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United Way of South Texas recognizes outstanding VITA sponsors and volunteers

May 31, 2023
Pictured L-R: Lisa Garza, RGV Sector USBP, UW Board Member; Blanca Villalobos, IBC Bank, UW Board Chair; Paola Escalante-Castillo, Frost Bank; Laura Ramirez and Elisa Beas, City of Rio Grande City and VITA Site Coordinators of the Year; Dr. D’uAndre Drain, GE Aerospace, UW Board Member; and Elvira Alonzo, City of McAllen, UW Board Member. 

The United Way Board of Directors proudly recognized Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program Volunteers, Sponsors and Site Partners at the 2023 VITA Awards Ceremony in April. The VITA program provides free income tax preparation services to individuals and households with an annual income of $60,000 or less (a predetermined income level set by the IRS annually). VITA volunteers prepared tax returns for 2,875 families, who saved $852,300 in tax preparation fees. Through April, combined refunds exceeded $4 million. The United Way VITA volunteer team and Financial Stability Coordinator, Viridiana Cruz, expect to prepare a few hundred more returns before the end of the year. Families invest their tax returns and savings into our local economy, by opening savings accounts, paying tuition or medical bills, making home improvements and much more. The majority of clients reside in Hidalgo and Starr Counties, although VITA volunteers also see clients from Cameron County, Brooks County and Winter Texans.

Robert Rosell, RGV Partnership and United Way Board Member, presented the VITA Site Coordinator of the Year Awards to Ms. Elisa Beas and Ms. Laura Ramirez, with the City of Rio Grande City.  They have volunteered and managed the VITA program in Rio Grande City for seven years and each dedicate 40 hours during the 2023 tax season.  Ms. Beas and Ms. Ramirez are honored to serve the community in a manner that offers financial literacy and assistance to families in the Starr County area. They assisted over 110 families, whose income tax returns totaled $258,117. Roma High School hosts the second VITA site in Starr County; they helped 233 families, whose tax returns were $445,745.

This year, over 130 IRS-trained and Advanced Certified volunteers, including high school students, college students and retired professionals, participated in the VITA program. The following schools provided VITA volunteers: Monte Alto I.S.D., PSJA I.S.D. – Ballew School of Business & Energy, Roma I.S.D. – Roma High School, Vanguard Academy – Beethoven Secondary Campus, Vanguard Rembrandt Secondary, Sharyland I.S.D., University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), South Texas College (STC) McAllen and Mid-Valley Campuses, and McAllen I.S.D. – Lamar Academy. The United Way of South Texas VITA services are available for eligible clients year-round. Appointments may be scheduled by calling 956-686-6331.

The United Way of South Texas Board extends their gratitude to the following companies for sponsoring the VITA Program: Frost Bank, H-E-B, Lone Star National Bank, Magic Valley Electric Cooperative, PNC Bank, Texas Regional Bank, Security Service Federal Credit Union, U.S. Internal Revenue Service, United Way of South Texas and Wells Fargo Bank. The Board also thanks the following Site Partners for the use of their facilities: Calvary Baptist Church, City of McAllen – Lark Library and Palmview Library, City of Mission – Speer Memorial Library, City of Palmview – Youth Center, City of Rio Grande City – City Hall, Goodwill Industries, La Estancia Apt. Learning Center – Weslaco, McAllen I.S.D. – Lamar Academy, PSJA I.SD. – Ballew School of Business & Energy and Bowie Elementary, Roma I.S.D. – Roma High School, South Texas College and Mid-Valley, United Way of South Texas, Vanguard Academy Beethoven Secondary, Vanguard Academy – Van Gogh Elementary, and UTRGV- (My Free Taxes), a virtual site.

About United Way:

United Way of South Texas invests in programs that address critical services in the areas of Health, Education, Financial Stability, and Safety Net. The organization supports over 21 non-profit agencies in Hidalgo and Starr Counties that serve a minimum of 225,500 local residents annually. Services provided by United Way of South Texas through Partner Agencies include emergency shelter, family violence counseling, character building programs, child victim advocacy, and infant stimulation classes. If you would like to support United Way programs with a monetary donation, you may mail a tax deductible check to United Way of South Texas at P.O. Box 187, McAllen, TX 78505-0187.