Find ways to give back this season

Young people hold signs that spell "volunteer"

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) One of the greatest gifts one can give any time of year is the gift of time. There are two ways to get involved through Heart of West Michigan United Way.

Schools of Hope

The Schools of Hope program is a partnership between United Way and Grand Rapids Public Schools and focuses on supporting early elementary students learning to read. Third grade reading levels are a key indicator of a student’s future academic success. Research shows students who do not read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma.

The Schools of Hope Reading Program pairs students in grades first through third who are behind in reading with volunteer reading tutors who work on-on-one with them each week for 30 minutes during the school year. The tutors provide guided reading practice and encouragement for the students. All the activities are prepared and provided for tutors by Schools of Hope Coordinator. There is no prep work involved for the tutor.

United Way is hoping to sign up 25 volunteers by Thanksgiving. Volunteers need to attend a two-hour training session. Those are held each week throughout the school year. After a volunteer is trained, he or she can choose which school to volunteer. There are 14 sites throughout Grand Rapids Public Schools to choose from. If you’re interested, you can sign up online.

Kent County Tax Credit Coalition Program

During the tax season, United Way has volunteers prepare taxes for qualified individuals and families. They need more than 200 volunteers to help make the program a success. Volunteers go through a two-day training and receive certification from the IRS upon completion. Tax sites are located throughout the county.

For many families, money from tax returns is critical. They can use it to repair their car, catch up on rent, pay for medical expenses, buy clothing for their children, and so much more. Since 2002, KCTCC has generate almost $67 million in tax credits for more than 57,000 taxpayers in Kent County.

The training seminars are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on December 6 and 13 or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on January 10 and 17 at Heart of West Michigan United Way in Grand Rapids. Sign up online to become a volunteer tax preparer.

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