Tag Archive for: VITA

MASSCAP, Community Teamwork and other Community Action Agencies Launch Annual Volunteer Free Tax Preparation Program that Aids Low Income Families

CTI Offering Free Tax Prep to Low-Income Families

Lowell, MA (February 3, 2021) – MASSCAP and Community Teamwork, along with the 22 other Community Action Agencies (CAAs) in the state were joined by Congressman Richard Neal, Senator Jo Comerford and Representative Natalie Blais, among others in kicking off this year’s tax season by launching the annual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) as well as recognizing the importance of accessing the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

“Perhaps more than any other year in recent memory, helping low-income workers access the EITC – one of our most powerful tools to address poverty – is so critical. So many have lost income and are counting on the resources of VITA sites which can help them with free tax preparation,” pointed out Joe Diamond, MASSCAP Executive Director.

At Community Teamwork and other VITA sites, volunteers not only provide free tax prep and access to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and other tax credits, to low-income taxpayers allowing them to pay bills, cover essential needs such as rent, save, and plan for the future, but also link them to other critical services strengthening families and the local economy. CTI’s Susan Trottier expressed her commitment and enjoyment in working into her 6th year as a volunteer for the VITA program, “I learn so much every year and love helping our community.”

The Earned Income Tax Credit has been called one of the most successful antipoverty programs. It bridges the wage gap – since the late 1970s wages have not kept up with productivity and many working people have trouble meeting their basic needs. The EITC, along with other tax credits, has been shown to improve infant health outcomes, employment rates of single mothers, child educational achievement, and future earnings.

“VITA is an invaluable program that does so much good for people who need it and helps to bridge the wage gap and fight poverty. Our work this tax season, along with the wide range of services we offer, including Early Education and Care, Head Start, Fuel Assistance, housing programs and financial education will help ease families’ financial burden and let them know that the community cares about them. Our integrated approach is key in helping people find stability in their lives and move out of poverty.”, said Karen Frederick, CEO of Community Teamwork.

Community Teamwork is offering tax preparation for low-income families, starting February 1st through April 10th. Due to Covid-19, CTI will not be offering in-person or face-to-face appointments! CTI services will be offered online at www.getyourrefund.org/cti or our partner site www.getyourrefund.org/GLCAC – Links can be accessed by PC, laptop, tablet and smartphone!  At the Resource Center, 17 Kirk Street in Lowell, CTI will also offer Drop Off (Saturdays 2/6 through 4/3, 9-12pm) & Pick Up later for clients that do not have access to tech devices.

For more information on CTI’s VITA Program, please visit www.commteam.org/vita and



Summer Zhou
Summer Zhou

UMass Grad Student Helps VITA Clients File Taxes

Summer Zhou tcmSummer Zhou is one of the rare people who looks forward to tax season. A graduate student in the Manning School of Business, Zhou is participating in the Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program for the second year in a row. From January to mid-April, she spends Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings at Community Teamwork in downtown Lowell, greeting clients, answering questions and preparing income taxes. The service is offered free of charge to residents who meet specific income requirements.

 “I love volunteering,” says Zhou, who will receive her master’s degree in accounting in May. “I’m helping people and getting experience in my field.

“Zhou is in her second year as a volunteer for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program at Community Teamwork,” explains VITA Program Coordinator Gail Fortes. “She has been an great asset to the program due to her knowledge, flexibility and her warm personality.”

 Zhou signed up for the VITA program last year after hearing about it through the student Accounting Society. A national program, nearly 92,000 volunteers participated in VITA last year, preparing more than 3.3 million returns, according to the IRS.  Zhou estimates she filed about 20 returns during last tax season.

 A native of Beijing, Zhou says the VITA program gives her the opportunity to learn more about the U.S. tax system while applying what she’s mastered in her courses and through an accounting internship last summer with Parexel International Corp., a biopharmaceutical firm in Billerica.

 “It’s great to use what I have learned,” she says.

 Zhou and other volunteers are required to complete training before they start working on taxes. Many of the other volunteers are experienced professionals and Zhou says she has learned a lot from them. In her volunteer role, Zhou also reviews returns prepared by others and troubleshoots issues for clients, many of whom are not native English speakers.

 “There is a lot of problem-solving involved,” she says.

 To learn more about this program, contact Gail Fortes at gfortes@comteam.org.

 Note: This article is excerpted from the online digital newletter courtesy of UMass Lowell University Relations.

woman speaking
woman speaking

Community Teamwork Salutes Family Advocates & Launches Free Tax Program

Dec Jan Feb Pix scaledCommunity Teamwork paid tribute to five elected officials for their success in advocating for essential programs and supports for families and children. It also launched its Free Tax Preparation Program that includes helping qualified families obtain the Earned Income Tax Credit.

U.S. Representative John Tierney, State Senator Eileen Donoghue, and State Representatives Dave Nangle, Kevin Murphy and Thomas Golden received awards for “Helping All Families Achieve Self Sufficiency.”  Echoing the sentiments of all those being honored, Congressman Tierney noted that this “team always works together and it never stops. We’re all working toward the same goals for our residents.” Photo left to right: (l-r) State Rep. Thomas Golden, State Senator Eileen Donoghue, State Rep. Kevin Murphy, U.S. Rep. John Tierney, CTI Executive Director Karen Frederick, State Rep. David Nangle, Head Start parent Jessica Lima and Community Teamwork Early Learning Director Christopher Hunt. Below: Head Start parent Jessica Lima.

Frederick thanked the entire delegation including  Niki Tsongas, who was unable to attend, for  their  tireless commitment to families and people in need.  “CommunDec Jan Feb Pix scaledity Teamwork couldn’t have a better team to advocate for all of us.” Early Learning Director Chris Hunt noted that this extraordinary team has helped us  achieve a 2.3% rate increase for the Head Start program, so needed to help us deliver quality services to as many families as possible.”

Parent Jessica Lima testified to the value of their work and that of Community Teamwork: “I’m a full-time mother and a full-time worker. It would be impossible for me to afford regular child care without the Head Start program. For a few years, my father was always there to provide that care. But he passed. I’m so grateful to everyone, to Community Teamwork and Head Start.” State Senator Donoghue noted that Jessica’s story brings to life the need: “instead of a budget line item, today when we listen to Jessica’s story we realize that it’s real people who are affected by these important programs.”

Tierney and the delegation praised Community Teamwork’s central role in providing Free Tax Preparation through the federally-funded Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, including its Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). IRS Tax Advocate Joel Zarella said that the EITC program “helps many families stretch their annual income for essentials including food, heat, bills and so much more. The program also saves families a great deal of money on tax preparation services.”

Frederick thanked CTI’s partners Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union, Mills42 Federal Credit Union and UMass Lowell for providing qualified volunteers and expanded hours and locations for people to get their taxes completed. Frederick also noted that Community Teamwork has expanded the tax program to include homeless families and individuals living in local shelters as well as hotels and motels. “Homelessness is at an all time high, with well over 2,000 people living in shelters, hotels and motels at this time. Our outreach to these families will help when it counts most. For all qualified families, the VITA and the Earned Income Tax Credit programs put much needed money back into the hands of hard-working community members who are struggling to make ends meet.”

To learn more about the VITA Free Tax Preparation Program and EITC contact Gail Fortes at 978 654-5640 or gfortes@commteam.org.





FFS program
FFS program

Financial Literacy Academy, A program of the Financial Education Center


Community Teamwork’s Financial Education Center is a Division of Energy & Community Resources

Financial Education

Asset Development

 Secure Jobs

We are getting ready for VITA which will also be completely virtual this year. Information for scheduling appointments will be available by the end of January 2021.

Give us a call to learn more about our free programs!

Listen to Chris Santos-Gordon, Director Financial Education Center, disucss the Top 6 things to do to manage finances during the pandemic – WCAP Radio 8/4/2020: 1.Rework your budget   2. What can you live without?   3. Divert those “things I can live without” into savings   4. Take Care of Your Credit   5. Increase Income             6. Schedule a financial coaching appointment with us! 978.654.5673;  FEC Facebook Page 

All programs are being offered virtually.This September AND October we’ll be holding our Financial Literacy Academy via ZOOM. All who complete the FLA will receive a gift card for participating in the 6 week, once per week program! Give us a call to learn more 978-654-5673


Listen to Chris Santos-Gordon, Director of the Financial Education Center discuss how the Center is responding to the needs of the community re: employment services, skills training, VITA, financial education and more – WCAP Radio 6/2/2020

Community Teamwork’s Coordinated Family and Community Engagement, funded by the MA Dept of Early Education and Care bring you: Teaching Your  Preschooler about Money

The Financial Education Center has enrolled in a four part webinar series focusing on building your money confidence. Below is the link to Part 2- Managing Debt. We hope you find it helpful. You can click on the link and register to view the WEBINAR: https://register.gotowebinar.com/recording/8620924734155818243
If after you view the webinar, you have further questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me and I’ll be happy to help
WEBINAR – CONTROLLING SPENDING ~The Financial Education Center has enrolled in a four part webinar series focusing on personal finance management. Below is the link to part 1- Controlling Spending. We hope you find it helpful. You can click on the link and register to view the webinar.



Programing at CTI’s Financial Education Center

165 Merrimack Street – Lowell, MA  01852

Billy J. Hensley, Ph.D, President and CEO of National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE)
•A new survey from the National Endowment for Financial Education finds that nearly 9 in 10 (88%) Americans say the COVID-19 crisis is causing stress on their personal finances.
•Financial literacy cannot predict or remedy a crisis, but financial education will play a pivotal role in the economic recovery of our country.

We encourage you to call or take advantage of Social Security Administration’s secure and convenient online services to:

•Apply for Retirement, Disability, and Medicare benefits,
•Check the status of an application or appeal,
•Request a replacement Social Security card (in most areas),
•Print a benefit verification letter, and
•Much more.

Most business with SSA can be done online but we know that many people still rely on phone or in-person help. That’s why we want people to know they can still count on SSA by phone.

Lastly, we know that getting medical and other documentation can be difficult due to the pandemic. SSA continues to extend deadlines wherever possible.




Financial Literacy Academy – FLA

The Financial Education Center at Community Teamwork will be holding its’ Financial Literacy Academy (FLA) starting in February. The FLA delivers a powerful introduction to personal finance management. Our hands-on approach offers an interesting and fun learning environment.
The FLA is free, offered once per week in the evening for six weeks. We provide dinner and *some childcare at no cost! Attendees will also receive a Certificate of Attendance.

Please call to register–Contact Gladys – call 978-654-5673 or email gsantiago@commteam.org

Financial Literacy Academy
Tuesday evenings—
Time: 6:00-8:00 PM

Location: Community Teamwork’s Financial Education Center
165 Merrimack Street-Lowell, MA 01852

*call for more information on childcare
…Helping families achieve financial goals

The FLA offers a powerful introduction to personal Finance management. It is offered for 6 weeks, once per week for 2 hours.

We provide dinner and SOME childcare on a limited basis – (please call to learn more about childcare).

Attendees also receive a certificate of attendance.

Things to Know about the FLA

  • It is FREE
  • It is offered on Tuesday nights from 6pm-8pm
  • It is taught by CTI staff who are certified in Financial Social Work, Credit Repair and / or Tax Preparation
  • It is a fun way to learn about a sometimes, boring subject!

For more info contact: Gladys Santiago gsantiago@commteam.org or call 978.654.5673 to register

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

Why pay to have someone do your taxes when CTI will do them for free? VITA is offered to low-income individuals, and families who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Appointments are scheduled on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings during tax season. Please call to learn more: 978.654.5676

One-on-One Financial Coaching

Do you have a financial goal you’d like to reach, need help repairing your credit, want some one-on-one assistance in creating a budget or with ways to decrease debt? Financial coaching is a smart way to get you started! Please call our office to schedule an appointment: 978.654.5725 / 978.654.5673

Certified financial coaches will work with you on ways to: Increase your monthly income; Eliminate and manage debt; Repair and improve credit; Understand and take advantage of tax credits; Create a savings plan


CTI’s Financial Education Center…Helping Families Achieve Financial Goals

Learn more about solutions for Finances

Learn more about our NEW Center for Financial Self-Sufficiency which opened January 2017!

 Listen to Chris-Santos Gordon, Director of the Center for Financial Self-Sufficiency, on WCAP Radio, discussing the new Center and the wonderful opportunities it provides.

Listen to Chris Santos-Gordon, Director of the Financial Education Center, discuss on WCAP980 radio the opportunities available at the Financial Education Center at Community Teamwork 2/6/18