A SMART way to make a difference


United Way’s innovative new volunteer coaching program builds wherewithal using accountability and trust.

What’s an effective way to empower someone to build financial capability and lift themselves out of poverty? As it turns out, it may not be rocket science; it just might be a person to talk to, learn from and trust.

That is the thrust of United Way’s newest financial stability initiative, SMART Coaching. This six-month program pairs individuals looking for support in improving their financial situations with volunteers from the community.

Coaches and partners have monthly meetings at Families First in Portsmouth, where they attend financial education workshops with fellow participants, then check in with each other to set goals and track progress. The key to success is to foster a trusting relationship, where accountability is king.

“The one-on-one partnership is the most important part of the program,” said United Way’s Meghan Farrell, coordinator of the project (pictured). “We are creating trust to achieve the ideal of financial coaching, which is to encourage financial behavior change for partners in the program.”
Continue reading

You ask a question. A child answers. That’s Brain Building.

Fredo T BBiP pic

Playing “peek-a-boo” with an infant is sure to generate smiles and laughs. And counting bus stops on the commute home or pointing out colors in the produce aisle are fun ways to keep your toddler engaged.   But did you know activities and interactions like these are also laying a critical foundation for future brain development?

Continue reading

On Solid Ground Coalition Report Outlines Critical Components to Preventing Family Homelessness in Massachusetts

Boston, MA – The On Solid Ground coalition today released its first report on family homelessness. The report, On Solid Ground: Building Opportunity, Preventing Homelessness, documents the impact of the Commonwealth’s housing shortage on families with extremely low incomes, and outlines the critical components of a preventative approach to family homelessness.  United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, along with The Oak Foundation and The Boston Foundation, are the report’s philanthropic partners.

“Together, we can do more to reduce and prevent homelessness than any one person or organization can do alone,” said Michael K. Durkin, president and chief executive officer at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.  “Too many families are one financial disaster away from homelessness. Ensuring they have access to services that can help them increase their savings, build net worth and get better jobs will not only increase their household’s financial stability, but will strengthen the economic stability of communities across our Commonwealth.” Continue reading

No (Tax) Credit Left Behind

United Way’s free tax preparation effort to reach eligible low-income, working families kicks off in 11 communities

BOSTON – The IRS estimates 23% of the Earned Income Tax Credits go unclaimed each tax season in Massachusetts. Based on last year’s information, this means approximately $166 million could go unclaimed this year by low-income working individuals. To help more eligible individuals claim these tax credits, which are often left unclaimed because people are unaware of their eligibility, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, in partnership with Bank of America, is kicking off its annual free tax preparation services at 11 locations in the region.  Continue reading

Millions of dollars in Earned Income Tax Credits are going unclaimed in Massachusetts

And what we are doing to change that.

Bank of America volunteers in Roxbury last year.
Bank of America volunteers in Roxbury last year.

The IRS estimates 23% of the Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) go unclaimed each tax season. As many of us prepare for our annual routine of maximizing our own tax returns, these millions are left on the table every year – money that can make a huge difference to some of the neediest families in our communities.

With EITC Awareness Day approaching on January 30, United Way, Bank of America, and our community partners and volunteers are gearing up to help thousands of local residents make sure they are able to take advantage of this critical source of earned income.

To put it by the numbers:

  • $833 million was claimed in Earned Income Tax Credits in the 2014 tax season by eligible, low-income working individuals.
  • The average amount the individual received is $2,050
  • Based on last year’s information, this means approximately $166 million could go unclaimed this year in Massachusetts.

So what is being done about it?
Continue reading

Big-time Industry, Big-time Impact: PE/VC Associate Council Uses Brains and Brawn to Make a Difference

Boston’s PE/VC professionals open up about their passion to build a strong community.

In the spring of 2014, a group of young professionals in Boston, with their eye on high impact, formed the Private Equity/Venture Capital Associate Council. Their purpose: to take to heart the Give/Advocate/Volunteer philosophy and serve as examples in the community of what it truly means to Live United.

Those words are taken straight from the group’s charter statement and in the months since they were written, the Associate Council has put them into big-time action. Between volunteer opportunities and events and cutting-edge social impact initiatives, the Associate Council has leveraged its capacity, energy and expertise in unique, consequential ways.

“What really appealed to me was the need not just for money or volunteer hours, but rather the ability to put the skill set I have developed in the private sector to good use to help in the social sector,” says Ben Arnstein of Bain Capital, LLC. “Until I joined the Associate Council, I admit I did not truly believe I could make an impact. I joined because I was convinced this opportunity would let me do just that – and believe I have and will continue to make a difference in the Boston community.”
Continue reading

National Grid Foundation Increases Heating Assistance Funds to Support Even More Families

National Grid Foundation celebrates giving more than $1 million over 10 years to United Way partners; 2015 grant awards $150,000 to meet rising need in local communities.

United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley and the National Grid Foundation today announced that United Way will receive a grant of $150,000 to help local families with heating assistance, a significant increase over the $90,000 awarded last year.  The additional support comes as many families struggle to meet the rising cost of fuel and face recent extreme cold temperatures.

This year’s grant brings the total amount of National Grid Foundation’s support to $1.1 million over 10 years, helping more than 10,000 local families with heating assistance in that time. The funds are distributed through United Way’s Family Fund, which helps struggling families across Eastern Massachusetts make ends meet by assisting with basic needs such as heating, food, and housing.

Continue reading

Entrenched, complex issues facing the City of Boston require strong partnerships

Tonight, Mayor Martin J. Walsh will share with the region his vision for the City of Boston for the year ahead.  Complex, entrenched issues such as reducing poverty and income inequality, reducing homelessness and narrowing the achievement gap will be in the spotlight.  The good news? Strong partnerships are already in place to make progress on these issues in 2015. Continue reading

Win Win Win


Thanks to the encouragement of a friend, Jeff Coaxum discovered a volunteer opportunity that enriched him and his family more than he thought. A lot more.

Jeff Coaxum watched his best friend get punched in the eye in gym class. He was a sixth grader at the time and his friend, Rod, was assaulted for no other reason than his immense stature; other kids wanted to test their toughness and try to drop the big kid with one punch.

It’s a vivid memory and characterizes one of several challenges Jeff had as a youngster trying to navigate the sometimes tough environment of Crown Heights, Brooklyn; where the sight of fellow students getting hassled and accosted for their belongings was not uncommon. Always an above-average student, Jeff saw his grades slip, given the state of his surrounding environment and various distractions at hand.

His parents eventually moved to a more upscale neighborhood in Flatbush, Brooklyn and Jeff attended a different, safer school. His grades recovered and this along with exposure to various professionals within his community started him on a journey that would eventually see him become a Senior Vice President at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. in Boston.

Luck. It’s impossible to not attribute at least a portion of Jeff’s success to good fortune. Granted, he can ascribe the lion’s share to his stable upbringing, the academic competition between him and his brothers, two working parents and his personal work ethic. But were it not for that simple move to Flatbush, which exposed Jeff to people with different levels of education and professional experience and opened up a breadth of new choices, his life may have been drastically different.
Continue reading