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Eric Bailey addresses the crowd at our tax season kickoff on the set of Daytime.

“Let’s hear it for tax season!” Now that’s something you don’t hear too often. But here at United Way Suncoast, we cheer tax season. That’s because our free tax preparation service helps thousands of working families and individuals keep more of what they earn. And it brings millions of dollars back to our local economy.

Our tax season kickoff was held late last month at WFLA Channel 8 in the Daytime studio. This month and next, Daytime will air interviews with host Cyndi Edwards and our own Kara Moore to help people get ready to prepare their taxes. You can see the first segment here.

At the kickoff Eric Bailey, United Way board member and Managing Principal at CapTrust, said about our free tax service, “This is just the beginning. Tax refunds help families achieve financial stability.” He gave an example of a person who took advantage of our free tax service last year. The tax payer wasn’t familiar with the Earned Income Tax Credit (E.I.T.C.) and had never filed for it. Our volunteer preparer completed his taxes and then went back several years and re-filed, claiming the E.I.T.C. deduction the taxpayer was entitled to. By the time he was finished, the taxpayer received close to $10,000 in refunds. Imagine what that can do to change the story for a family!

At United Way, our goal is to help people keep more of what they earn. We encourage those who get a tax refund to save some for emergencies. We offer budgeting classes to those who are interested. Families who stretch their dollars become more self sufficient, more financially stable. That changes the story for the family and for the community.

We’re grateful to the partners who are involved in this work with us: Walmart, Wells Fargo, PNC Bank, Republic Bank, Hillsborough County, Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union, AARP and the IRS (it isn’t often you thank the IRS). In addition, WFLA hosted the kickoff and PNC Bank provided breakfast.

Our free tax service is available to those who earned $57,000 or less in 2012. Since the median household income in Florida in 2012 was $43,924, we have a lot of opportunity to help people with their taxes.

Help us spread the word. Sites are open in DeSoto, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Sarasota counties. Click here to find a site near you, call 2-1-1, or do your taxes yourself at:
•    www.myfreetaxes.com/tampa
•    www.myfreetaxes.com/sarasota

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Diana Baker, President and CEO

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United Way Suncoast had the privilege of being involved in the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s first Corporate Philanthropy awards. So many companies in our region give back to the community in big ways and they deserved to be recognized. These awards were designed to do just that, spotlight the many corporate-sanctioned giving and volunteer programs that stand out in the Tampa Bay community.

Nearly 200 companies in the area submitted applications and the top 35 gathered at a luncheon at the A La Carte Pavilion in December. The companies were broken down into three categories based on number of employees and the top three companies in each category were presented with an award at the luncheon. A number of United Way supporters received awards including PCL Civil Constructors, Raymond James Financial and The Mosaic Company. The Tampa Bay Business Journal also presented the top award, Benefactor of the Year, to the Covelli Family Limited Partnership/Panera Bread Franchise for their extensive work in the community.

Listening to all of the different non-profits that are supported and work that is being done in our community, I was proud to be in a room with such giving companies and individuals. Our community is blessed to have so many companies that are invested in corporate philanthropy. Because of their support, United Way and other non-profits are able to continue helping individuals and families and changing the story for so many in our community.

A Memorial

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United Way lost a long-time friend, colleague, supporter, and volunteer last month. Bill McBride passed away on Saturday, December 22, after suffering a heart attack. His wife, Alex Sink, notified us of his death and we have communicated with the family to express our sadness at the loss of a wonderful man, husband, and father.

Bill served our United Way most notably as Board Chair, Campaign Chair, Tocqueville Growth Chair, and champion for our Tocqueville Legacy (Planned Giving) Circle. I had the privilege to work closely with Bill over the years and know that he loved and served with passion – his family, his community, his country, his profession, and his United Way. Bill often worked behind the scenes on our behalf, using his many contacts and relationships to open doors of opportunity to talk about our work and gain support from others.  He was a leader – he never asked others to do anything he wasn’t willing to do himself. He was also a good sport – wearing his United Way campaign t-shirt for weeks on end trying to break the $10M mark so long ago.

I, along with many others, will miss Bill. His passing leaves a definite void in our lives and in the life of our community (and beyond).  Our thoughts and prayers are with Alex, their children, and the entire family as they grieve the loss of this wonderful man.

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Diana Baker, President and CEO

United Way Suncoast is looking for volunteers to serve as part of a statewide initiative to help young children learn to read at grade level.  ReadingPals is a program focused on increasing the number of students who are reading at grade level by the end of third grade.

United Way will connect volunteers to a particular site based on their preferred location schedule. Volunteers will undergo a background screening and receive training in the curriculum selected for their region prior to being assigned a reading pal. Volunteers will continue to work with children in ReadingPals throughout 2013.

Those interested in becoming ReadingPals volunteers should contact United Way Suncoast. Interested prospective volunteers should contact Nicole Brown, Program Manager, ReadingPals, by calling 813-274-0998 or emailing her at nbrown@uwsuncoast.org.  She encourages volunteers to become a part of the program.  “Great readers eventually become great leaders,” said Ms. Brown.

Volunteers will commit to reading for at least an hour per week throughout the school year with one, two or three children. The program uses proven techniques to meet the needs of each community. Volunteers will read a book out loud, guiding children through literacy activities and general conversations about the book. The program also begins to build home libraries for participating children by sending books home throughout the school year.

Children who read at grade level by the fourth grade are four times more likely to graduate from high school. Graduates earn more throughout their lifetime, make better choices, use fewer social services and statistically are more likely to stay out of trouble.

“United Way Suncoast is working with local school districts, early learning coalitions, children’s services councils and other children’s organizations to help students from pre-kindergarten to third grade,” said Diana Baker, president and CEO of United Way Suncoast. “Through Carol and Barney Barnett’s generosity, we will be able to recruit hundreds of local adult volunteers and launch the program in some of the most challenged public schools and neighborhoods.”

In August, 2012, Governor Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott joined former Miami Herald Publisher Dave Lawrence, chair of The Children’s Movement of Florida, and Carol Barnett, president of Publix Super Markets Charities, to launch ReadingPals early literacy initiative. Thanks to the Barnett’s generosity, ten United Ways across Florida will share $3 million over three years to achieve the goal of helping children read on grade level by third grade.

“We so strongly believe that the future of our state rests in the hands and minds of our youngest that we have personally contributed to the launching of  Reading Pals — an early literacy initiative in ten Florida regions. Our goal is to ensure that more children are reading at grade level by the end of third grade,” said ReadingPals sponsor and proponent of early learning, Carol Barnett. United Way is extremely excited to embark on this new journey towards academic excellence and help people throughout the community.

“Today’s third graders are tomorrow’s doctors, engineers, teachers and innovators — tomorrow’s job creators,” said Governor Rick Scott. “What Carol and Barney Barnett are making possible will make such a difference in the future of our state, and Ann and I look forward to working with them on this great initiative.”

“We are a blessed family, and feel obliged to make sure we give back a full measure to our community and country,” said Carol Barnett, who is also vice chair of The Children’s Movement. “There’s no greater investment we could make in the future of Florida.”

“The early years when 90 percent of brain growth occurs are crucial to growing children who become eager students and contributing adults,” said David Lawrence, Jr., chair of The Children’s Movement of Florida. “Learning to read by third grade is crucial, and reading to learn must become the standard by no later than fourth grade. The very future of our state and country depend on this.”

The Florida Department of Education recently released the statewide 2012 third-grade FCAT 2.0 reading scores, and 44 percent – 89,491 students – were found to be reading below grade level. These children, who struggle with reading at a young age, will be four times more likely to drop out of high school than their peers reading at grade level.

Ten United Ways across the state have received ReadingPals grants.  Locally, this includes United Way of Central Florida (Polk and Highlands counties), United Way of Manatee County, and United Way Suncoast (DeSoto, Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties.

United Way Suncoast has made a commitment to work with children and youth to help them achieve their full potential in life by focusing programs on early childhood learning.  This is part of their three-part community impact agenda that includes financial stability for families and health initiatives.  Learn more about United Way Suncoast at www.UnitedWaySuncoast.org .

 

United Way Suncoast was honored to call Bill McBride a great friend.

His passing darkens today, but his life brightened so many in our community.  Bill, and his wife Alex, were members of United Way’s Tocqueville Society.  For as long as we can remember, Bill was passionate and giving to United Way.  In his honor we have established the McBride Memorial Fund, which we do so in his memory.

Contributions to the Memorial Fund may be made online here, or, may be mailed directly to United Way Suncoast, 5201 W. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 600, Tampa, FL, 33609. Please add McBride Memorial Fund on the envelope.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Alex and the family during this time of grief and loss. Bill will be remembered for a life well lived in service to family, friends, country and community.

CONTRIBUTE TO THE MCBRIDE MEMORIAL FUND LINK

Change the story. There’s no better way to describe what you do with your gift to United Way. You change stories daily right here in your community.

You help send a child whose parents may not be able to afford it to an after-school program. There he continues to learn, putting him on track for high school graduation. High school graduates earn more, use fewer social services and make better choices in life.

You provide job training for a disabled adult who may otherwise need to depend on government programs to support her. Not only does she learn a skill that can support her, she lives with dignity and the knowledge that she is valued.

You provide safety nets for those among us who are desperate – for food, for a place to stay, for an escape from the unimaginable.

You support isolated senior citizens who have limited access to community services with routine visits, crisis intervention or a weekly call so they can maintain self-sufficiency and remain at home.

From cradle to career and beyond, you help change the story for your community.

This fall we are advancing that message with the help of our many partners in the media. Clear Channel Radio in Sarasota and Tampa, Clear Channel Outdoor, The Tampa Tribune, Tampa Bay Times, *tbt, Tampa Bay Business Journal, WFLA News Channel 8, The Power Broker, tbo.com, wfla.com, the Sarasota Herald Tribune, SNN 6 and Tampa Digital Studios are working with us to spread the message. Thanks to these generous partners and their commitment to our community, I am certain you’ll see or hear our messages at some point this fall.

As a United Way supporter, thank you for what you do to change stories in our community. If you give, advocate or volunteer, you are doing more than you might imagine.

Change the Story. Thanks to you, we’re doing just that every day.

Sincerely,

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Diana Baker
President and CEO
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International Walk to School Day was in October. I joined our partners at the Tampa Bay Rays, City of St. Petersburg, All Children’s Hospital and Jabil to walk Campbell Park Elementary children through a downpour to get to school on time and safely.

Here at United Way Suncoast, we hold our internal campaign just before the official kickoff. I believe in leading by example, and I’m proud to report that United Way Suncoast’s campaign goal of $69,000 was exceeded, with several of our employees taking advantage of the Helios Education Foundation 15 percent match and the Tampa Bay Rays step up program.   

When your campaign kicks off, you’ll learn about both of these programs. The Helios match will go to our early literacy initiative  in Tampa Bay, and the Rays step up program is designed to allow more people to become leadership donors.

“Change the story” is the official theme of our campaign year, and it played out beautifully at our campaign kickoff last week. Once again, the Tampa Bay Rays hosted us at Tropicana Field for a morning of lively music, a hot breakfast, and an enthusiastic crowd. A highlight was a six-foot mock book, where we invited guests to tell us how they will change the story. “Volunteer more,” “Mentor a child,” “Spread the word about United Way’s work” – these were a few of the pledges written in the book. Children from the Boys and Girls Club of the Suncoast answered questions such as “How would you raise a million dollars?” and “What are some of the problems in our community?” on video, and our campaign cabinet, Business Cares Sponsors and top 15 companies were recognized. Our campaign video was revealed and I believe a few tears were shed in the Trop that morning.

If you’re reading this, I know you care about your community. You believe in the work we do to improve people’s lives through education, income and health. If you’re involved in a workplace fundraising campaign, and if you can, try to give more this year. If you aren’t, you can donate here. Help us change the story for more people in the Suncoast area. 

Diana Baker, President and CEO

I enjoyed the “Ready Set Grow!” Fair in Sarasota in August. To my left is Wendy Smith, District Manager of Publix and Success By 6 Leadership Council member.

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UNITED WAY SUNCOAST
5201 W. Kennedy Blvd.,
Suite 600 Tampa, FL 33609
Ph. (813) 274-0900
Fax. (813) 228-9549

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