Montgomery County Community Action

Montgomery County Community Action

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Community Action Celebration Honors Volunteers and Organizations - May 24, 2016

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For Immediate Release: May 25, 2016

County Recognizes Volunteers at Community Action Month Celebration
At the Community Action Month Celebration held last night in Silver Spring, the Community Action Board and staff honored individuals and organizations for their contributions to address poverty in Montgomery County and improve the lives of low-income residents. Chuck Short, special assistant in the County Executive’s Office, was joined by DHHS’ Office of Community Affairs Chief Betty Lam. Councilmember George Leventhal spoke at the event and highlighted some of the Board's important advocacy work on behalf of low-income residents. The event honored volunteers who provide invaluable services to low-income residents. 

In proclaiming May as Community Action Month, the County celebrated the Community Action Agency and Board for addressing the needs of low-income residents and helping people move toward self-sufficiency.

The Community Action Board recognized the Community Action Agency’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program and the Takoma-East Silver Spring (TESS) Center. Through the VITA partnership, 122 volunteers provided more than 3,000 hours of free tax preparation services during the past year, serving 2,543 families with low-to-moderate income.  VITA volunteers helped them increase their assets, bringing back $4.9 million to their households, including $2 million in federal, state and county earned income tax credits (EITC) and child tax credits.  The EITC and child tax credits are considered the most effective government programs in reducing child poverty.  Volunteers also linked many with food resources through a partnership with Maryland Hunger Solutions.

The TESS Center provides both direct services and referrals for residents in need of social, health, educational, legal, housing and nutritional assistance to more than 8,000 residents each year. Sixty-eight volunteers serving the TESS Center were honored, including attorneys from the Montgomery County Maryland Bar Foundation’s Pro Bono Program, faith groups providing families with resources, and volunteers supporting an on-site summer meals program.

Silver Spring resident Wendy Ortega, a volunteer with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program at the Wheaton Library, received the Marcia Plater Community Action Award for an Adult Volunteer, having contributed over five years of service. Her expertise as an accountant, caring nature and Spanish language skills were commended by her VITA team. Bethesda resident Bizaye Banjaw received the Marcia Plater Community Action Award for a Youth Volunteer for her efforts with the Housing Opportunities Commission (HOC).  Banjaw dedicated more than 1,000 hours of her time as a student mentor and volunteer with the HOC summer program during the last five years.  Her efforts to assist struggling students with academic and organizational challenges were honored.

A Wider Circle, which relies on more than 15,000 volunteers each year throughout the DC-area, received the Henry L. Dixon Community Action Award for an Organization.  A Wider Circle provides basic need items to low-income residents, as well as programs supporting workforce development, pregnant teens, public housing residents and veterans.

The Gerald J. Roper Sr. Community Action Award for a Youth Organization was awarded to Asian American Youth Leadership Empowerment and Development (Asian American LEAD), the only youth development organization in the region specifically targeting and addressing the needs of Asian and Pacific American youth. Asian American LEAD provides culturally-competent youth programs, including leadership development, civic engagement activities, mentoring and support, and identity development. 

Community Action Board members serve in an advisory capacity to the County Executive and County Council and advocate on behalf of poor and working poor residents. The Board also serves as the governing body for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Community Action Agency’s federal Community Service Block Grant and Head Start programs. 

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