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VITA: Transforming Lives Through Tax Assistance

Many families in Tarrant County, Texas, face financial hardship. This is especially true during tax season. But an army of dedicated volunteers is transforming lives through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. This initiative, spearheaded by the United Way of Tarrant County (UWTC), is changing the financial future for households earning $60,000 or less.

VITA's core principle is the belief in community empowerment and financial literacy. Since its inception 13 years ago, VITA volunteers, such as Krisna Eastham, have processed over 80,000 returns, leading to more than $149 million in tax refunds for Tarrant County families. With her full-time job and pursuit of an accounting degree at the University of Massachusetts, Krisna still finds joy in giving back through VITA every year.

"Taxes are complicated even when English is your first language," Krisna shares, highlighting her role as a bilingual volunteer assisting those not fluent in English with understanding the taxing process. "We have a lot of Spanish, French, and Vietnamese speakers come in, and they are totally lost."

The success story of the VITA program is about more than just numbers. It is about changing the lives of real people. Last year, Krisna helped Diana and Carlos Moreno*, parents of a family of eight, discover they were eligible for a $26,000 refund. With tears of joy, they could buy cars for their college-bound children. "They hugged me and cried, and I reminded them that that is their money," Krisna recalls. Another family used a $10,000 refund for a down payment on their first home.

But VITA is more than a tax preparation service; it's a catalyst for change in the community. By collaborating with other organizations, the program ensures that clients take advantage of every tax credit, including the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. These credits, often overlooked, can make a world of difference in the lives of families struggling to make ends meet.

In fulfilling its commitment to health, education, and financial stability, United Way and VITA are not merely assisting with tax preparation; they are forging a path towards economic independence and stability for Tarrant County's diverse population. Through empathy, teamwork, and community, they're proving that even the complex world of taxes can be beautiful when used to uplift and empower one another. The ripple effect of their efforts is a testament to how much can be achieved when we work together. The joy they are spreading is more than a gesture; it's a concrete step towards ensuring that everyone, everywhere, has the opportunity to thrive.

*These names have been changed for privacy.