The Ohio Benefit Bank Newsletter July 2009

HollandSite Spotlight: The Holland Center

The Holland CenterThe Holland Center, a computer lab located in Corning, Ohio, was created in order to address the issue of limited internet access in the surrounding area.  But they do more than offer internet access to the residents of rural Perry County.  Holland Center joined the Ohio Benefit Bank network in 2008 just in time for tax season, where they assisted over 100 families with tax assistance and HEAP applications.  They held three tax clinics that year, and have grown in leaps and bounds since then!  With just two trained counselors at the site, since July of 2008 they have assisted nearly 200 households with tax and benefit Pam and Janet of the Holland Centerapplications, along with their "day job" of running a summer feeding program, holding computer classes, and hosting open computer lab sessions six days a week!  Holland Center truly embraces the idea of wrap-around services.
From all of us at the Ohio Benefit Bank, thank you Holland Center, for all that you do!

                                    OBB Counselors Janet Spangler
                                                           and Pam Withem

DSOWho is the OBB Direct Service Office?

The Direct Service Office in Columbus was designed as a "model show room" of Ohio Benefit Bank services. Three expert Ohio Benefit Bank Enrollment Specialists advocate for and assist those who come to them to apply for the work support programs and tax credits available on the The Benefit Bank software. They provide excellent customer service and have enhanced Benefit Bank services by developing an online resource referral guide for local and statewide programs. They are also in the process of creating a counselor mentoring program and developing a best practices guide for marketing Benefit Bank services.
Direct Service Office StaffThe Ohio Benefit Bank hotline is staffed by Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks' staff  and Senior Community Service and  Employment Program participants. They lend a compassionate ear to people in need around the state and hear incredible stories every day from people who are overwhelmed, families who are facing rising food, fuel and utility costs and record foreclosure and unemployment rates. They refer callers to Ohio Benefit Bank sites and other resources and are adept at noting trends across the State.

The Ohio Benefit Bank Mobile Express and road warriors, Russell Allen and Erin Sprouse, provide friendly expertise and convenient access to benefits for people in need across the state where they live, work, play and pray. The fully equipped Sprinter van has been on the road for 4 months and attended over 80 events with many promising events in store. They created a lively blog detailing their experiences: and their insights into poverty, the effects of great need and stigma, along with the sights, smells (and tastes) of an Ohio spring and summer are well worth following. To add your upcoming event to their calendar visit
Stop by and visit us or say hello at the upcoming annual OBB Community Meeting and Training. We'd love to hear what you are doing to help your neighbors!

KilroyUS Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy Administers Oath of Service to AmeriCorps*VISTA Summer Associates

On June 1, 2009, US Representative Mary Jo Kilroy administered the Oath of Service to 56 AmeriCorps*VISTA Summer Associates.  Kilroy, an AmeriCorps*VISTA alumna, praised the incoming summer members for their decision to spend a summer in service.  Through the program, sponsored by the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks in partnership with the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Ohio Department of Education, the 56 individuals are assigned to an 8 week term of service at 12 Summer Food Service Program providers across the state.  The members will help prepare and distribute meals to low-income children who depend on the Free and Reduced Priced School Lunch program.  Without the summer feeding programs, many children would go hungry in the summer months.

Oath of Service
clientClient Spotlight: Tony, the Dishwasher
Charles Stough, OBB Counselor, City Heart, Dayton

Tony came to Dayton from California in 2006 to be near his daughter, who was about to give birth. Although he had a federal tax judgment against him, he worked as a day laborer and dishwasher and thought he could find work almost anywhere.

But the economy went bad. When his daughter moved with her baby to another city to accept a job, Tony found himself stranded in Dayton, washing dishes in a restaurant, barely making ends meet but glad to have any work at all.

He came to a Benefit Bank site to apply for HEAP and food stamps. Among his proofs of identity, he showed the counselor a letter from the Internal Revenue Service advising him of a tax levy from 2004. The amount in question wasn't large, so the counselor asked about any tax refunds or credits he had received since then. That's when it emerged that Tony had not filed tax returns since 2005. He never made enough money, he said, and tax preparation services charged too much. So, in a marathon two-hour tax preparation session, Tony and the OBB counselor used the Benefit Bank to prepare four federal returns and three state ones. In one year, his federal refund was $1, but his total refunds came to more than $1,000 and most significant, he did not owe taxes (or penalties) for any year.

Tony went home elated to have most of his tax liability on its way to being erased. He hoped that the IRS would see fit to reduce some of the penalties it had been charging him on his old tax case -- discovered by chance at an OBB session for an entirely different cause.

Conf OBB Community Meeting and Training

The 2009 Ohio Benefit Bank Community Meeting and Training is quickly approaching! This year's event is being held at the Crowne Plaza North Hotel in Columbus. The event is intended for OBB Counselors, OBB Site Administrators, and OBB Program Partners. This year's keynote speaker is Joel Berg, Executive Director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger and author of the book, All You Can Eat: How Hungry Is America?  Mr. Berg is a nationally recognized leader in the fields of hunger and food security, national and community service, and technical assistance provision to faith-based and community organizations.

Workshops will focus on a variety of topics such as policy simplification, marketing your agency's message through social networking tools, expanding and strengthening your OBB network within your community, customer service, and a three part grant writing series, among others.
The second day will offer attendees a choice of attending either a Bridges Out of Poverty Training OR a Poverty Simulation. Priority registration for the second day will be given to attendees from outside of Franklin County to allow agencies traveling farther distances to have access to these second day sessions.

To help provide a high quality education experience, OASHF is charging a small registration fee for all attendees. Registration will cost $30 for each attendee for the first day and $10 for each attendee for the second day. The registration fee includes a copy of Joel Berg's book, All You Can Eat: How Hungry Is America?. 

A limited number of scholarships are available to attendees who demonstrate financial hardship to cover the registration fee. Scholarships are awarded on a first come, first serve basis.
More information concerning travel scholarships, workshops and registration can be found by visiting

Registration is required and will begin on July 16th.

comicEvan and Wyatt and the Magical, Dessert-Enlarging Pennywhistle
a comic strip by Charles Stough

Have you ever wished you could magically double the size of a great dessert? In Charley Stough's new comic strip, a couple of kids use magical pennywhistles to do just that. Stough was a VISTA with OASHF in 2007-08 and now serves as an OBB Counselor for City Heart in Dayton.

 In a future episode, Evan and Wyatt confront the mystery: Will it work on broccoli??
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