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Conversations: Meet Heather, A Happy Tax Filer

Happy tax filer

Heather is a tax filer who reached out to us in February after she had her tax return prepared at our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site.

How did you hear about The River Center’s free tax prep program?

Through the Keene Public Library.

How long have you been coming to have your taxes done here?

5 years

When you think of doing your taxes, how do you feel about it?

AWESOME! The River Center makes the whole process friendly and not scary.

Tell us about your experience in our VITA program.

I got lost and Janine was very patient and kind on the phone when I called to say I was going to be late and VERY reassuring. She told me to “take my time” when I found myself completely frazzled. I showed up 30 min. late for my appointment and she was kind enough to come into the living room, where I sat, and help me with any questions that I had on the confusing paper I needed to fill out. I loved her energy!

Geoff and Fran both wore striped shirts and I began our interaction with pointing out that I must have “missed the stripe memo” as I didn’t have stripes on. They were patient and clear and calm and professional. I loved the story Fran told me as well.

What did you think of the volunteers who prepared your taxes? 

AMAZING! They looked like twins both wearing striped shirts that day….

What do you wish people knew about our tax program?

It is FREE and available! Free things “go away” when not “used”. Take advantage!!

Do you feel that this tax program is a benefit to the community and if so, what do you think it brings to the table for people? If not, what do you think could be done differently?

Definitely benefit. I am a single Mom, I don’t itemize and I can’t afford the $200 fee [elsewhere] just so a computer program can do 90% of the work…

If you plan on coming back here, what draws you here vs going elsewhere?

FREE and friendly atmosphere.  I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone!  I tell everyone about you guys!

Consider us during the statewide 24 hours of giving event, NH Gives so that we may continue to support people like Heather in our Money Matters program which includes Money Coaching and Free Tax Prep.

NH Gives Banner 2019

Conversations: Meet Tara, Tax Time Saver

SaveYourRefund 2018 Grand Prize Winning Entry

Tara’s photo entry depicting why she chose to save part of her refund

I am teaching her the value of saving money every week for:

The future

Her education

My retirement

An emergency fund

That vacation…

Every little bit counts. So start small. Think big. Create the life you want – one dollar at a time.

 

How did you hear about The River Center’s free tax prep program? 

I was looking for free or low cost tax filing assistance online and found the River Center’s free tax prep program.

How long have you been coming to have your taxes done here?

3 years.

When you think of doing your taxes, how do you feel about it? 

I used to dread it, but I don’t anymore.

Tell us about your experience with our tax program. 

When I get my taxes prepared at the River Center, the volunteer tax preparers are very thorough and then a [quality reviewer] checks the final draft of the tax return before it is filed. I feel confident that I am getting the best possible refund.

What do you think of the volunteers who prepared your taxes?

Everyone is very personable and they are happy to answer all of my questions.

What do you wish people knew about our tax program? 

Besides being an easy and stress free process, if you save part of your tax refund, you are eligible to enter a contest to win $10,000.

Do you feel that this tax program is a benefit to the community and if so, what do you think it brings to the table for people? If not, what do you think could be done differently?

Yes, I feel that the tax program is a benefit to the community. You have more money to go towards your financial goals and the opportunity to establish or build savings. The River Center even offers resources on how to save money.

If you plan on coming back here, what draws you here vs going elsewhere?

I like getting my taxes done by people I’ve come to know and trust. I’m not just a number.

 

Tara was one of  SaveYourRefund‘s 2018 Grand Prize Winners. Tara started by putting some of her refund that year into savings and when she won, she also put those winnings into savings. She tells us that having this cushion to fall back on has given her the confidence and the freedom to make life choices she wouldn’t have made otherwise.

Consider us during the statewide 24 hours of giving event, NH Gives so that we may continue to support people like Tara in our Money Matters program which includes Money Coaching and Free Tax Prep.

NH Gives Banner 2019

 

New Shoes and Inspiration

I recently splurged on some new shoes. Why? you may ask. I went on a Big Trip. I was in Washington DC the first week of May for a conference of the National Family Support Network. And, of course, I needed new shoes- shoes I could walk in, talk in, and think big thoughts. Some of you know what I am talking about.

Anyway, new shoes aside, the gathering of family resource center networks from across the country was inspiring. It would seem that supporting families is universal. Families in California and Maine, Florida and Wisconsin need support. We share a core vision of ensuring that every family has what they need to thrive and that children can grow in a stable and nurturing environment.

What we do is surround families with what are known as the five protective factors for strong families:

  1. enhancing parental resilience; 
  2. connecting families with concrete supports in times of need;
  3. facilitating knowledge of parenting and child development
  4. supporting healthy social and emotional development in children; and
  5. creating social connections.

Strong families make for strong communities and ultimately a stronger world for us all.

Family resource centers provide this support through parent education and support: parenting classes, support groups, play groups for parents and young children, baby groups. Through these groups and interactions new friendships development and social connections result. Intensive in-home support for families is provided, supporting pregnant women, infants, and the family through regular visits. Connecting families with food, clothing, housing, employment, counseling, transportation, or whatever the need is another important role of the family resource center.

How we do this support differs from state to state, community to community. In Kentucky, there are 854 family resource centers located in the schools. In Vermont they are called Parent Child Centers. In New Jersey they are called Family Success Centers. Some family resource centers include childcare programs, food pantries, thrift shops and English as a second language. Some are funded with state or federal dollars, others are not (New Hampshire is not). All family resource centers reflect their communities. In New Hampshire we have a thirteen family resource centers ranging from self-standing nonprofits (like The River Center and The Grapevine) to the Family Connections Center located in the state prison, to Whole Village Family Resource Center in Plymouth that houses multiple nonprofits that support families.

I attended this convening in my role as President of the Board of Family Support New Hampshire, the coalition of family resource centers and family support programs of New Hampshire. I was encouraged to meet women and men from across the country who are engaged in supporting families through family resource centers. I came away encouraged by their enthusiasm, passion, and thoughtful leadership. We are convinced that families need support to thrive. Children don’t come with instructions. Parenting is a tough job and we can’t do it alone. Family resource centers are here to help.

So, remember that The River Center is a family and community resource center. Right here in your community. We offer parenting classes like the Challenge of Teens and Tweens with Bonnie Harris. We have a parent group that meets in Jaffrey on Friday mornings for parents with young children. Thursday mornings Families, Forests, and Farms, is a fun group for parents and children exploring our community. Our home visitors support families with young children through regular in-home visits. We have a Safe Sitter babysitting class coming up on June 1 for 11-14 year olds. And then there is money coaching and help with your taxes. And don’t forget that we are here to help connect you with community resources by calling 924-6800, walk in at 9 Vose Farm Rd, Suite 115, or go to www.rivercenter.us for our on-line Factbook resource guide to services in the Eastern Monadnock Region.

Strong families make strong communities which result in a better world for all of us. Let us know how we can support your family.

Margaret Nelson
Executive Director
The River Center Family and Community Resource Center
mnelson@rivercenter.us

Babies on the Brain

Baby N

Babies- They are so cute! They can be so frustrating! They coo- they cry and cry and cry.

Wouldn’t it be nice if every expectant family had all the support and resources they needed to get their new family off to a great start?

When a baby is on the way there are many things to do to prepare and many challenges to face once the baby is born. Some expectant families are surrounded by supportive family and friends and are accessing all the resources they need. Some can benefit from regular home visits from a professional family support home visitor. These in-home visits are a highly effective way to assist and encourage families through all the challenges they face during pregnancy and in the baby’s first years. The home visitor and family will address many issues: Have they set up regular pre-natal medical visits? What are the transportation needs? Do they have health insurance? Stable housing? What about work? Is the father of the baby involved? Are their special needs that need consideration? The home visitor works with each family to ensure that they have what they need for a healthy and positive start to their family.

The River Center Family and Community Resource Center has provided this family support through home visits for close to eighteen years. Over two years ago, Monadnock United Way, through the Impact Monadnock initiative, invited The River Center, The Grapevine Family and Community Resource Center, Healthy Starts at HCS Home Health and Hospice, and Rise for baby and family to be part of a home visiting collaborative as a pilot project. All four of our organizations already supported families through regular in-home visits for parents, infants and young children. Under the guidance of Monadnock United Way staff, we talked about our desire that more families be supported through our incredible in-home family support programs. Together we identified the need for better communication between our programs, marketing, professional development for our staff, and, of course, funding to keep our programs running.

Today, the collaborative is known as the Monadnock Home Visiting Alliance and receives funding from the Monadnock United Way. We have developed specific goals and strategies to expand our reach to more families with high quality intensive home visiting throughout the Monadnock Region. Our home visitors are meeting together regularly for professional development and networking opportunities. Thanks to a grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, we have hired an Outreach Coordinator to spread the word about all our in-home family support programs. We have seen many of our goals achieved and are optimistic that more families will benefit from this intensive support.

What are some of the results of families supported through regular in-home visits? A young mom told a friend that everything she has learned about being a mom she learned from her home visitor. Through developmental screenings done in the home, a toddler is identified as needing early intervention with speech therapist. A mom who has lost a child is encouraged through the pregnancy and birth of a second child. A dad who is raising his young children knows he has someone he can call who is there to help him connect with services he needs to be successful.

Taking care of a baby is hard work. It’s stressful at times. If other aspects of life are also stressful and if there is little support for the mom and dad, it can be particularly rough. Family support home visitors partner with the parents to identify needs and make connections with the knowledge, resources, and support they need to create a healthy positive start for their family. The Monadnock Home Visiting Alliance is a way for The River Center, The Grapevine, Heathy Starts at HCS, and Rise for baby and family to reach more families. For more information, please contact me at mnelson@rivercenter.us or 924-6800.

The River Center supports parents and families in a number of ways. Be sure to join us for the free showing of the film Brainious followed by a panel discussion on Tuesday, May 7, 6:30-8:00 at the Peterborough Community Theatre. The film is about the importance of relationships for brain development. We are thankful for Hutter Construction for sponsoring the showing of this film.

Brainious Teaser

Take a sneak peek at Brainious and then RSVP to our special screening of it with panel discussion on May 7, 6:30 pm at the Peterborough Community Theatre. This is a must-see film if you have or work with children! https://www.facebook.com/events/504747286728321/?ti=ia

Posted by The River Center on Monday, April 22, 2019

Saving Makes A Difference

How much money do you have in the bank? Do you have a rainy day fund? Money saved for retirement? A new car fund? A home repair fund? Education fund? Yikes!

I just lost you didn’t I? Did your stomach start to tie up in knots?

An individual who has her taxes done through The River Center’s free tax preparation program told us how saving money helped her. She was able to save the equivalent of several months’ wages due to a surprise gift. She decided that she would treat herself spending 10% of this gift and save the rest. Because now she has a financial buffer, she was able to make some life decisions that felt too risky before. She left her job and found another job she enjoys. She made some relationship decisions. She is happy and feels more in control of her life.
Not having any money in the bank for ‘just in case’ leaves us vulnerable. We don’t have a fall back in case something happens.

I googled ‘Saving Money’. There are 7 Ways, 8 Simple Ways, 35 Realistic Ways, 100 Great Ways, etc. to save money. There is the Secret to Saving Money. Take a look sometime. Everyone is weighing in on how to save money. We understand we should save, but we have difficulty putting it into practice.

Did you know that The River Center offers money coaching? A team of trained volunteers are ready and able to help anyone demystify their finances. Because truly, many times our finances are mysterious. Money comes, money goes. We aren’t exactly sure where it went, but our bank accounts tell us it’s gone.

Why do people come for money coaching at The River Center? They come because they have maxed out their credit card debt and need help figuring out how to pay them down. They come because they would like to buy a house and want a plan to make it happen. They come because they are graduating from high school and want to avoid excessive education debt or fund a gap year. A couple with six figure income needs help organizing the chaos of their finances which has resulted in late fees and bill collectors.

A newly single parent is always running out of money before the end of the month. Income is not enough to cover basic expenses for their family. We connect them to assistance programs to supplement their family needs until they can stabilize their life and increase income.
Our money coaches are here to help. Anyone, any income, any need. They are at The River Center for drop-ins every Wednesday from 12:30-2:00 or appointments can be made anytime by calling 924-6800 or info@rivercenter.us.

Our free tax preparation program for low and moderate income households is in full swing until April 13. Appointments can be made by calling 924-6800 If you or someone you know might qualify for this program, have them give a call. Our IRS certified volunteer preparers are trained to make sure that tax payers take full benefit of earned income, child, and educational tax credits. Every tax payer is encouraged to split their refund to save a portion for those rainy days.

Questions? Interested in meeting with a money coach? Give us a call at 924-6800.

Margaret Nelson
Executive Director
The River Center Family and Community Resource Center
mnelson@rivercenter.us

EITC Awareness Day 2019

The EITC or Earned Income Tax Credit is a benefit designed for working people to get ahead. It reduces the tax you owe and may even give you a refund.

One out of every 5 workers in the US who is eligible to claim the EITC, does not. While the EITC amount is dependent on a number of factors, in NH the average for **EITC claimants in 2018 was $1,986, but 21.6% of eligible taxpayers did not claim this credit so $24,485,061 went unclaimed! This is money that could be used to make home improvements, pay down bills or other expenses or used to kickstart savings. The IRS encourages anyone with earnings of $54,884 or less to see if they qualify using the EITC Assistant or you can visit or call us at the contact information below.

We at The River Center's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program have a crew of dedicated IRS-CERTIFIED volunteers who are passionate about helping people with incomes of up to about $60,000 in our community keep more of their hard-earned money and access those credits such as the EITC for which they are eligible. For the families and individuals who qualify for the program, this tax preparation service and e-filing is completely FREE. We can also help you split your refund into up to 3 different ways - paper check, checking, savings if you bring your banking info to your appointment. Discuss your options with us.

Call us at (603) 924-6800 or email your phone number to taxes@rivercenter.us to make an appointment with us. Let us help you.

#EITCAwarenessDay

**Also, The law requires the IRS to hold the tax refund in order to review the claims before releasing the funds. The IRS expects the first of these refunds to be available starting Feb. 27. See www.irs.gov/refundtiming