Public Spirit, April 2019

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Happy Spring ya'll! The weather's nice, let's hope it stays that way! Keep scrolling to find information about National Service Recognition Day events, other members, and some awesome volunteer opportunities!

Please let us know what you're up to! We would love to hear about what other AmeriCorps members - past and present - are doing! Tag us on social media with #ICCofMN!


National Service Recogination Day 2019
#NationalServiceWorks

On National Service Recognition Day, thousands of local leaders take time to honor AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers by participating in recognition events, issuing official proclamations, and taking to social media in a nationwide show of appreciation every year. The seventh-annual event will took place on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. This initiative is led by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), with support from the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties and Cities of Service.

Mayors and city leaders, county officials, tribal leaders and elected leaders from across the country are increasing their use of national service to solve their community’s toughest challenges. CNCS, the federal agency responsible for national service and volunteering in America, engages 300,000 AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers in national service at more than 50,000 locations each year.

Through partnerships with schools, faith-based groups, nonprofits, and local agencies, national service members are embedded within the communities they serve, using their ingenuity and training to make a tangible, lasting impact. Whether responding to natural disasters, tackling the opioid epidemic, educating students for the 21st century workforce, or supporting veterans and military families, AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers help local leaders make their communities stronger.

When National Service Recognition Day launched in 2013, more than 800 mayors recognized the positive impact of AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers in their communities.

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Formerly “Mayor’s Day,” this day has grown to encompass a larger array of elected officials and local leaders. On April 3rd, 2018, more than 5,200 officials – representing more than 216 million Americans – participated in the sixth-annual National Service Recognition Day. Through recognition events, proclamations, social media, and more, leaders across the country showed their support for national service.

This year, both the St. Paul and Minneapolis Mayors hosted events to honor our members and honor their service by proclaiming the day of National Service Recognition for both cities. Below are photos from those events!

On Thursday, April 11, 2019, from 1-2PM, Duluth Mayor Emily Larson will also celebrate both the 7th Annual National Service Recognition Day, as well as National Volunteer Week, by hosting a reception at City Hall. Mayor Larson wishes to take this opportunity to honor and recognize the amazing contributions that national service members and volunteers make in our community.


Stay tuned to our website for other local events!
Click here!


April Volunteer Opportunities!

Take a look at one of the volunteer opportunities for the month of April on our website! More information will be up soon! Stay tuned!!

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#BadlyExplainYourService

Join us on social media using this hashtag and tagging us! 
@ICCofMN

In honor of April Fools’ Day, we asked some of the ICC members to give us a brief description of what they do in a typical day of service for them. Here’s what they wrote:

“I dig around in waste bins and look at trashy pictures all day. #BadlyExplainYourService”
I am serving with ISD 742 to reduce trash output and standardize waste bins by color and size as part of my project. A major part of that is taking a lot of pictures of waste bins and assessing them for the aforementioned descriptors.

-Alex C. Larson, MN GreenCorps
 

“Butt pictures, being the worst ninja in history, and a lot of to-do lists and writing. #BadlyExplainYourService”
My role with TCHFH is to share stories of our volunteers, homeowners/buyers, and other partners through different mediums.

-Christy Ohlrogge, Twin Cities Habitat
 

“I sit and stare at a computer screen all day, but sometimes I look at papers. Just to mix it up! #BadlyExplainYourService”
I am an AmeriCorps VISTA that is serving at Al Maa’uun in North Minneapolis. I help with grant writing, communications, and keeping their databases and files up to date.

-Katie Zeits, EMERGE VISTA
 

“I think of questions, then decide how to answer those questions. Then I ask people lots of questions to answer my questions and use their answers to ask other people more questions. #BadlyExplainYourService”
I create processes for evaluating the effectiveness of literacy services for teens, then conduct an evaluation of programs and use the results to suggest and discuss improvements for service design and delivery. Basically, I do a lot of evaluating and asking questions!

-Megan Graves, Minnesota Literacy Council VISTA


Member Spotlight

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Meet your fellow AmeriCorps members and the programs they serve within our monthly member spotlight!

This month’s member spotlight is on Anika Johnson, the Outreach and Fundraising Specialist serving at Exodus Lending with the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits!

What program do you serve with? 
Through the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, I am currently working at Exodus Lending. Exodus Lending is a small nonprofit in Minneapolis, Minnesota that works to help individuals break the cycle of payday loan debt.

Payday loans are small-dollar, short-term loans that often have astronomical interest rates and fees. When you take out a payday loan you are expected to pay off the entire loan amount (plus interest and fees) on your next payday.  It’s tough to have such a large chunk of your paycheck taken out all at once and oftentimes individuals will pay off the payday loan but need to take out another to make ends meet before their next paycheck. You can pay these fees month after month without ever making a dent in your original loan amount, no matter how much you pay.

It’s a very vicious cycle that preys on people in financially stressful situations. When someone enrolls in Exodus Lending’s program, we pay off the entire loan amount and set up a payment plan for our participants to pay us back - with NO interest or fees!
 

What do you do in your position?

My title is “Outreach and Fundraising Specialist.” My favorite components of my job are communications and outreach. I have created marketing materials and am using them to build relationships with like-minded organizations. I’ve learned a lot about running Facebook advertisements, creating branded social media, and web design. The most powerful experience I have had is sitting down for one-on-one conversations with many of our program participants. Hearing their stories and learning about injustices in our world encourages me in this work that I am pursuing.

What interested you in serving with AmeriCorps and with your specific program?

I am passionate about social justice and doing my part to create a just world. Having just graduated from college, I knew I didn’t have the experience necessary to get the kind of job I was seeking. By being an AmeriCorps VISTA  I have been able to jump right into my field and have responsibilities and projects much greater than I would be given at an entry-level position. I am passionate about my organization and its mission; it has given me an incredible opportunity to learn and grow as a young professional.
 

What do you like to do in your free time?

In my free time, when it’s warm, I like to be outside with my dog and my friends. We go to the park, on long walks, and to brewery patios! Year-round I enjoy going to a lot of concerts and shows, and I love attending community events that address different social justice issues. In the winter I spend my time hunting for items on Facebook marketplace and playing games with friends; but nothing replaces a night in, on the couch with some comfort food.

Learn more about Exodus Lending here!


Alumni Feature

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Anna Kaiser, CommunicationsCoordinator at Open Arms

Where (and which program), when, and why did you join AmeriCorps?

I served from August 2016 to August 2017 at the American Indian Family Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I joined because I wanted to do something adventurous and interesting. For me, that meant moving away from Ohio, where I grew up and experiencing another culture, which the American Indian Family Center provided.

What was your role/what did you do?

My title was Development Specialist. I was very lucky to have been giving the opportunity to pursue my interests through my role, so I tried out the different areas of Development until I settled on Communications and Digital Marketing.

How has serving impacted what you decided to do in life?

Before serving, the plans I had for my career were not working out.  But during my service, I learned how to work in a new field and began pursuing a future in that field. I feel incredibly lucky to have had this experience!

How has your AmeriCorps service supported you?

During my service, AmeriCorps provided a lot of trainings about working in nonprofits, which really helped me make my way in my field. For example, I attended a series of nonprofit communications classes that inspired me to go into Communications in the first place.

What was your favorite part of serving?

Being exposed to another culture. American Indians have a fundamentally opposite experience of being American than I have had. I was very honored to have the opportunity to learn about this culture and history. It challenged my worldview and how I feel about my identity as an American.

Please also give us a little blurb on your current role at Open Arms

I am very new to my role as the Communications Coordinator at Open Arms, so I’m still getting settled in. But so far I have been running our social media accounts, coordinating newsletters and other communications materials, and assisting with our upcoming gala, Moveable Feast.

Advice

Recommended spring activity for an AmeriCorps budget:

I would go to Minnehaha Park and walk from the falls, down the creek, and out to the beach and then have a picnic. Or go to Como Zoo!

How to build connections as an AmeriCorps member:

For some people, this might be hard, but you simply need to be friendly and get to know people. Be a regular at AmeriCorps events and attend events at other nonprofits. Try to talk to as many people as you can. Nonprofit professionals are friendly so this is easy to do!

Send us your questions to ask our future features!


Don't forget to do your taxes!
April 15th is the last day to turn in your 2018 taxes!

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W-2s, 1098-Ts, and More: It’s Tax Season Again!

Everyone’s probably either super excited or super stressed now that it’s tax season! Have no fear if you still need help with your taxes this year. We are here to provide some resources and tips for you to use when filing for taxes.

Make sure you have all your necessary documents in order to file your taxes. This is a general list of documents that you should bring to your appointment at a clinic or when filing your own taxes, put together by the MN Department of Revenue. Please note that you may need different documents than the ones listed; please confirm with a clinic or accountant.

April 15th, 2019 is the last day to file your 2018 taxes!

To look for free tax clinics near you, use this tool put together by the MN Department of Revenue.

Tax Credits and Deductions

Earned Income Tax Credit: You need to be at least 25 but less than 65 to qualify for the EITC without a qualifying child. -IRS.gov

Student Loan Interest: “. . . you may be allowed a special deduction for paying interest on a student loan (also known as an education loan) used for higher education.” -IRS.gov

MN Student Loan Credit: Minnesota residents who make payments on their own postsecondary education loans may qualify for a nonrefundable tax credit. For married couples, each spouse may qualify for this. The maximum tax refund in 2019 is $500.

Renter’s Property Tax Refund: If you’re from Minnesota or have lived in the state long enough, you may know about this refund for renters already. But if you haven’t yet, here is some basic information. There is another form (Form M1PR) that you would fill out and mail in separately by August 15 to receive a refund. The refund is “based on their household income, the number of dependents, and how much property tax you paid through rent on your principal residence.” You’ll need to receive a Certificate of Rent Paid (CRP) from your landlord. It’s a document that shows how much rent you paid during the previous year and the amount of property taxes paid through your rent. You must include a CRP when filing your Property Tax Refund return. - MN Dept of Revenue

Education Award: Please note that your Segal AmeriCorps Education award can be federally taxed as income in the same year it is used to pay for tuition and/or repayment of student loans. “If your education award and interest payments total more than $600 in a calendar year, CNCS will send you an IRS Form 1099 to be used in preparing your income tax return.  All education award and interest payments made on your behalf are considered taxable, even if they do not total $600.” You may be eligible for tax reliefs when paying for higher education per the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997. Contact a tax professional or the IRS for more information about this potential benefit, IRS Publication 970. Also, look under the ‘Tax Relief’ tab on the “Tax Implications” page on the NationalService.gov. -NationalService.gov


Stay tuned next month for information about our programs, fun events, professional development tips, and more!

Are you looking for something in our newsletter? Let us know, and we’d love to put it in a future publication! We’re always looking for new ideas on what to share with our AmeriCorps members!

Communications Committee