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ConnectVA Spotlight: Katina Williams, United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg

Tell us about you (include name, position, organization, background)

My name is Katina Williams and I am Director of Community Impact: Income Area with United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg. I started working with United Way in July 2016. I am a native of Petersburg, VA and I worked for 13 years in homeless services with St. Joseph’s Villa. Through my work with St. Joseph’s Villa I gained a love for systems, how they work and how they can be changed to fit the needs of those most affected by a community issue. I believe in the power of individuals and their ability to create a path to success for themselves and their families when resources are made available.

What is the focus of your work, the need you are addressing?

United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg works to empower individuals and drive systemic change by mobilizing the entire community -individuals, nonprofits, government agencies, schools and businesses to collectively tackle our region’s toughest challenges. Through the Steps to Success model, which identifies critical milestones in our lives, United Way works to reduce and eliminate barriers faced by the children and families in our region. As Director of Community Impact: Income, I work to bring systemic change, develop partnerships and manage funding portfolios under three of our nine Steps to Success: 1.) Basic Needs Met, 2.) College or Career Ready and 3.) Financial Well-Being. These steps touch on many issues including housing instability, financial insecurity and health crises. Our goal is to research and evaluate best practices to address our region’s needs.

Do you have any interesting initiatives or programs on the horizon?

The THRIVE Collaborative is a financial stability initiative led by United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg. THRIVE was created to enhance collaboration, information-sharing and capacity building among local programs and organizations that assist low to moderate income residents in building wealth and achieving financial stability. THRIVE’s Service Provider Network brings agency staff together to network, discuss best practices and explore collaboration opportunities. THRIVE’s Financial Stability Fund helps local financial stability programs serve more people, more effectively.

Through this work, United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg was selected by Prosperity Now, a national non-profit with a mission to ensure everyone in our country has a clear path to financial stability, wealth and prosperity, as a Community Champion. Community Champions are groups that coordinate a network or coalition and are committed to advancing policy.

Are you and/or your organization involved in any exciting collaborations or partnerships?

United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg is excited to co-lead with Advocated for Richmond Youth and Dr. Alex Wagaman, a collaboration of area organizations/agencies to address youth housing instability. The Youth Housing Instability Coalition began its work in March 2016 as result of the work of Advocates for Richmond Youth, a group that has been working on the issue of youth housing instability for a few years now. The Coalition is working to build a coordinated community response to housing instability among youth.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

The most rewarding part of my work is collaborating with a diverse number of partners in the public and private sector and leveraging volunteers to solve some of our region’s toughest problems at a systems level. I enjoy working with our nonprofit partners to improve practices and supporting them as they solve the everyday issues of their work.

What’s one misconception the public has about your organization OR what would someone be surprised to know about your organization?

One of the things some people may be surprised about is United Way leads a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Coalition called metroCASH. metroCASH is an IRS-sponsored, locally implemented VITA program that helps families and individuals prepare their income tax returns accurately and advantageously for free. metroCASH has strong collaborations with for-profit and non-profit agencies to leverage resources and make a difference in the lives of working families. metroCASH works to help the community avoid unclaimed tax credits, fees for tax preparation services and refund anticipation loans.  We have 13 tax sites which provide one on one in person tax filing assistance by IRS certified tax preparers. In addition to traditional tax preparation, we promote a self-preparation option through MyFreeTaxes in partnership with United Way Worldwide and powered by H&R Block.

An essential component to making metroCASH successful is its community volunteers. There are multiple volunteer roles with metroCASH to include Tax Preparer, Quality Reviewer, Greeter/Screener and CASH Coach. We train all our volunteers for each of these roles. It is a wonderful opportunity to give back to our community. If you are interested in volunteering, please email us at volunteer@yourunitedway.org.

How are you leveraging ConnectVA/The Community Foundation to achieve your mission?

We have been able to utilize ConnectVA has a resource to notify the community about funding opportunities with the United Way as well as list job openings with our agency. Also, ConnectVA is a great resource for connecting nonprofit staff to additional learning opportunities.

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