The Financial Success Center (FSC) is a prime example of how United Way brings partners together in order to make a more significant impact on our community than we could on our own. The FSC is a collaboration of five organizations that provide comprehensive resources under one roof to help households move from financial difficulty to economic well-being. Free services include job search and career planning, money management tools, financial coaching, tax return preparation, child care resources, home ownership counseling, application assistance for benefits and enrollment in health insurance programs.
The FSC provides free income tax return preparation to qualifying residents through our partnership with The FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, which utilizes the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offered by the IRS. One of the many VITA volunteers at the FSC is Paul, who retired in 2014 and started sorting food donations at the FoodBank to give back to others and help him stay active. With a background in accounting and information technology, Paul jumped at the chance to get his advanced certification through the IRS when he heard about the VITA program: “I enjoy volunteering. Here, you get to meet the people one-on-one that really need this assistance. It’s surprising that there are so many people who are living paycheck to paycheck and barely making it.”
Volunteers like Paul ensure that individuals and families receive as many deductions and credits as possible in order to maximize their return, and the savings from this free service support this effort: “There are a lot of people who come here for the first time who paid $150 to get their returns done in the past from companies like H&R Block. That would have been more money in their pocket. We can do as good of a job, if not better, than the services that they pay for.” Paul enjoys being able to advise his clients on how they can become more financially stable: “One person that came in got a huge tax refund, which is great, but I suggested they increase their number of exemptions so they can have that extra money throughout the year and can worry less about charging things and going into credit card debt.”
Hundreds of families in Monmouth and Ocean counties have benefited from free tax preparation at the Financial Success Center, and have also been made aware of the other services the FSC has to offer— enabling them to continue on a path of economic well-being.