Tax season brings help for Manitobans

Helping low-income Manitobans prepare their tax returns reaps big rewards

The cost of income tax preparation is significant for some low-income Manitobans, but the cost of not doing their taxes can be even more significant in lost benefits and credits.

Enter Community Financial Counselling Services (CFCS) – a United Way agency partner that offers financial counselling, education and advocacy for people; especially high-risk populations facing financial challenges.

Since 2008 CFSC has worked in partnership with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to provide free income tax preparation to 10,000 Manitobans annually through the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP).

CFCS Executive Director John Silver expressed appreciation last April to volunteers who worked preparing taxes for low-income Manitobans.

CFCS Executive Director John Silver expressed appreciation last April to volunteers who worked preparing taxes for low-income Manitobans.

“Many people can’t afford the $60 to get it done,” said John Silver, CFCS Executive Director, at their volunteer appreciation lunch last April.

John points out that people need to complete their tax return to be eligible for benefits and tax credits related to things like GST, pharmacare, disability and child care.

“It’s the same money that all of us are entitled to when we do our taxes.”

The work they do returns $20 million Winnipeggers are entitled to, John says, representing a 400-fold return on the $50,000 program cost.

The value of the service is also apparent to the CRA-registered volunteers who prepare taxes for clients.

Volunteers enjoy an appreciation lunch last April. Many will be ready to help again this February!

Volunteers enjoy an appreciation lunch last April. Many will be ready to help again this February!

“It’s written all over their faces,” said Hugo Peters, who has volunteered for over 10 years.

“People who struggle or make do with very little, they have no pretense.”

The tax preparation program is available free to all Manitobans with low income earnings. It opens at the Norquay Building on February 21st and runs 9AM to 3PM Tuesday to Friday until April 28th.

This is just one resource available to Manitobans. To find a service closest to your home, visit mb.211.ca and click on the tile for financial services.

To learn more about the CVITP specifically, or to volunteer in the program preparing taxes for low-income Manitobans, go online or call 204-989-1900.

Frances Kusner, who turned 100 last April, volunteered with CVITP for 41 years. She retired this year. Thank you, Frances!

Frances Kusner, who turned 100 last April, volunteered with CVITP for 41 years. She retired this year. Thank you, Frances!

‘It’s all about dignity’

Canadian Footwear helps people put a good foot forward at John Howard Society

The John Howard Society (JHS) hosted a grand opening reception for their new We Fit You Closet last week, and the reviews are in.

Canadian Footwear co-owner Brian Scharfstein cuts the ribbon on the new We Fit You Closet.

Canadian Footwear co-owner Brian Scharfstein cuts the ribbon on the new We Fit You Closet with help from Tania Weibe, coordinator of reintegration at JHS

“I’m thrilled. The guys feel like they’re shopping,” said Charlie Medd, who volunteers with clients visiting the closet to get much-needed clothes and shoes to help them step back into life feeling good about themselves.

The new closet is spacious and has natural light, while the old space was dark, cramped and located inconveniently at the back of the JHS building.

The old space.

The old space.

The new We Fit You Closet.

The new We Fit You Closet.

Canadian Footwear co-owner Brian Scharfstein designed and provided paint and shelving for the clothing closet.

JHS executive director John Hutton expresses his gratitude and presents a gift to Brian Scharfstein at the opening reception.

JHS executive director John Hutton expresses his gratitude and presents a gift to Brian Scharfstein at the opening reception.

“He’s been a big supporter of the clothing closet for years,” said John Hutton, executive director of JHS, adding that Canadian Footwear provides new and donated shoes that are cleaned and fixed with new laces and insoles.

A rack of shoes in the new closet.

A rack of shoes in the new closet.

The John Howard Society, a United Way agency partner, works with men who have been involved in the criminal justice system to help them re-integrate into society.

Brian said his goal in helping design and build the new clothing closet was to return self-esteem to people starting over.

“We wanted to make it feel like a boutique – make people feel good. It’s all about dignity,” he said.

“People who require a second chance is something we support.”

The John Howard Society is always looking for donations of gently-used clothing for men, including jeans, sweaters, and work boots. If you would like to organize a United Way Collection Drive for the We Fit You Closet at your workplace, please contact doc@unitedwaywinnipeg.mb.ca or call 204-477-5360.

Closet volunteer Charlie Medd was all smiles!

Closet volunteer Charlie Medd was all smiles!

Forgotten: The Métis Residential School Experience

Exhibit, open to public until January 31, shines light on history of the Métis and the legacy of residential schools

People came together in our atrium for the official opening of Forgotten: The Métis Residential School Experience exhibit this week, which features three 8×7-foot panels that chart the history of Métis through to today and present the lesser-known story of Métis and residential schools. The double-sided panels of silk-screened fabric are joined by artifacts from Métis culture and the schools.

Pottery, bead work, and a fiddle bow adorn a larger-than-life portrait of a Métis family shown in the exhibit.

Pottery, bead work, and a fiddle bow adorn a larger-than-life portrait of a Métis family shown in the exhibit.

Sarah Cook, co-chair of United Way’s Council for Indigenous Relations (CIR) and a United Way board member, thanked The Legacy of Hope Foundation for developing the exhibit, as well as the Manitoba Métis Federation and the Louis Riel Institute for collaborating to present it.

Sarah Cook spoke of the long-hidden nature of the Métis residential school experience.

Sarah Cook spoke of the long-hidden nature of the Métis residential school experience.

Sarah said the exhibit shows “Métis childrens’ unique experiences of residential school students that have been long hidden.”

“As one of our Council members and member of United Way Winnipeg’s Board of Trustees, Reid Hartry, has reminded our Council – the apology offered to residential school survivors in 2008 did not include the Métis.”

Andrew Carrier, the Manitoba Métis Federation’s Minister of Métis and Residential & Day School Survivors, shared that three generations in his family, including himself, suffered abuse in residential schools.

Manitoba Métis Federation Minister Andrew Carrier shared his family's inter-generational experience of abuse at residential schools.

Manitoba Métis Federation Minister Andrew Carrier shared his family’s inter-generational experience of abuse at residential schools.

Children suffered many abuses including starvation, corporal punishment, and sexual abuse. Minister Carrier pointed out the onion and apple displayed in the exhibit – a reminder of what children had to eat to survive when food was in short supply and withheld from students.

“It does talk about being resilient. We Métis are very resilient…we’re looking towards rebuilding our foundation with hope and an understanding of our past.”

Oliver Boulette, left, and Jim Flett provided music for the reception.

Oliver Boulette, left, and Jim Flett provided music for the reception.

United Way Winnipeg President & CEO Connie Walker told those gathered that it is an honour to host the exhibit.

She said previous exhibits hosted at United Way have also helped shine a light on hard and painful truths, including We Were so Far Away: The Inuit Experience of Residential Schools and 100 Years of Loss – The Residential School System in Canada.

“We know we need to recognize the truth in our history if we are ever to forge a meaningful path of reconciliation.”

Forgotten: The Métis Residential School Experience is free and open to the public in United Way’s atrium, 580 Main Street, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday until January 31.

Celebrating Winnipeg’s generosity

Together we celebrated Campaign 2016 – the first year of a three-year plan to help thousands more in our city

More than 800 people came together to celebrate the generosity of Winnipeggers during the 2016 Campaign on Friday night at the RBC Convention Centre.

United Way friends help reveal Winnipeg's generosity for the 2016 Campaign.

United Way friends help reveal Winnipeg’s generosity for the 2016 Campaign.

“This is a remarkable achievement and I simply cannot thank you enough – all of you here tonight and thousands more,” said 2016 Campaign Chair Neil Besner as the total of $20.1 million was revealed.

It was the first year of a three-year plan guided by Winnipeggers to keep the support that helps thousands of Winnipeggers strong while bringing more help to over 11,000 more Winnipeggers.

The Rising Sun Pow Wow Club from Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre gave a beautiful performance as part of the celebration.

The Rising Sun Pow Wow Club from Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre gave a beautiful performance as part of the celebration.

“I hope you understand the very real difference your generosity and support will make for thousands of Winnipeggers who rely on the resources you make possible every day.”

Neil passed the torch to 2017 Campaign Chair Colin Ryan, who spoke of the inspiration of his mother showing him the value of volunteerism and giving back to community.

2017 Campaign Chair Colin Ryan pledged to start work right away.

2017 Campaign Chair Colin Ryan pledged to start work right away.

“She inspired me to always make time to get involved and I am fortunate in that I can now also contribute financially as well.”

Colin said he and the volunteers in United Way’s Cabinet will get back to work right away to shine a light on the challenges we face in our city and how the goals in the three-year plan will help address them.

“They are goals our community – all of us – believe are essential to achieve. We know that there are still kids and families facing real challenges even as we speak – and I know together we can reach them.”

PJs and Caring

Annual PJ Drive brings home generosity and warmth for kids.

Members of The Manitoba Chiropractors Association – 41 offices – collected over 2700 pairs of PJs as part of their annual PJ drive for United Way agencies.

The PJs were sorted and packaged last week for delivery to about 40 different agencies to help stuff stockings this holiday season.

Students from Asper School of Business' Team Toba sorted PJs into age groups.

Students from Asper School of Business’ Team Toba sorted PJs into age groups.

Volunteers from the Asper School of Business (Team Toba – JDC West) and GenNext members did two United Way Days of Caring to sort and organize the PJs for delivery.

Members of United Way’s GenNext Council also showed up on a cold night to sort and package the warm PJs for kids. It brought back happy memories for some of them.

GenNexters sort and package PJs for United Way agencies.

GenNexters sort and package PJs for United Way agencies.

“A bunch of us were talking about getting new pajamas as kids every Christmas and how nice that was. There are some families who can’t afford that,” said Diana King, chair of Community Involvement on the GenNext Council.

“And they’re all new, and some are even hand-made.”

PJs bagged and labelled for delivery to United Way agency partners.

PJs bagged and labelled for delivery to United Way agency partners.

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The drive is over now for another year, but there are still lots of opportunities for groups looking to help out in the community.

To give back through a collection drive or United Way Day of Caring contact Melissa at mburgess@unitedwaywinnipeg.mb.ca or 204-924-4273.

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E.T. gets an orchestra

National Leasing partners with The Winnipeg Boldness Project to sponsor art and culture events for Point Douglas families

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial won the 1982 Academy Award for Best Original Score, and last Sunday families were treated not just a screening of E.T. but also the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra performing the iconic score as the movie played.

The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra played in unison with the movie E.T. playing above them on a giant screen.

The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra played in unison with the movie E.T. playing above them on a giant screen.

The special day for 25 kids and their family members from The Winnipeg Boldness Project was thanks to National Leasing, which sponsors many arts and cultural organizations in Winnipeg.

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Since 2014 The Winnipeg Boldness Project has worked towards innovative and parent-informed strategies to improve early childhood development and outcomes for children in Winnipeg’s Point Douglas community, which includes the North End.

This year National Leasing decided to partner with The Winnipeg Boldness Project to give families, many facing severe socio-economic challenges, access to cultural experiences.

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“Research has shown repeated exposure to arts and cultural activities from a young age often has a positive impact on a child’s path in life,” said National Leasing public relations coordinator Janet Seniuk.

Janet said National Leasing had been looking for a way to get involved with The Winnipeg Boldness Project for a while.

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“We think what they’re doing for Winnipeg families is very important.”

National Leasing’s eight sponsored events for Boldness families this year included places like FortWhyte Alive, Prairie Theatre Exchange, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba Children’s Museum, and Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

Dip-netting for marsh creatures at FortWhyte Alive.

Dip-netting for marsh creatures at FortWhyte Alive.

“It’s been really fun, interesting, and a lot of education,” says Darrin Richard, whose son Ayden, 8, and partner Miranda Pullman attended the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s screening of E.T.

Miranda, Darrin and son Ayden try out some percussion instruments backstage at the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

Miranda, Darrin and son Ayden try out some percussion instruments backstage at the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

“They’ve been good experiences we would not have been able to do without National Leasing.”

Winnipeg Art Gallery

Winnipeg Art Gallery

Darrin and Miranda are part of the Parent Advisory Group that helps guide The Winnipeg Boldness Project’s initiatives. Darrin says many of those initiatives make him and Miranda feel like their two children have opportunities equal to families living in other areas of Winnipeg.

Building cars to learn about motion at the Manitoba Children’s Museum.

Building cars to learn about motion at the Manitoba Children’s Museum.

According to a Peg indicator report 40% of children are not ready to learn when they enter kindergarten in the Point Douglas community.

“It’s finding ways to improve the North End and families there. It’s giving children opportunities…children are our future, so I’m trying to do my part,” said Darrin.

“It allows us to take the initiative.”