Seventy Percent of Americans Qualify to File Taxes Free (Chances Are, This Means You)

Salt Lake City, UT (April 1, 2014) – Did you know that if you earned $58,000 or less in 2013 you can file your federal and state taxes 100% free? Chances are, this means you! More than 100 million Americans are eligible to save approximately $200 (the average cost of a tax preparer) by filing taxes completely free, with no catch. That’s 70% of workers, nationwide — including Utahns.

To take advantage of this completely free service before Tax Day (April 15) Utah tax filers can get started at UtahTaxHelp.org or call 2-1-1/888-826-9790 for more information.

Unlike similar tax filing services, UtahTaxHelp.org really is free. There are no hidden fees. Plus, it’s easy, safe and secure.

Who qualifies to file taxes free?

Individuals and families who earned $58,000 or less in 2013 can file online for free at UtahTaxHelp.org; those who earned $52,000 or less in 2013 can file in person for free at one of many Utah locations listed at UtahTaxHelp.org.

How does it work?

Visit UtahTaxHelp.org to start filing your federal and state taxes yourself online, today. You can also use UtahTaxHelp.org to search for one of the many locations throughout Utah that provide free, in person tax filing assistance by qualified, IRS-certified volunteers. Call 2-1-1 or 888-826-9790 for more information. But hurry! April 15 is just two weeks away.

About UtahTaxhelp.org

UtahTaxHelp.org is a coalition of statewide partners from the public, private and nonprofit sectors and is an initiative of Community Action Partnership of Utah‘s Earn it. Keep it. Save it. program. UtahTaxHelp.org is also an affiliate of MyFreeTaxes.com, a collaboration between Goodwill Industries International, National Disability Institute and United Way Worldwide, powered by the Walmart Foundation. Call 2-1-1 for more information or visit UtahTaxHelp.org to file your taxes 100% free — online or in person at one of many locations throughout Utah. UtahTaxHelp.org provides tax help you can trust.

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A New Year, A New Face at CAP Utah

943307_10202312291471348_1203380417_aHello everyone! My name is Emily Jordison, and I am the newest member of CAP Utah. I want to take a minute to introduce myself and let you all know how completely thrilled I am to be here.

I am working for CAP Utah as a Program Support Coordinator for the VITA program, and I couldn’t be happier. I recently graduated from Weber State University with my Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, with a minor in Psychology. I have always known that I wanted to help people “when I grew up”, but I wasn’t quite sure what avenue that would look like for me.

As I was going to school, I began to volunteer frequently with various organizations. One of my favorites was the American Red Cross, and I have now been a volunteer there for going on five years. I discovered my passion for non-profit work , volunteering and helping folks in need, and I decided that an appropriate career path for me would involve working with diverse populations and in the non-profit sector. My biggest goal in life is to change the world and make it a better place (please don’t start singing!) one day at a time! Since leaving Weber, I have decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Public Policy so that I can try to bring about positive changes on a larger scale.

I have a special spot in my heart for VITA on a personal level as well as professionally. I have two young children and a fantastic husband, and my family found ourselves in a very unexpected and incredibly difficult situation last tax season. I found VITA and utilized the tax services they offered, and it truly made a difference to my family during that stressful and trying time in our lives.

When I’m not trying to save the world, I love hanging out with my kids and husband. I love to cook and bake (they usually enjoy that too) and spend time outside hiking and camping. I love martial arts and have studied karate, tai kwan-do, jiu jitsu, boxing and a little bit of muay thai. My husband calls me a ninja ☺

I’m so grateful for the opportunity I have been given to work at CAP Utah. I get to do what I love, work with amazing people, and continue doing my part to make the world a better place! Life is so good, and I am so happy to be part of this fabulous organization!

Things I’m Not Doing This Week

Well, folks, it’s winter.  That means hot chocolate, religious holidays, family time, consumerism, and snow-themed sports.  It also means inversions along the Wasatch front, snow days, shoveling the sidewalk, multiple appeals from social service nonprofits for donations, and hastily making cookies for neighbors and colleagues in an attempt to appear spirited and put-together.

I’m not going to make you cookies.  I’m also not going to ask you to donate to Community Action Partnership of Utah in a bid to leverage your Christmas spirit to help fortify our unrestricted funds for 2014.   Nor will I tell you how to donate, not even if you ask (OK, maybe if you ask).

I’m not going to write a manifesto on the evils of consumerism or make a cleverly worded plea for remembering the reason for the season.  I’m not going to take a stance on Santa Claus’s race, and I don’t have a dog in the fight over the so-called War on Christmas or which seasonal greeting is most politically correct in this fantastically diverse (divided?) country we call home.

park-city-at-night1

I won’t tell you about that time when I was 10 years old and I got kicked out of Ski School at Park City Resort for being sarcastic and having a smart mouth (some things never change), even though it’s one of my best winter themed, mostly true tales.  I’m not going to share my amazing recipe for Tomato Soup, which is the perfect meal this time of year (if you want it, buy a CAP Cookbook!), nor will I provide a knitting pattern for a classy sweater for your dog (because I don’t knit).

No.  I’m not going to write a trite it’s-eight-days-until-Christmas blog post.  Instead I’m going to encourage you all, regardless of the holidays you do and don’t celebrate, to take advantage during these last days of 2013 to hug your families, make time for the people you love, and spend time doing the things that make you happy – whatever they are.

We’re all reminded this time of year to pause a moment and take stock of our lives.  So do that.  And then do it again at the end of every month, because although “The Holidays” are a great reminder, the truth is that we all need a little more light in our lives during the other 11 months of the year, too.

“We need more light about each other.  Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity.” – Malcolm X

Happy winter!  Only 93 days until spring!

Nevis – The Queen of the Caribees

We are officially in the thick of the holiday season. We have told all our loved ones the many ways we are thankful for them and are also thinking about ways we can give in service to others. (So if you haven’t signed up to become a VITA volunteer then perhaps you should ;) head to www.utahtaxhelp.org for more information…. I digress.) In the spirit of service I thought it would be fitting to share with you all an old journal entry, circa 2008. These are some of my last words as a Peace Corps Volunteer where I served from 2006-2008 on a beautiful island in the West Indies called Nevis.

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Where Peace Corps stresses cross-cultural adaptation, skills transfer and a positive exchange of American culture, there is little room in the beginning to fully understand the true implications of one’s service as a Peace Corps Volunteer. It has become clear to me that the ultimate goal of my service as a volunteer wasn’t to create or sustain but rather to engage in and learn about Nevisian culture. However, when I first applied to and then joined the Peace Corps I had grand ideas about projects and grassroots efforts. Oh Lord!, how things change, adapt and evolve into something much more profound and meaningful!

Saying good-bye to Nevis is much more difficult than I imagined it would be, even more difficult than leaving Salt Lake on 25 July 2006. I knew deep down that I would reach back. I didn’t know when it would happen; if it would be in eight months or at the completion of my two years. But I knew it would happen. I knew that it wouldn’t be the last time I saw a baseball game or the Wasatch Mountains (perhaps both at the same time!). Now, as I am preparing to leave my friends, my Nevisian family and my life as a Nevisian I find myself unable to face the realities of leaving. As I walk through town and chat with people they always ask, “you comin back?” Without hesitation I assure them that they will see me again, and soon. It has recently occurred to me that I may be attempting to silence the fear that it may be years before I come back to Nevis. It’s not that I lack the desire to visit Nevis – it’s entirely the opposite. I am afraid that if I come back I won’t want to return to Utah again. My life here is void of stress and consumerism and I bask in the glory of the simplistic way I live. With 36 square miles sharing the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean I live in a society where I always run into someone I know when I’m about town. I’ve grown accustomed to the formality of this society by greeting people when I see them. I relish in my Friday lunches that last from noon to late afternoon. And I love that reggae and soca fill the air surrounding the busses or late at night when I am trying to sleep.

As I attempt to entertain the idea that I will merge Nevisian and American culture soon I must admit that my fears extend far greater than a return trip to Nevis. I’m scared that my relationships with family and friends have drifted and that we won’t be able to relate to one another anymore. I’m worried that I won’t be able to cope with the mass amounts of people in the city. But mostly, the one thing that plagues me so is the thought of working to live instead of living to work in a job I absolutely love.

No matter how I weigh this experience and my integration back into American culture I have no complaints. Becoming part of the Peace Corps family has been the greatest thing I have ever done in my life and without hesitation I dare say I will always remember these as some of the greatest years I’ve spent. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter who you were, where you came from or what expectations you had in the beginning you’ll never be the same at the end of your Peace Corps experience. Well perhaps there is still room to be the girl from the West Side! Farewell Nevis, Queen of the Caribes. The Oath

With Pat, my Nevisian Mother

Working the lettuce farm

Reflecting on the Conference

The 3rd Annual Conference on Poverty is over.  Yes, it ended more than 3 weeks ago, and I have finally sufficiently recovered to write a quick blog post about it.  All in all, I would say that the conference was a success!

This was CAP Utah’s third conference, and my fifth conference as an event planner.  The team did a great job!  I’ve never had such a cohesive and responsive group, and they’re really a pleasure to work with.

We had a few bumps in the road, to be sure.  Though the survey results are still coming in and being analyzed, it does appear that we could have done a better job managing registration and we’ve gotten some negative feedback about the food. But attendees were pretty happy with the quality of workshops and speakers, and that’s what the conference is really about.

We hope that those of you who attended agree with our assessment that, overall, the conference was a worthwhile training and networking event.  We strive to offer solutions and best practices because our aim is to provide meaningful learning opportunities that you can take back to the field and integrate into your work.  If we’re meeting that goal, fantastic!  And if we aren’t, please let us know with some constructive suggestions for how we can improve.

If you haven’t filled it out, the online evaluation is here. By completing the survey, you can tell us how we did and help us set the program for next year.  Thanks for attending, we look forward to your comments!

P.S. Mark your calendars!  The 2014 Conference will be held on Tuesday & Wednesday, May 6th & 7th in West Valley City.

Upper Escalante River Gorge/Death Hollow

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit Escalante in Southern Utah. The adventure team consisting of myself, Trina (wife), Gypsy (dog), Hannah (cousin’s girlfriend), and Riley (cousin) began our journey early Thursday morning. A 4-hour drive would take us to the start of the All-American Highway 12 in Torrey, Utah.  This is one of the most scenic rides I have ever taken in my life.  The scenic highway quickly gains elevation twisting and turning through Pondorosa forests leading to commanding views of Southern Utah. Perched high up on Boulder Mountain surrounded by high alpine forest in full autumn bloom, your scenses begin to fire on all cylinders. You’re able to see down into Capital Reef National Park, the Henry Mountains are east, and the beautiful La Sal Mountains of Moab are a far island range to the northeast. Highway 12 then descends down the mountain into the town of Boulder, Utah and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Luckily for us, the area in which we were to explore was not affected by government shutdown.

 

Our plan was to hike the Upper Escalante River Gorge, which is a 15-mile point-to-point hike. The team set out to the trailhead on Friday morning with sun, wind, and clouds. It was one of those days you were never wearing the right things because the weather kept on changing. Nonetheless, a group of 4 humans and a dog set out on a 3-day adventure.

 

Escalante River was flooding as recently as mid September. During normal flow rate the river usually flows somewhere between 10-20 ccf (cubic feet, think 1 basketball size). However, the mid September floods brought the river to over 500 ccfs! The river never went above our knee, but during the foods the river measured in some places at over 10 feet deep! Needless to say, the landscape was dramatically altered a few weeks prior to our arrival. Most plants were blown over from strong currents. They also acted as a net for any floating debris. A few tires would dot the river here and there and I suggested that we come back with rope and make a tire swing at every location we find one.

 

The team set up camp at the confluence of Death Hollow and the Escalante River. We secured a prime location on a small sandy peninsula with the Death Hollow creek to our left and the river to our right surrounded by tall towers of red rock. This location would be home for two nights. The idea of not having to break down and set up camp again sounded appealing to the weary adventurers. That night, we ate our fill on chicken and dumplings dehydrated meals, which was surprisingly tasty. The again, most things are after a 7 mile hike through river and sand with heavy packs. During clean up, I ran into a resident of our prime peninsula set-up. This furry little resident, a mouse, had made into our package of foiled-wrapped chocolates. He quickly scampered away with a chocolate token wrapped in blue foil, which must have been half as big as him. I reminded the team to pack everything into their tents. Later that night, I was awoken by the beautiful sounds from some of the peninsula’s other residents, owls. I wondered how our chocolate thief was fairing.

 

By staying in one spot for two days enabled us to take advantage of prime hiking time. Saturday, we planned to hike up Death Hollow and explore its narrow canyon. We left our camp shortly before the sun was directly overhead which would fill the chilly canyon floors with warmth. A mile upstream from our camp, a particularly scenic stretch of creek leads to a desert oasis. The creek settled down in this area creating a deep pool for swimming in. By arriving shortly after noon, the sun was directly overhead with more to come. Our cold wet socks and shoes quickly came off and we happily stretched our toes out in the sand. After we “warmed up all the cold out of us” we set up the canyon a little bit further. Shortly upstream we decided that the rest of Death Hollow would be left for another trip. We enjoyed some more sun before we headed back down stream for camp. We needed to get back and prep for dinner, we were scheduled for early departure for Sunday morning.

 

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Sunday morning’s alarm went off at 7:02. Still dark on our peninsula, shrouded by the cold Escalante cliffs. Gypsy, who totally overachieved on her first backpacking trip, acted as my second alarm as she kind of plopped herself on me forcing me up. The team shortly followed suit, camp was broken done, and our first chilly steps were taken shortly after 8. The sun was far from making its presence known on the canyon floor, evident by a few patches of frost. We worshipped any bit of sun we could get that early in the day. As we pushed on, closer to our terminus, other campers who had just made their way to the river for morning duties greeted us. Tired, cold and thirsty we pushed on as the sun began to rise over the canyon edges. Sights of natural bridges, arches, and the possibility of cold beer at our finish line rejuvenated our energy. We began to encounter people with smaller packs, indicating that we were hiking along the trail with day hikers. After 4 hours of hiking we successfully finished our last 7 miles of our backpacking trip. In total, I believe we hiked close to 20 miles.

 

I highly recommend this hike. It was not terribly difficult, however, it is long. Death Hollow is a gem in the middle of the desert. I look forward to visiting the area during the summer to take advantage of the refreshing swimming pools. Escalante is quickly rising to the top of my favorite places. There is so much exploring to do down there. If you have any suggestions for things to do in the area, please leave me a comment.

 

Thanks for reading!

Changing of the Seasons

Of all of the seasons, Fall is my absolute favorite. There is something rejuvenating about this time of year with cool, crisp air. It all seems to happen gradually…and then coffee shops are offering pumpkin spiced lattes, I’m turning on my seat warmers in the car, I’m bringing out my sweaters and boots…trees begin to change colours – reds, oranges, and yellows dot the mountaintops and fill tree-lined streets…

In 2006 I joined the Peace Corps and served on an island in the West Indies called Nevis. It was summer there 365 days a year. The humidity was high, the sun was direct, and the temperature never dipped below 80 degrees Fahrenheit. I arrived in July and at the time I didn’t realize I’d miss the Wasatch Mountains, the vast brown pit of the Bingham Copper Mine, let alone the fiery fall leaves I’d grown accustomed to. Many months into my service I was walking about town, feeling rather blue because I was missing home, and going in no particular direction when I found myself sitting on a bench. I looked up and I saw it – The Flamboyant Tree. The leaves were a combination of bright red and orange. Amidst the backdrop of the clear blue Caribbean Sea, the flamboyant popped and put a smile on my face. It was then that I remembered Fall – the crisp mornings, sweaters and boots, and light sunshine mixed with a cool breeze. I came to love the Flamboyant Tree and regularly sat beneath it or within view so I could take in its colours, its beauty. It bloomed 2-3 times a year and each time this happened it came about so suddenly and then it was bright, for the entire island to see.

As I make the connections in my life I am grateful for the memories of mountain passes and beach lined sea views. I’ve been graced with knowing what it is like to live in a metropolitan city and a small town. I think that what shocked me many years ago was that I could be so far from home yet instantly connected to a place I missed so much. When I first set eyes on the Flamboyant I flashed to visions of fall – the tree lined streets and cool, crisp air. And now, years later, when the leaves change and I see fiery reds and golden oranges I see the Flamboyant and I am instantly taken back to Nevis, the Queen of the Caribees.