In 2012 Desert Schools Federal Credit Union made a three-year, $150,000 grant commitment to support the Balsz Promise Neighborhood initiative led by Valley of the Sun United Way. The primary goal of this initiative, which focuses its efforts within the boundaries of the Balsz Elementary School District in east Phoenix, is to create a continuum of solutions from birth through college and career, that will ensure the youth of the community have the tools and resources that will most benefit them academically and socially.
A great deal of progress has been made through this initiative over the past two years, including:
- A Community Liaison was hired to assist in planning and implementing key activities, engage community members to actively participate in the Balsz Promise Neighborhood initiative, and connect people to available services and resources.
- A Youth Advisory Council was created, successfully engaging 35 youth from local high schools in community service work and advocacy.
- Literacy fairs were conducted at each elementary school in the Balsz Elementary School District, designed to educate parents on the importance of early grade reading success and equip them with tools and techniques for supporting their children. More than 650 parents and children attended the district-wide literacy fairs and were provided with a small set of books to establish a home library.
- Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites were opened at two locations during tax season to offer free tax preparation services to individuals and families with low or limited income, individuals with disabilities, seniors and military personnel and their families. Last year alone, more than $250,000 in federal refunds was returned to low- to moderate-income families in the community as a result of the VITA sites.
Desert Schools Federal Credit Union has been more than a funder of this initiative—they have been actively involved in the work. Members of Desert Schools leadership have served on the Balsz Promise Neighborhood Advisory Council and many of its staff have volunteered at the VITA sites and literacy fairs. They have also sent volunteer groups to assemble School Readiness Kits and WeekEnd Hunger Backpacks to be distributed to children who are most in need of these resources.
Thank you to Desert Schools Federal Credit Union for making a real impact in the Balsz Promise Neighborhood community!