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While you may have already filed your taxes for 2016, it is never too late to start thinking about ways to save on your taxes for next year. One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to reduce your tax bill is to donate to charity. These donations can help you save money and improve your long-term financial stability. In fact, consider how donating to a charity, like United Way of Rock River Valley, could help your finances in these five ways.

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School will be out soon, and while plenty of people will be planning their summer vacation, it is important to remember those in the community who may not have the ability to spend the summer lounging. Instead, you can help make the summer better and more enjoyable by volunteering for community service opportunities in your area. If you are not sure where to begin, consider volunteering for one of these fun, outdoor ways to give back to your community.

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With increased competition to get into the nation’s prestigious colleges and universities, more students need to understand how community service may impact their application. Having the right balance of community service and academic courses can help prospective students get into the college of their choice. As a result, students should understand how admission counselors are weighing community service, what types of community service can improve their chances and how to highlight such experiences in the application.

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While April showers may bring May flowers, finding ways to pass the time can be difficult. However, you can make great use of your time while the rain falls by exploring volunteer opportunities in Rock River Valley. In fact, think about giving back to the community through these easy and rewarding ways to volunteer during the rainy season.

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Deciding to volunteer and signing up to volunteer are two different things. You may have the best of intentions, but finding volunteer opportunities in Rock River Valleys is not always easy. While you can keep an eye out for such opportunities as you go about your day, use these tips to find new, exciting and heart-warming opportunities in your community.

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United Way's Black Male Initiative (BMI) is a pilot program that launched about a year ago. We partnered with Goodwill of Northern Illinois and the Workforce Connection to focus on empowering Black males between the ages of 18 - 24 to overcome challenges related to education and employment. Over the last year, we have connected 16 young men with mentors that provide additional guidance and motivation as they pursue their goals. These are some of the accomplishments to date:

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Volunteering is an excellent way to give back to your community. You can encourage others to persevere through troubling hardship and more, but community service can also have major health and psychological benefits for you as well.

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Yes, we "officially" celebrate Black History Month in February, but it's never too late to shine a light on the important figures that make our community great! Working in the Ellis Heights Neighborhood, I drive by Lewis Lemon Elementary School often. I'd like to share a little history related to the school's name!

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Unemployment in the Rockford, Illinois area is almost twice the National average, which makes finding a job that more difficult. It's especially a major issue for young black men. In fact, nearly 70 percent of young black males between the ages of 18-24 years old are without a job. That's more than four times higher than the rate for young white men.

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With spring’s arrival, the time is perfect to refocus your efforts on attaining and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Rather than spending thousands on diets and exercise equipment, follow these seven life-hacks for healthy living Rockford residents can rely on.

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Everyone experiences financial stress, whether you’re new to the workforce, trying to make big life decisions or looking towards retirement. Here in Rockford, IL region, we’re certainly not immune to that.

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The income gap has been a part of mainstream media for years, but how it impacts communities is often overlooked. On the surface, it means the wealthiest people continue to growth their wealth, and those in the lower and middle classes face shrinking ability to live on their incomes. However, understanding how this topic hurts communities can help change income inequality Rockford residents have come to see.

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United Way's Strong Neighborhoods initiative is focused on bringing health, education and financial stability resources directly to children and families living in Midtown and Ellis Heights neighborhoods. At the same time, we uncover assets in these neighborhoods that are beneficial to the rest of the Rockford-area community.

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Parenth.o.o.d Promise (PHP), works with families to ensure that their children will graduate from high school. Parenth.o.o.d Promise has four components:

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The arrival of tax season represents a major challenge for many people without the funds to file their income tax returns. Meanwhile, messages of financial hope get lost amid advertisements and promotions offered by retailers. The IRS' Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program gives those who cannot afford to file opportunity, but many do not understand what the program is and how it works. So, you can help those in your community by knowing a few things about it.

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I had the pleasure to watch Anita Fricks, Parent Liaison at Kishwaukee Elementary, in all her altruistic glory yesterday. It was amazing to watch how joyful she was to simply help people. Ms. Fricks invited the Kishwaukee School community to a clothes closet that she had conceived, constructed, and cared for; the turnout was as positive as the spirit that created it.

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"If you give a pig a pancake, she'll want some syrup to go with it. You'll give her some of your favorite maple syrup, and she'll probably get all sticky, so she'll want to take a bath. She'll ask you for some bubbles. When you give her the bubbles..."

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When you finally land that job you've been hoping for, you don't let anything get in your way—not even being homeless. Things had finally turned around for Jesse and he was grateful to be working at a production warehouse, but he still wasn't able to afford an apartment. But when Jesse had his taxes prepared at United Way's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site, he found out that he'd be getting the Earned Income Tax Credit. He and his wife Juana used their return to move out of their car and into a home.

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