AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR of St. John’s Bread and Life, ANTHONY BUTLER has a passion for finding a need in the Brooklyn community and filling it.
Although Bread and Life in Bed-Stuy is Brooklyn’s largest soup kitchen — serving more than 1,000 meals five days a week — it prides itself on offering many social services beyond nutrition. Of these, the low-income tax preparation program is in especially high demand at this time of year.
Last year Butler reached out to St. John’s University, enlisting three accounting students to head the program. (Bread and Life has been headquartered in the original St. John’s University building since a move and renovation in late 2008.)
Although the small group of students met once a week, it leveraged a partnership with Food Bank for New York City. Impressed with the work being done at Bread and Life, Food Bank contacted Butler to set up one of its official Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites.
This year, along with volunteers from Food Bank, 27 St. John’s University students have offered their time and services to help Brooklynites in need to file their taxes — free of charge.
“In this economy, a lot of people are tight on money and cannot afford to go to a huge tax-preparation service,” says Butler, a Windsor Terrace resident. “So far, the program has filed about 200 tax returns and obtained $538,392 in refunds for our guests. That money is essentially being put back into the Brooklyn community, which is needed in the current economic slump.”
Butler says that many filers may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the largest poverty-reduction program in the nation, yet almost a quarter million New Yorkers who are eligible do not apply for it. Whether individuals do not know about EITC or their paid tax preparers are negligent in preparing the necessary documents to claim the credit, nearly half a billion dollars in tax refunds are forfeited in New York City annually by lower-income working people.
Clients are also provided with information about opening bank accounts, financial education and enrolling for government benefits such as food stamps. Once a week, members of Urban Justice Inc. serve guests with various legal issues, such as benefit advocacy, landlord tenant issues and domestic violence issues. Urban Justice is available every Tuesday from 10:00 am to 12:00 noon. For more information please call KYLE DELENEY at (718) 574-0058, ext. 11.
To be eligible for this tax assistance, families earn under $45,000 and individuals under $20,000 per year. Tax preparers will be on hand through April 15, Monday through Thursdays from 1 to 7 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For more information about EITC and Free Tax Preparation services, please visit www.breadandlife.org. Bread and Life is at 795 Lexington Ave., between Malcolm X Blvd. and Patchen Avenue. For information about the Food Bank for New York City, visit www.foodbanknyc.org.
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THE FORT HAMILTON THRIFT SHOP, open to the base and the public, is operated by the wives of officers and volunteers who collect, price and sell items at deep discounts. The store, at Building 125 on Wainwright Drive, offers bargain hunters clothing, household goods, electronics, furniture, and books. With virtually no overhead, all proceeds go towards helping servicemen and women and their families — particularly those who have lost a family member in the line of duty.
Life Scout MICHAEL CONNORS of Boy Scout Troop 99, chartered by St. Athanasius, has adopted the thrift store for his Eagle Scout project. Connors is coordinating five convenient pick-up points on Saturday morning, March 7 (see list). With questions please call (718) 238-6500 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Collection and Pick-up points:
Bay Ridge Eagle News Center
7410 5th Ave
St. Anselm School
356 82nd St
St. Athanasius School
61st St & Bay Pkwy
Connors & Sullivan Law Offices
7408 5th Ave
Sheridan Council Knights of Columbus
8415 7th Ave
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SEVERAL FRIENDS HAVE INQUIRED about the health of MARTIN HALPERN, who is recovering from an operation. He plans to carry forth with his show, the two-act comedy/drama No Moves Back, set in Prospect Park. The official opening will be Friday, Feb. 27 at the Roy Arias Theatre, 300 W. 43rd St. Tickets are $18 and available by calling SmartTix at (212) 868-4444 or at the box office prior to each performance.