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$10,000 grant 'a big surprise' to Westmoreland Community Action official

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Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
 

Westmoreland Community Action was one of 10 groups in the nation to be awarded a $10,000 grant from the first day of Wal-Mart's “12 Days of Giving” campaign.

“This was a big surprise,” said Tay Waltenbaugh, CEO of the Greensburg nonprofit human services agency. “When we got the call, I didn't know anything about it. We have no idea who submitted (us). Whoever recommended us, we thank them for that,” he said.

A representative of Wal-Mart serves on the agency's board of directors.

Westmoreland Community Action was among the first day's award winners in the category, “Feeding Our Children.”

The agency's mission is to strengthen communities and families to eliminate poverty, according to its website.

“It's kind of like a windfall for us. What we'd like to do is use one half for our Head Start program and work on health and nutrition,” Waltenbaugh said.

That will include education on the national issue of childhood obesity, he said.

The other half is expected to go toward the agency's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

Started about four years ago, VITA offers free tax preparation assistance to anyone whose annual income falls below $50,000.

“Our budget (for the program) is $21,000. We recruit a lot of volunteers, from college students to community residents. We have one support staff member at each site,” he said.

Last year the program assisted about 800 people, a number Waltenbaugh hopes will double in 2013.

“With the economy and people struggling, this way people don't have to pay for tax preparation. And there is no refund anticipation loan that they can't afford to pay back,” he said.

Last year's effort resulted in just under $2 million being returned to the community through refunds, savings on tax preparation fees and application for all qualifying tax credits, Waltenbaugh said.

The Wal-Mart campaign will give more than $1.5 million to 140 grant recipients across the country over 12 days. Winning nonprofits were selected from nearly 22,000 nominations submitted in November by Facebook users.

“The number of nominations from around the country this year was truly extraordinary — nearly four times as many nominations as last year's campaign,” Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Walmart Foundation president, said in a release.

“We were inspired by the support from thousands of people around the country who took the time to nominate organizations they felt needed assistance this holiday season. By helping us to identify those organizations doing great work, we will be able to make an impact in the local communities that need it most,” Burwell said.

Wal-Mart associates performed initial reviews of submissions, and a foundation panel selects winning organizations that focus on providing basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing, as well as services including medical care and job training.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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