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Catholic charitable organizations hope for generous year-end giving

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Catholic Charities helps folks like Kathleen and Ed. (Catholic Charities)

Catholic Charities helped this couple when they were about to be evicted from their apartment. The wife is now a devoted Catholic Charities volunteer.
(Catholic Charities)

Catholic charitable and educational organizations around the Phoenix Diocese are hoping taxpayers will remember them as they prepare to celebrate Christmas and the year 2012 draws to a close.

The deadline for the charitable tax credit is Dec. 31. For the private tuition tax credit, the federal deadline is Dec. 31. For the state of Arizona, the deadline has been extended to April 15.

For the charitable tax credit, Arizona taxpayers can receive a tax credit of up to $400 when filing jointly and up to $200 when filing a single tax return. For the private tuition tax credit, Arizona taxpayers can take a tax credit of $2,006 if filing jointly or $1,003 if filing a single return.

Any person — including part-time residents — with a state of Arizona tax liability can take a tax credit, redirecting dollars toward qualified education and charitable organizations. Catholic Charities, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Foundation for Senior Living and Catholic Education Arizona are all qualified organizations.

Paul Mulligan, president and CEO of Catholic Education Arizona, said the four entities have banded together this year to help educate Arizona taxpayers about how to take the credit.

“We are taking the initiative to really try to educate the Catholic taxpayers about what a tax credit is and in turn whether they’re eligible [so they can] take the credit for these groups,” Mulligan said.

He hopes people will visit takethecredit.org, a website that explains what a tax credit is and how it works.

“It’s a downloadable PDF guide,” Mulligan said. “You go online and download it right there. It pops right up.”

As he travels the Phoenix Diocese speaking to people about the scholarships that are awarded to students for Catholic education thanks to the tax credit, he finds that many people have a misconception about their eligibility to participate.

“People think that if they get a refund they can’t do the program,” Mulligan said.

Actually, he said, they get a refund because they are paying too much in taxes. The tax-credit program, Mulligan said, is a way to redirect those dollars toward scholarships for needy students as well as many other charitable works.

“We take tax credit contributions from Catholics who want to support education and Catholic schools and we translate their Arizona tax liability into scholarships for low income students,” Mulligan said.

Charitable organizations helped

Laura Toussaint-Newkirk, marketing and communications manager for Catholic Charities, said the money received from the tax credit provides much-needed funding for programs.

“It stays right here in the community to help the most vulnerable get out of poverty,” Toussaint-Newkirk said. “There’s so much that we do and the support from the community is essential to our mission.”

Catholic Charities helps the less fortunate by providing housing and shelter for the homeless, shelter for abused women and their children, homeless outreach, foster care, adoption and free pregnancy counseling.

“It’s the gift that gives year around because we are not just helping them through their crisis, we really look to provide a solution that’s going to permanently improve their lives,” Toussaint-Newkirk said.

One elderly couple, she said, was about to be evicted from their apartment. The husband was disabled following a car accident and the wife had to work. The combination of caring for her husband and trying to work took a heavy toll on her. The couple became victims of predatory lending.

“She came to us and we were able to prevent the eviction and arrange with the landlord to get them something more reasonable,” Toussaint-Newkirk said.

Catholic Charities also encouraged the couple to participate in Empower U, a program for vulnerable individuals and families who are on the edge of financial collapse. The two were able to repair their credit and now able to live comfortably with their fixed income.

Mary Chou-Thompson, communications manager for the St. Vincent de Paul Society, said funds received through the tax credit are a big boost to St. Vincent de Paul’s work.

“It helps us throughout the year because during this time of the year we get most of our donations,” Chou-Thompson said. “It kind of holds us over until the next giving season.

“The money that comes in will help us feed, clothe, house and heal people in Arizona through our dining rooms, our thrift stores, our shelter and our medical and dental clinic as well,” Chou-Thompson said.

Last year the Society’s five local dining rooms provided 1.2 million meals throughout the Phoenix metro area.

“We also gave out just under 400,000 emergency food boxes to families and individuals and our medical and dental clinic provided just under 15,000 visits for the uninsured,” Chou-Thompson said. St. Vincent de Paul’s transitional shelter provided housing for 145 people last year as well.

Thomas Tenkely, program director for the Foundation for Senior Living’s adult day health services, said funds received from the tax credit are put to good use.

“The Charitable Tax Credit program greatly assists [the Foundation for Senior Living’s] adult day services programs, allowing us to provide much needed respite and therapies for caregivers and their loved ones,” Tenkely said.

Megan Word, the marketing and outreach coordinator for Foundation for Senior Living’s home health program, said the program is reimbursed by Medicare and other insurance plans, but that “donations [via the tax credit] help cover the deficit remaining between the amount paid by insurance and the actual cost of providing the service.”

Jennifer Zwirek, director of Foundation for Senior Living’s Pathways program, said the tax credit donations “enable social workers to create food boxes, purchase much-needed medical equipment, and offer hope for individuals and families in need throughout the year.”

Zwirek described a 90-year-old woman who lives in Sun City that fell and broke her elbow. The woman has outlived her friends and there was no one to assist her. Foundation for Senior Living was able to send help.

“We were able to send in a home health aide for a couple of weeks until she wasn’t as constricted with her dressings to help her with bathing and personal care,” Zwirek said.

To find out more about the charitable tax credit and to see if you qualify, visit takethecredit.org.

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