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With the holiday season rapidly approaching, Fredericksburg Parent & Family Magazine had the chance to speak with John Kowalski, Communication Director of the Rappahannock United Way in Fredericksburg about the work they do in our community.

What is Rappahannock United Way and how do they serve in the community?

John Kowalski: Rappahannock United Way is a nonprofit organization working Fredericksburg and the counties of Spotsylvania, Stafford, Caroline and King George. Its goal is that more households emerge from poverty and achieve greater financial stability thought education, income and health.

Our community is stronger and a better place to live when children succeed in school, families are financially stable and all individuals have good health.

As a Volunteer organization, what does it do?

be-a-volunteerJK: Rappahannock United Way provides numerous volunteer opportunities to engage in the community.
Days of Caring are our biggest volunteer projects each year. This year, 600 volunteers from the Fredericksburg area (including Spotsylvania and Stafford counties) and Caroline and King George counties volunteered 3,000 hours of their time which provided a value of over $70,000 to the greater area.

Can you identify one function of the organization that people may not associate RUW with?

JK: Each year, Rappahannock United Way trains volunteers to prepare and file income tax returns at no charge for families that have a total household income of less than $50,000. In 2012, our trained volunteers helped to prepare over 1,000 free tax returns for local community members, which saved them $213,000 in tax preparation fees and returned a collective $1.5 million into the pockets of those community members.

With the holidays approaching, what types of assistance do you lend a hand in?

JK: During the holidays, we receive a lot of calls from people wanting to get help and give help. There is a particular need for food and energy assistance throughout the holiday season, especially for children and the elderly. Nonprofit agencies will distribute holiday wish lists to support those in need. Last year, 21 local nonprofit agencies submitted wish lists with much needed items people could donate.

holiday-helpWe are able to direct those in need during the holidays to agencies that are able to help them. Anyone seeking holiday assistance or those wishing to donate or volunteer, they may call us at (540) 373-0041 and dial 0 to speak to a staff member or visit our website, www.RappahannockUnitedWay.org or www.ruwvolunteer.com

Give an example of a time when the Rappahannock United Way stepped in to a situation and influenced an outcome that would have otherwise ended in hardship.

JK: The following is an excerpt for a letter from Ann Kloeckner at Rappahannock Legal Services, written to Mary Washington Healthcare.

Dear Debbie:

We are just wrapping up our Day of Caring at Rappahannock Legal Services, and I wanted to let you know what a huge blessing it was to us and our clients to have your tireless team from Mary Washington Health Care assist us with our Day of Caring tasks.

Sheila has been a huge help...helping us with the handwritten thank you notes we are sending out to all the donors in our database. We simply do not have the time or staffing to do these important tasks, so she has really lightened our load. This is the first time we have ever just thanked our donors, instead of always going to them with a request for a donation. Sheila helped us very much with that.

JoEllen and Nancy were our landscapers. On a sunny, hot day, they chose to be outdoors, making short work of taming the wild and messy front garden at our entrance. But they went way beyond a bit of weeding and trimming...By the time they were done, the whole building, front and side, sparkled with a beautiful, well-maintained appearance.

Thanks so much!

Sincerely yours,
Ann

How can the community get involved in helping to create a stronger Rappahannock United Way?

JK: You can donate in a number of ways. You can make a single donation online using a credit card or write a check payable to Rappahannock United Way and mail to 3310 Shannon Park Drive, Fredericksburg, VA 22408. If your employer participates in a workplace campaign, you have the option of giving through a payroll deduction. There are other ways to give and you can view them all by visiting www.RappahannockUnitedWay.org and clicking "GIVE" at the top of the screen.

We offer hundreds of local volunteer opportunities. Our volunteer website, www.ruwvolunteer.org, lists hundreds of volunteer opportunities in the area. Rappahannock United Way is currently seeking volunteers to serve as tax preparers and greeters for our free tax-filing program with sites in the City of Fredericksburg and the counties of Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford.

Lastly, you can act as an advocate on our behalf and inform those around you of our programs and the long-lasting changes we are making in this community.

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