12th Annual Bike Swap

Hundreds gather for the 2018 annual Bike Swap

On April 21-22, Continental Ski and Bike hosted the Bike Swap for it’s 12th year in a row, with proceeds benefiting Head of the Lakes United Way and Animal Allies. Hundreds of people showed up to buy and sell gently used bikes in the effort to take part in a healthy lifestyle.

Food, vendors, and bike test drives were available at the Bike Swap as well as a free helmet with the purchase of a youth bike. Qualified bike “pros” were also available to assist in finding the perfect bike for every individual.

When a bike was donated, 100% of the proceeds went towards the two charities involved. When it was sold, 25%. This year, more than 500 bikes were sold and almost $12,000 was raised during another successful Bike Swap.

Local Non-Profit Organization Offers Shelter from the Cold

The Superior Douglas County Family YMCA is proud to offer their facility as a warming center. The Y will be open for use as a warming station from 6am-noon on days where the weather dips below 0 or the wind chill is below -25 degrees. The lobby will be available to the public, as will refreshments such as coffee, tea, and hot cocoa. No pets allowed.

“We would like to thank our partnering agencies for helping us make this possible as the Y strives to meet the needs of our community and fulfill our mission,” said Chris Stenberg, Superior Douglas County Family YMCA CEO. The YMCA is located at 9 N 21st St and the contact number is 715-392-5611.

For information on additional warming centers in the area, call 2-1-1, Head of the Lakes United Way’s Information and Referral Service.

Head of the Lakes United Way Discusses 2017-2018 Campaign, Releases Promotional Video

New campaign asks the question, “What do you fight for?”

Each year United Way asks local communities to invest in themselves. United Way then strategically partners with local non-profit health and human services programs that provide residents with critical necessities like food and safe housing but also support tools for long-term solutions. United Way worldwide promotes partnerships and strategies that are foundational for a good life and strong community: education, financial stability and health.

Keeping United Way’s message fresh can be a challenge. This year’s campaign was designed and created by Creative Arcade. Their videos and materials highlight stories of real people: Krystal who struggled with addiction and job loss; John who was diagnosed with ALS; and Dakota who needed a supportive mentor. You also meet Jerry who is a volunteer driver for friends and neighbors but is clearly so much more. All of these people were helped by your local United Way.

On September 13, 2017, a news conference was held at Essentia Health St. Mary’s Medical Center Auditorium. United Way released Creative Arcade’s “What do you fight for?” video. Along with viewing the video, attendees also heard from HLUW president, Matt Hunter, Bob Brigham, chief operating officer for Essentia Health’s operations in northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin, and Jeff Ruprecht, co-owner of Creative Arcade and creator of campaign theme, video, and materials.

The Importance of the Earned Income Tax Credit


Advocates and supporters joined at the United Way Friday morning in an effort to spread awareness about the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) available to low-income working individuals.

Mayor Emily Larson said if you’re eligible, and you claim this tax credit – it leads to more economic stability for families and also the community. She added that when one receives this tax credit, the money generally goes back into the economy. When someone is low income, the EITC can give back up to around $5,000 if they have three or more children.

“For many who claim this credit, the money ends up being used to purchase things they can’t normally afford, such as a vehicle, a down payment on a home, repairs, etc.,” said Angie Miller, executive director of Community Action Duluth.“So not only does this refund benefit the individual receiving it, it also benefits local businesses and our economy when the money is spent.”Miller mentioned that, unfortunately, only 1 out of 5 taxpayers who qualify for the EITC claim it because so many people don’t know about it.

Congressman Rick Nolan said the EITC is a federal tax credit, it’s not welfare, and this is money that was earned.“On average, those who qualify end up getting back about $2,210 each year,” he said in a video presentation.He suggested that people should, “call your local officials and advocate for this credit.”Nolan added that those who don’t have children get far less than those who do, only about $500 per year.

Community Action Duluth has 90 volunteers who offer their time to participate in the Free Tax Site program, beginning Jan. 28 at 8:30 a.m. to assist those who qualify with tax preparation. The last day to get in and find assistance is April 17.All volunteers must go through a training course and pass a test to qualify as a tax preparer. Those who don’t qualify include:Persons age 21-24 who don’t have children Persons who didn’t work that year Families and individuals who earned more than $56,000 annually Days and times available to get help:Mondays: Doors open at 4:30 p.m.Tuesdays: Doors open at 4:30 p.m.Saturdays: Doors open at 8:30 a.m.

A local woman, Corisa Thom, shared her story at the news conference. At the age of 26, her mother passed. She was then responsible for her 15, 18 and 20-year-old younger brothers as well as her 3-year-old nephew.“You can’t give up when you have other people depending on you,” said Thom. She went to Community Action and received help with tax preparation and found she was eligible for the EITC, which, year by year, slowly helped her get her family in a better, much more comfortable place.“First, we were able to get a vehicle. Then, I put away some emergency savings. After that, I bought a three-bedroom home. One year, it even helped me to add a bedroom so my nephew could have his own,” she explained.Those who go to the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program to get help generally receive 94 percent more on their return than if they had prepared their taxes themselves.

Credit where credit is due! Earned Income Tax Credit


DULUTH — On average, people who claim the federal earned-income tax credit see an extra $2,210 added to their refund checks. Yet about 20 percent of eligible households leave that money on the table by failing to claim a benefit to which they’re entitled.

“We want people to be aware of a tax credit that can really help them — an anti-poverty initiative that’s very important to get money into the pockets of people who could really use it,” said Matt Hunter, president of the Head of the Lakes United Way, which launched an awareness campaign Friday in Duluth.

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson noted that the credit helps recipients and the local community as a whole.

“This is money that gets to stay here and gets recirculated back into our economy,” she said.State Rep. Liz Olson, who serves the residents of District 7B in central and western Duluth, said poverty is “a reality for many people who live within our community, particularly in my district.”Olson noted that Minnesota offers its own credit which amplifies the federal benefit. It’s called the Working Family Credit, and she said that last year, Minnesota distributed its credit to about 350,000 households, with about half the money going to families in greater Minnesota. The average refund offered through the Working Family Credit program was about $741 per household.”There’s been proof that the receipt of this tax credit… really leads to long-term economic stability for families. Kids are more likely to graduate from high school, and they’re more likely to go on to college. We know that that benefits our community in a lot of ways,” Olson said.

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan was unable to attend Friday’s event but sent a video message, encouraging people to file for the earned-income tax credit.”To be clear: This is not welfare or unemployment benefits.

This is money people have earned and should rightfully be claiming on their tax returns,” he said.Angie Miller, the director of Community Action Duluth, said that because of the federal and state credits, “tax time is a money moment for low- and moderate-income individuals and families.”That refund is often the biggest check a household will receive all year, Miller noted.”It can be up to 30 percent of their income, so it’s a powerful incentive to be employed,” she said.”Taxpayers use their refunds to pay down debt, catch up on bills, save for a rainy day and to make important purchases,” said Miller, whose own family benefited from the credits for several years, back when her children were young.If people need help filing a claim, Miller said Community Action offers free tax preparation for families and individuals with household incomes of up to $56,000Last year, Community Action volunteers helped 1,525 households prepare their taxes, and those returns yielded state and federal refunds that totaled about $2.9 million, Miller said.

One of the beneficiaries was Corisa Thom, who said she’s relied on the free service to prepare her taxes for 10 years running.She first turned to Community Action for help at the age of 26, when her mother died, leaving her to care for three brothers, ages 13, 15 and 17. A young nephew has since joined the household, too.Thom is employed as a direct support specialist for a couple of Duluth group homes and said the state and federal tax credits have helped her tackle a number of projects, such as adding a fourth bedroom to the family house, constructing a shed and paving a driveway.”I don’t think I would have been able to get as far, or even keep my house, if it wasn’t for the earned-income tax credit,” Thom said.This year, the IRS has advised taxpayers that it will take more time to issue refunds that include earned-income tax credits, as it steps up efforts to fight fraud. The federal agency estimates that 21 to 26 percent of these claims previously have been paid in error and now advises people to expect to wait until at least Feb. 27 to receive credit payments.Miller predicts the delay will cause disappointment and hardship in some cases.”People are going to be surprised, because actually they needed the money yesterday,” she said.As much as that may be the case, Miller advises against taking advance payments from commercial tax preparers or borrowing against an anticipated refund at unfavorable rates.PULLOUT BOXFor more information• For guidelines on the earned-income tax credit, including who qualifies, go to irs.gov/credits-deductions/individuals/earned-income-tax-credit• The United Way offers a free tax assistance service for income-qualified people online at MyFreeTaxes.com• The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs offer free tax help for taxpayers who qualify. Locally, contact United Community Action Willmar, 200 Fourth Street S.W., 320-235-0850, beginning Tuesday and continuing through April 15.