LEWISTON – The success of the first year “Take the Money; You’ve Earned It” local Earned Income Tax Credit initiative was celebrated by participating community partners and volunteers.

The credit is a federal tax benefit to help low and moderate income workers increase their financial stability. It is intended to reduce the tax burden on those workers, supplement wages and assist in the welfare-to-work transition.

The Lewiston-Auburn Tax Credit Awareness Coalition was formed in mid-2003, and numerous community partners came on board to spread the word about the federal tax benefit, train volunteers to provide free tax preparation and establish tax prep sites.

Lewiston Council President Renee Bernier, Councilor Lillian LaFontaine O’Brien and Councilor Ronald Jean also met with Boston staff to gather input that proved helpful to the Lewiston-Auburn campaign.

A Jan. 8 kickoff Twin Cities press conference was held to advocate the program with Mayors Lionel and Normand Guay encouraging residents to “Take the Money; You’ve Earned It.”

Although a goal to prepare at least 210 returns had been established early in the campaign, that goal was substantially exceeded, with a total of 336 local returns prepared at free tax prep sites established at the Hillview Community Center, Faithworks, Central Maine Community College and the B Street Community Center.

As a result, $506,688 went back into the local economy in federal tax refunds, which included $262,416 in Earned Income Tax Credit benefits.

At the banquet, Lewiston Assistant City Administrator Phil Nadeau said, “The success of this initiative was simply amazing, and the work of all involved has had a tremendous positive financial impact on numerous area families and on the Lewiston-Auburn community as a whole.”

Nadeau said, “Much of the success of the campaign was generated from the dedicated volunteer effort involving a number of community individuals and organizations who provided the free tax preparation assistance to families seeking those services.”

The initiative was sponsored by a $7,500 Annie E. Casey Foundation grant. Since 1948, the foundation has worked to build better futures for disadvantaged children and their families in the United States. The primary mission of the foundation is to foster public policies, human service reforms and community supports that more effectively meet the needs of today’s vulnerable children and families.

At the banquet, 12 tax preparation volunteers were recognized by Mark Millar, division director of Casey Family Services, and Charles Swett, IRS senior tax specialist. Volunteers recognized were: KC Geiger, Chris Adler, Rhonda Amato, Carlos Eledia, Jacqueline Sawyer, Gail Plante, Angela McNelly, Andrew Hanna, Paul Maheux, Mary Ann Wearing, Dona Adam, Paula Drouin, Carmen DaSilveira and Kim Pound.

Marion Ryan was recognized for her work as appointment scheduler, Don Linscott as the site coordinator and Alyson Stone, Lewiston’s grants coordinator, for her assistance at a Super Saturday tax preparation event.

Special recognition was given to Lewiston Community Relations Coordinator Dottie Perham-Whittier and Faithworks Training and Education Coordinator Mary LaFontaine, who were touted for their leadership of the local effort.

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