We get to walk with them, side-by-side, from service provider to service provider. We get to sit down and eat with them. We share stories about our lives (‘How’d you end up in Seattle?’, ‘Where’d you go to college?’, ‘I dated a guy named Patrick back in high school’, etc). We have a chance to remind ourselves just how alike we really are; how simple acts like listening to someone or sharing a meal really can have a significant impact on someone’s life.

And I’m not actually talking about the homeless person here. Although I like to think I’ve affected them positively, as well.

So what can you do? Well, we have the volunteers, and just about all of the logistics are set.

But, here’s something: you know that backpack or duffel bag sitting in the garage, attic, or trunk of your car? The one that is in fairly decent shape (not ripped apart at the seams), but you never use it anymore? Or maybe you just bought a new one for your kid as he or she gets ready to head back to school, and you figured you would just toss the old one?

Don’t. Instead, drop it off at United Way of King County, 720 2nd Avenue in downtown Seattle (corner of 2nd & Columbia). Or you can email me at pkelley@uwkc.org, and we can figure something out.

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If you can spare that much time right now, give this a listen. It includes the story of a woman currently staying at the Jubilee Women’s Center in Seattle. The familiarity of these stories gives me pause. Not to mention a 40% increase in the homeless population would be catastrophic.

How can you help?

  • Volunteer to lead a supply drive for the Community Resource Exchange on September 11th. You can help make sure a family currently experiencing homelessness gets the assistance they need to make it through the winter.
  • Want to volunteer? We do need 25 people or so to help us assemble about 1,500 hygiene care packages on September 10th. You can sign up right here.
  • “The future is not shaped by people who don’t believe in the future. It will be built by people who see the complexities that lie ahead but are not deterred; people who are conscious of the flaws of humankind but not overwhelmed by the doubts and anxieties of life; people with the vitality to gamble on their future, whatever the odds…”–John W. Gardner

    Patrick Kelley

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    [This post is written by Guest Blogger and Free Tax Prep volunteer extraordinaire Octavia Hathaway. Homeowners in need of help can begin signing up on the website beginning June 1st.–Patrick]

    The Washington State Bar Association, acknowledging the alarming rise in foreclosures in this state, has decided to start the Home Foreclosure Legal Aid Project (HFLAP). This is the website set up to inform the public, but mainly it is the portal for all lawyers in the state to sign up and volunteer to provide assistance in foreclosure proceedings.

    Lawyers are uniquely qualified to help in this pressing matter. Even if your practice does not include foreclosures or bankruptcy, you can learn the basics as the WSBA is developing online training and is making available a panel of experts and mentors.

    Lawyers are scheduled to be deployed by June 1, 2009. If you know of any lawyers, please encourage them to volunteer. If you know of someone who is on the brink of losing his home, let them know that this is available and that they can get some help from a real lawyer. There is no cost to them.

    As a matter of fact, do not wait until you are already delinquent in your mortgage payments. There are probably preemptive steps you can and should take now to avert foreclosure. I am aware of many financial institutions, including credit unions, that will work with you on a loan modification or refinance. Begin by talking to your mortgage lender about options you may have. We are all in this together, and any recovery is meaningless as long as there are families out there still mired in poverty and hopelessness.

    –Octavia Hathaway (octavia_hathaway@hotmail.com)

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    On Wednesday, April 8th, dozens of service providers and hundreds of volunteers assembled at Qwest Field to offer assistance to individuals and families experiencing homelessness in our community. We received a lot of media coverage for the event (probably in light of the current recession), and I also wrote a little about some of the people I met that day in a previous post. We hope to do this type of activity twice a year, so keep an eye out for it in the future!

    We had 863 people access different services throughout the day. While that was lower than we expected, we did see a 60% increase in the number of people who reported being chronically homeless throughout the past year. 85 agencies and other service providers offered everything from employment support to housing services, free haircuts to foot washing. Over 400 volunteers spent their day guiding, helping, eating with, listening, laughing, and sometimes crying with another human being…someone who they otherwise would never have come into contact with. Here a few of their stories:

  • Today I learned that there are many more homeless in the area than I thought. I’ve also never thought about someone being homeless but having a job. I met someone who had been working a steady job for 2 years but remains homeless to this day.
  • My favorite part of the day was running into a formerly homeless man we had served at the first CRE, who now has a job and place to live.
  • My favorite interaction of the day was with a young mother of five. I walked over to her as she approached with her stroller and 5 kids in tow. She was incredibly polite and grateful, and her kids were darling. After further conversation, I found out that she was living in a motel with her children because she had come out of a domestic violence situation. She was so happy, though, because she was able to find help and had a prospect for housing by the end of the day. It broke my heart to hear her story, but I felt so happy that she was able to find help.
  • I heard one gentleman tell a co-worker of mine that he felt like a million bucks. Feet washed, new clothes, manicure and haircut and a great meal! He was so appreciative of these things it really made you stop and think what is important. It was a very eye-opening, sad and happy day!
  • Indeed.

    Patrick Kelley

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