The Ohio Benefit Bank Newsletter November 2009
NEORegional Spotlight: Northeast Ohio

NE MapThe North East Ohio (NEO) VISTA family has been hard at work as this year's tax season draws near. Tax training dates are arranged for all of the counties in the region, tax clinic blueprints are drawn up, flyers are stapled in every place imaginable, and new Community Trainers (CTs) are getting their tax training sea legs. With all this preparation and collaboration months in advance the NEO VISTAs are on track towards helping more families than in years past. This year VISTA members are concentrating on areas that, in the past, have not gotten full attention. Crystina Wallar, stationed in Crawford County, is one such VISTA and has had much success building coalitions and partnerships where few existed. With her help tax season in Crawford County should be very exciting! 

Along with the complexity of tax season, the NEO family has been tackling other projects as well. Samantha Flores from Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio partnered with Joree Jacobs from Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank to brainstorm ways to integrate collaborative technology into Ohio Benefit Bank operations for the NEO region. So far they have created a North East Ohio Regional wiki that aims to make it easy for NEO VISTAs to share projects and build on each other's innovative spirit. Claudine Brenner from Oberlin College's Bonner Center has been working hard to generate interest among Oberlin College students to volunteer with the Ohio Benefit Bank. She is planning and promoting a Winter Term Project for students that focuses on executing an OBB tax clinic and recently invited VISTA Leader Mark Litzinger to Oberlin to conduct an informational session on AmeriCorps.

Team NEO is doing great things across the board- keep up the great work!

DSODirect Service Office Hosts Outreach Event

On November 17th The OBB Direct Service Office, led by HarvestCorps member Emily Forsee, hosted an outreach event for Columbus' homeless population.  Homemade chili and rolls were served to over 200 people just outside of The OBB office, and many guests made their way inside to recieve assistance applying for benefits.  In a few hours the Direct Service Team completed 24 applications for food assistance, the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), and the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). The DSO team also donated over 100 portions of leftover chili to Faith Mission, a men's shelter.

DSO Outreach Event
DMedicare Part D Open Enrollment Has Begun

Open Enrollment for Medicare Part D began on November 15th and runs through December 31st. This is the time of year when people who are enrolled in Medicare prescription drug plans can compare options for these plans and enroll in another plan if they choose without a penalty.
 
Extra HelpThis is also a great time to talk about the potential savings that can be achieved by enrolling in Medicare Rx Extra Help program (a.k.a. Low Income Subsidy), available on the Ohio Benefit Bank. This underutilized program can save low-income older adults, and persons with disabilities, thousands of dollars in prescription co-pays and premiums, and will completely erase the "donut hole." We need your help in spreading the word and in helping your neighbors to apply!

TaxTrainers Prepare for Tax Season 2009

Over a two day period during the last week of October, The OBB brought AmeriCorps*VISTA Community Trainers from around the state to Columbus to prepare them for upcoming tax season. They spent a majority of their time doing taxes by hand, which gave them a better understanding of how taxes work and a greater appreCTsciation for The Benefit Bank software.  Over the next few months they will be working closely with OBB Regional Coordinators to complete the practical requirements necessary to be certified tax trainers.

Community Trainers-- thank you so much for your hard work and dedication to The OBB program and good luck during the 2009 tax season!

Pictured above (left to right): Sarah Ottney, Elizabeth Tarbuskovich, Gabrielle Chapman and Joree Jacobs
clientClient Spotlight: New citizens find help
Charles Stough, OBB counselor, City Heart, Dayton

Sabina and her husband came from a former Iron Curtain country in the 1990s and became U.S. citizens. They prospered in their new homeland, he as an over-the-road truck driver and she as a worker in an industrial laundry. They had four children; the eldest is in the U.S. Navy and three more are in high school.

When reversals hit the Ohio economy, followed by family problems, Sabina found herself a divorced single parent with three children in her care. Her ex-husband's child support payments were recently reduced. She found a foreclosed home on good terms and moved in, but faced expensive repairs. A friend recommended the Ohio Benefit Bank.

Sabina found an OBB site where a counselor was willing to stay late to handle her application after she finished her work day. Together they completed applications for emergency food assistance and the Home Energy Assistance Program, putting Sabina and her children on a more hopeful financial footing while she works to improve her own life in her adopted country.
Client Spotlight: Lisa's Story
Russell Allen, OBB Counselor, Direct Service Office, Columbus

An Ohio Benefit Bank counselor in the Direct Service Office returned a call from the OBB hotline to a woman named "Lisa." Lisa worked for a Fire Department in Cleveland for over twenty years and at age 58 was only two years away from retirement. She had just been laid off due to the city's budget cuts and called us to see if she might be eligible for any benefits. The unemployment that she will be receiving will just barely cover her bills, but not provide for her additional expenses. She has no family to turn to and was afraid that at her age she would not be able to get another job.

Using Quick Check the counselor found that she would be eligible for food assistance, a tax credit, utility assistance, and prescription assistance. When she completes the applications for these programs and claims the credit on her taxes, it would alleviate stress on her budget by enhancing her income about $500 a month. She also was excited about the senior work program that could place her in a part time role at a community service organization. She was so happy to see that strangers were willing to reach out to her during this time in her life; she said that she "would wait to get off the phone to cry." A self-confessed supporter of those around her, Lisa was encouraged that it is all coming back to her, when she needs it the most.

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 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.

Evan adn Wyatt

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