Volunteers helping combat Mid-South poverty saluted at “thank you” dinner

Shelby County Trustee David Lenoir

Shelby County Trustee David Lenoir (at podium) thanks local volunteers for their impact on local poverty

Earlier this month, community volunteers who helped local citizens prepare and file taxes for free were thanked for the important role they play in combating local poverty.

Mid-Southerners serving as volunteers with the Earned Income Tax Credit Alliance (EITCA) and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs had a huge impact on our region during tax season, preparing over 7,000 returns for tax year 2013.

The volunteers helped local families avoid predatory lenders and disreputable services that charge exorbitantly high interest and fees for advance loans and simple services. From January through April, volunteer sites across the Mid-South gave people the opportunity to prepare and file their taxes for free, maximizing the amount of money people could keep from their tax refunds.eitca logo copy

United Way honored the volunteers at an appreciation dinner at the Kroc Center.

Guests included Bryce Haugsdahl, United Way President; David Lenoir, Shelby County Trustee; Reverend Darnell Tate, R.C. Irwin, and two musical dance performances from Creative Expressions’ “Out Loud Artistry.”

“We are truly honored to recognize you,” Haugsdahl said. “This year, you completed 7,073 tax returns! Tax assistance volunteers have helped to provide the Mid-South with over $11 million dollars which could be the difference for making a car payment, paying the rent, having money for groceries for the week or possibly making a down payment on a home.”

Shelby County Trustee David Lenoir made the audience realize how much tax volunteers were needed to help this community. Lenior shared statistics including:
• The Memphis poverty rate is over 28%
• The local child poverty rate is over 44%
• The local poverty rate for African Americans is over 33%
• The local poverty rate for Latinos is over 43%
• In local African American households, 83% of children are born into poverty

“This (VITA program) is a great cause,” Lenoir said, because “United Way’s volunteer income tax program strikes at the very heart of the issue of poverty. The program is about financial capability, raising awareness and taking advantage of the available financial opportunities. Programs like this are about strengthening local financial dignity. You are helping people in our community gain that financial dignity.”

“Volunteering is a very selfless act,” said Yvonne Howard, VITA coordinator with United Way. “Volunteers give so much of themselves to this program. They promote goodness and improve people’s quality of life. They have helped so many families become or remain financially stable.”

VITA Sites honored included:
• Brown Baptist Church
• Cummings Street Baptist Church
• Hickory Ridge Mall Supersite
• Memphis Catholic High
• Crittenden County Library
• Memphis IRS Service Center
• New Olivet
• R.C. Irwin Library
• Southland Mall supersite
• Workforce Investment Center (WINN) Fayette County
• South Branch Library

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