We want to hold your hand

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance appointments are available

by Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director – United Way of Charlotte County

This week in 1964, the Beatles had their first number-one hit in America enter the Billboard Hot 100 chart. John Lennon described the process of writing the song in partnership with Paul McCartney as, “one on one, eyeball to eyeball”.

The song, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” became the Beatles’ best-selling single worldwide, selling over 12 million copies.

At United Way of Charlotte County (UWCC), partnering one on one with other social service organizations in our community is what we consider a hit as well. I am honored to be part of the Family Services Center in Port Charlotte, where health and human service agencies work eyeball to eyeball every day, offering a hand of support to Charlotte County residents.

Our main role at the Family Services Center is in offering a place where low- and moderate-income residents can have their income taxes prepared by IRS-certified tax preparers at no cost. (Yes, it is free!) Our tax appointments run from Feb. 2 through April 11 with the deadline to file Tuesday, April 18, 2023.

Preparing and filing your income taxes can be overwhelming and costly, but it doesn’t have to be. UWCC’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) is available for area residents to have their taxes prepared at no cost by someone who is willing to hold your hand throughout the process. Our team will ensure that you have the documents you need and that you receive all deductions and credits that you are eligible for. Appointments are available at New Life in Christ Church, 507 W Marion Ave., Punta Gorda and at the Family Services Center, 21500 Gibralter Dr., Port Charlotte.

In my time working in social services, one thing has been abundantly clear to me. If a family has one need, they likely have more than one need. That is the genius behind the Family Services Center.

Current partners at the Family Services Center include Charlotte County Human Services, Lutheran Services of Florida, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services, Boys & Girls Clubs of Charlotte County and the Florida Department of Health in Charlotte County (and others!). A variety of programs and services are available for individuals and families to access the help they need at one location.

Carrie Walsh, Human Services Department Director, says, “We are delighted that the Family Services Center is a hub for human services, and VITA is one of the key programs that demonstrates the value of the model.”

By integrating a variety of programs and services under one roof, multidimensional support is available to meet the unique needs of each family. It isn’t about supporting individuals and families differently; it is about being more effective in supporting them from all angles. Our goal is to have a more seamless approach to connecting Charlotte County residents to the right resources to help them to have improved quality of life.

And, yes, free tax preparation can improve someone’s quality of life! As noted by Walsh, “VITA is a critical community-led program that bolsters financial stability for eligible residents because it keeps money in the pockets of the people who need it most.”

For low- and moderate-income families, a few hundred dollars can mean the difference between buying groceries this month or not. In 2022, the economic impact of the Charlotte County’s VITA program was $1,200,513. We hope to impact the community even more in 2023.

Appointment slots fill up fast, so now is the time to get yours scheduled. If you or someone you know would like us to hold your hand through tax season, appointments can be scheduled by calling 941-421-7100 or by filling out the simple form at unitedwayccfl.org/appointments.

For more information about United Way of Charlotte County’s mission:  Mobilizing the power of our community to break the cycle of poverty, please contact Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director. She can be reached at director@unitedwayccfl.org.