By: Cristi Wetterberg
Resource Development Executive
As the year comes to a close, I am truly amazed by the generosity of so many people that I have had the good fortune to work with in my position as Resource Development Executive at United Way of Salt Lake. I am lucky enough to work with corporate partners that are care about our community and the work that we do. Questar is one of those outstanding partners whose concern for the community is amplified through their financial and compassionate contributions. I found out yesterday that employees and retirees at Questar this year, raised $464,386 for United Way of Salt Lake and Questar shareholders doubled the donation, making the total combined contribution $928,772!
More than 85 percent of all Questar employees gave this year as well as several generous retirees. As result many more people in our communities will be able to participate in United Way initiatives and programs. Our entire community wins when a child succeeds in school, when families are financially stable, and when people are healthy and productive. With generous support from corporate partners, like Questar, we can continue to develop solutions to address these complex issues and continue our mission to improve the lives of the citizens in the communities we serve. I am proud to be a part of Questar’s accomplishments this year as their United Way representative. I have seen firsthand how devoted and supportive Questar and their employees are to making our community a better place for everyone. Questar has shown yet again what it means to LIVE UNITED.
By: Jerilyn Stowe
Marketing and Communications Director
While the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is underway, several unacknowledged elves are preparing for another annual event that brings glad tidings and great joy to many low-income families – tax season! More than 600 volunteers are setting up 88 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites across the state. Volunteers at these sites provide free tax preparation to individuals and households that qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Thousands of people who qualify for the EITC don’t claim the tax credit for a number of reasons - they don’t think they make enough to file taxes, they have language or cultural barriers, or the complexity of filing taxes keeps them from filling out the right forms. For those that do claim the tax credit, it can mean a huge boost to their annual income. A household whose income is below $49,000 may qualify for a refund of up to $5,600 – even if they don’t owe any taxes! Tax filers are encouraged to invest their refunds in their futures by saving for a home or college, paying off debt, or putting their money in an emergency fund in case of a financial crisis.
As a VITA volunteer for a couple of years, I’ve seen first- hand how this program changes people’s lives. A number of years ago, a woman named Sylvia came into a Volunteer Tax Assistance Site and had her taxes prepared. She realized that she qualified for the Earned Income Tax Credit and would be receiving a refund of over $4,000. She had not filed the EITC for the years prior and was able to amend her past returns to receive the credit for the past three years. Her refund ended up being more than $11,000! She was overjoyed and shared with us that she had been saving for a house for years and would finally have enough for a down payment on her very first home at the age of 56.
The Earned Income Tax Credit not only improves people’s lives, it also strengthens communities. For every hour of volunteering at a site, it is estimated that $1,400 in refunds are brought back to local communities – making a huge economic impact.
The EITC is truly the gift that keeps on giving!
For more information on how you can volunteer or get your taxes prepared for free visit utahtaxhelp.org or dial 211!
By: Brynn Nygren
Director of Events
There are so many things I love about the holiday season, but one of my favorites is the traditions. One tradition that I love started when we moved into our neighborhood a few years ago. Instead of doing neighbor gifts, we have teamed up with the Utah Food Bank, and as a neighborhood, we donate food and diapers, and anything else they really need at that time. We designate a specific evening and house as a drop off location each year. When you stop by to donate your items, there are treats and hot chocolate. It is a fun time to mingle with your neighbors, and give something back to the community at the same time. It also helps reduce the stress and time of trying to figure out what to buy for all of your neighbors, and making sure you do not leave anyone out. It is great learning experience for the children in the neighborhood about the importance of giving, and providing service to those in need. It is so neat to see your neighborhood come together to help better the community. What a way to LIVE UNITED!
By: Ashley Hillman
Community Collaborations Director
I’ve realized that I can learn a lot working at United Way. Yes, learning how to convert an excel document to a pdf and how to create a comprehensive, yet simple budget are all great skills, but it’s the lessons about generosity and kindness that I value most of all. It’s easy to become immersed with responding to emails, returning phone calls, coordinating meetings and a number of other daily tasks that fill each moment of the working day. But it’s the people, groups and organizations whose actions make me realize that life is about a lot more than checking off the tasks on my “to do” list.
Shannon Harmon, one of my colleagues in Resource Development, and I recently took on a project to identify families in need to receive gifts this Christmas. We coordinated with a teacher at Horizonte Welcome Center to identify just a few families who could use some assistance this holiday season, and the response we received was a much-needed jolt of reality for me. Descriptions of families who are new to not only our Salt Lake community, but to our country, and in need of basic necessities like clothing, shoes, sheets and hygiene products filled the page on the email. Words such as “unemployed” and “homeless” made me reflect on the need, instead of merely the task of coordinating groups or individuals who might be able to sponsor one of the “numbers” on the list. The descriptions in the email transformed those numbers into faces, families and people struggling to make ends meet in a foreign place. Most of the refugees on the list in the email have large families and few resources. And perhaps most unsettling was that the list could have been much, much longer.
When our initial plan of action for finding sponsorships for these families fell through, Shannon and I were left with this list of families in need and zero sponsorships. We weren’t quite sure how we were going to find businesses or individuals to sponsor all of the families. We just knew that each and every family on that list absolutely had to be sponsored. Shannon made some phone calls and little by little, businesses and family members of coworkers stepped up to the plate and not only sponsored each and every family on the list, but asked for additional ways they could help! Informal groups of friends and family joined forces to pool money and shop for these families so that every single need on the list was met. A grandmother requested information about a family so that she could take her grandchildren shopping for them—teaching generosity and kindness by example.
What began as another bullet on my “to do” list became a lesson in compassion. Yes, a few families at Horizonte Welcome Center received gifts of items both wanted and needed, but in the process, I learned that the human spirit is still alive and moving through our communities. Sometimes it takes a simple act of kindness to open our eyes to the good that surrounds us. This realization was a feeling far more satisfying than marking yet another task off of my “to do” list. And for that, I am very thankful.