$480,000 Returned to You!

10169349_10151998201906845_1323069183_n This year our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program provided free income tax return preparations to our hard working community. We are proud to announce that 523 E-files were accepted this year. The Women’s Building cares about doing taxes because our community wants to receive the fair credits that is theirs. 1455070_10152004850201845_107656268_nTrinidad, one of our clients, had never gotten more than $300 back from her federal tax file until now. Because of our service,Trinidad received a Federal refund of $1,097 utilizing all the credits that she had earned! This additional money will help Trinidad’s sick mother who needs special attention. According to the Internal Revenue Service, “refunds totaling almost $760 million may be waiting for an estimated 918,600 taxpayers who did not file a federal income tax return for 2010”!  We want to make sure everyone gets the tax returns they deserve! We are overjoyed by the amazing work our dedicated tax prep volunteers did this year! These 45 volunteers spoke Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Thai, Arabic, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Burmese and English. They attended a 4 day training, came in for 4-6 hours each week during the tax season,  and helped our community collect a total of  $486,271 in refunds.  These refunds will go to medical bills, paying off debt, college education, putting food on the table and savings. The Women’s Building is delighted with the success of VITA this year and we look forward to helping even more families next year. A big THANK YOU to our great volunteers for preparing the returns and BiRite Market for preparing 55 meal boxes to feed us. We could not do it without you. Tax Volunteer 132

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In the Heart of the Mission, we offer more than Technology Tutoring

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In our safe and welcoming Community Resource Room (CRR) women and men can get one-on-one help on lots of topics.

For instance, our Bilingual (Spanish) volunteers can help clients learn computer basics and to use these skills to find jobs.

But these one-on-one sessions offer more than just technical help….

Vilma helping a client with the Job Search process.

Like for Maria who learned about our CRR while getting medical care at  the Clinic of the Bay. She was struggling with depression since losing her job and hoped that Vilma could help her make a fresh start.  After working with Vilma, Maria had organized her work experience into a really great resume!

Now, she is much more confident as she applies for jobs, in fact, she’s quite excited!  Plus, since she knows that job-hunting can be tough, she can come by any time and get more support from our friendly staff and volunteers.

The public computer lab is open Monday- Friday afternoons.. For many clients, the CRR is a second home that allows them to use computer technology independently while still being supported by CRR volunteers and staff.  In 2014 the CRR will continue to support the community through our programs.

Public Computer Lab

Monday-Friday: 1pm-5pm

Information and Referral

Monday-Friday: 1:00pm-5:00pm

Free VITA Tax Preparation

February through April

415.431.1180 ex16  to make an appointment

Food Pantry

Mondays: 9:45am-11:00am

Immigration Attorney

Tuesdays: 9:30am-11:30am

Civil Attorney

Wednesdays: 4:30pm-6:30pm

CalFresh Screening

Thursdays: 1:00pm-5:00pm


Mondays & Tuesdays: 9:00am-10am

Thursdays: 2:30pm-3:30pm

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TWB’s Got You Covered!


The Women’s Building is proud to be offering a new service to the community beginning January 2014! As part of the Covered California new “Insurance Marketplaces,” we will be offering In-Person Assistance by our bilingual (English/Spanish) Certified Enrollment Counselors. If you are confused about how to get health insurance plans through Covered California or simply would like assistance, make an appointment at 415 431-1180 x 11.  Also, for those already enrolled through their employer or public insurance (MediCal, Medicare) not much will change, but please keep in mind you still have the option to consider other health insurance plans if you prefer. In the meantime here are some important dates to share with your people who do not have health insurance.

 December 15, 2013

Whether by phone or website, if you would like your insurance to begin on January 1, 2014, you need to enroll in Covered California before December 15, 2013.  https://www.coveredca.com/

 Now Until March 31, 2014

Since this is the first year to enroll in Covered California, the open enrollment period is extended until March 31, 2014.

 March 31, 2014

Starting this date, individuals without health insurance can be penalized $95 or one percent of their income, whichever is greater.


Fines will increase to $695 or 2.5% of uninsured individual’s income.




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Our Gardens Grow

20131024_152156We distribute food to over 200 families every Monday morning. Now some of our clients who also volunteer with the food distribution, will start growing their own vegetables. The Women’s Building Immigrant Food Assistance Program has expanded to include garden plots at nearby Kid Power Park. 20131114_125702The garden space is tiny but volunteers have started off with split peas, collards, carrots, beets and spinach. While we are in the beginning stages of this project, we are looking for innovative ways to325 collaborate with locals urban farmers and organizations to create a unique program for our clients to support self-sufficiency. We’ve been inspired by Tree’s Free Farm Stands in the neighborhood, community gardens and 18 Reason’s food education.  What ideas do you have for us?  Want to help?  Contact Acacia@womensbuilding.org

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Crafting A Celebration

Garden ArtThis Veteran’s Day weekend, the Celebration of Craftswomen will be celebrating 35 years of women’s arts and crafts. The Celebration of Craftswomen, a fundraiser for The Women’s Building, started out in the late 1970’s as a small group of women showing their wares at Old Wive’s Tales Bookstore on Valencia Street.  Gone are the pink triangle buttons but this show still rests on the women-centered values of empowerment and community action.   Watch our new video documentary by Christiana Bartolomey about the Celebration of Craftswomen, which features Founder, Judy Stone, The Women’s Building Development Director, Tatjana Loh, and Metal Artist, Aimee Golant.  Celebration of Craftswomen Video (scroll down)

MusicianChocolate Please join us at the 35th Celebration of Craftswomen where you will experience all women created and produced fabric arts, fun and fancy jewelry, goddess shaped soaps, exquisite chocolates, provocative fine art, distinctive ceramics, and more.   And don’t forget the food and entertainment! Some who go to our fundraiser don’t realize that they are supporting the programs of The Women’s Building.  For most, this annual event is one of the many decisions that are made toward creating a world that honors women, supports community and nourishes a sense of possibility.  Thank you for supporting our annual fundraiser. We’ll see you at the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason.

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From Fingerprints to Family

Opening Door

Update January 14, 2014

The U.S Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) urgently needs additional funding.  Congress must act by January 15, 2014 to appropriate federal funding for the remainder of FY 2014.  Call your Senators and Representative (202)2243121 and urge them to support increased funding for the (HHS) (ORR).

Alicia didn’t want to leave her 15 year old daughter in Guatemala but how else could she support her family? At least her daughter would be safe taken care of by her abuelita (grandmother). Months later in California and undocumented she went into a panic when her mother told her that her daughter had run away to come live with her in California.  Alicia had made that journey across the border and she knew it was dangerous. Most parents, actually, don’t know that their kids are coming.

Since 2007, The Women’s Building has partnered with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services to provide fingerprinting services to parents with unaccompanied immigrant children. Alicia came to TWB to get fingerprinted so that her daughter, who was put into the custody of the state when she was found crossing the border in California, could be released to her.  She felt so cared for when she arrived at TWB that she told Orquidia Gomez, our bilingual receptionist and fingerprint coordinator, her story.  Orquidia was able to refer her to a Legal Orientation Program for Custodians provided by our in-house organization, The Immigration Center for Women and Children, so that she would know her rights and what to expect.

“At first I didn’t know of this experience of these people, Orquidia confessed, but now I have heard hundreds of heart breaking stories first hand as I finger print these parents.Fingers  There is gang related violence that people are fleeing from, some kids are hurt along the way, some kids’ parents are killed and then the kids are left in foster care.  I hope to sponsor some kids without parents when I’m older.”

One month after Alicia came to TWB and filled out the reunification packet, she was able to bring her daughter home.


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The City That Holds Us: The Community Resource Room


At the Women’s Building our Community Resource Room (CRR) clients are working with both big and small transitions; from learning to navigate a computer mouse for the first time to finding housing, from looking for jobs to understanding a new culture from learning a new language to leaving violent situations.

In The Community Resource Room hovers the majestic print by Maya Gonzalez’ “Bird Out of Mouth” from the series Healing Through The Series (2008).   Maya Gonzalez is both an artist and an activist; her artwork consists of paintings, drawings, children’s books and workshops.

“Bird out of Mouth” is one of eight images that document the journey of her healing from heavy metal poisoning.  Through this process, Maya Gonzalez faced both fear and pain and represents not only her healing but her transformation, growth, and re-birth.  Maya donated images from Healing Through The Series to local community organizations to reciprocate the holding she felt from the city during this difficult time.  In this same way, Maya Gonzalez hopes her image can now hold the visitors of the Community Resource Room.

We are excited to have Maya’s expression of hope and wisdom in the Community Resource Room, reminding all of those who see it, of the possibility of change.

Thank you Maya Gonzalez!

~Written by Daisy Isarraras

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Volunteer Spotlight – Kimberly Villalobos, Community Technology Program

Kimberly Villalobos, Technology Assistance Volunteer in the Community Resource Room

Kimberly Villalobos, Technology Assistance Volunteer in the Community Resource Room

In May 2013 the Community Resource Room (CRR) bid farewell to outstanding Technology Assistance volunteer, Kimberly Villalobos. Kimberly,  born in Los Angeles to Salvadoran immigrants, is the first in her family to graduate from college receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Information Systems from San Francisco State University.  As a Technology Assistance volunteer, Kimberly worked closely with community members, teaching them basic computer skills such as how to use an email account, Microsoft Office applications, and how to navigate the web.

Using her personal experience and knowledge, Kimberly has provided one-on-one assistance with computers.  She shares that many Latino immigrants visiting the Resource Room come in asking “…‘what’s an email account?’” Villalobos continues that other barriers Latino visitors face is “…not only do they have to face that language barrier but there’s that digital barrier on top of the language barrier.  Everything’s gonna move to digital, so it’s really important for people to be exposed to it…at least to have the basic skills, like Internet search navigation.”

Kimberly’s compassion for others made her a popular volunteer, with clients consistently making appointments to learn from her.  She tells of a couple regular students who she witnessed make progress and gain independence throughout visits with her, “There was this one guy who – he never missed an appointment – and he came in just knowing how to use the Desktop and the basic function of a computer but not the web browsers.” Kimberly showed this client how to navigate the Internet by “start[ing] really small – learning the different types of web browsers, what each browser did.  In the end he learned how to go on CalJobs, how to make his profile, post his resume.”

Although Kimberly’s main motivation to do volunteer work in the CRR was “the satisfaction knowing that I was helping people and doing something worthwhile with my time,” she also believes that her time here has helped in her own job search: “People do like to see that you do non-profit work.  Recently when I got the interview at SFO he was actually pretty happy that I do some non-profit work.”

The Women’s Building would like to congratulate Kimberly for graduating from SFSU in May 2013, and wish her the best of luck for the future.  We appreciate the dedication that Kimberly has contributed to the CRR, and are pleased to know that both she and the clients have been positively affected by her time with us.  “I felt like the whole experience has made me grow a little bit… grow as an individual and value people more.  ‘Cause sometimes we meet people but we don’t know what they’ve been through – what their background is – and once you get to know them it’s like your perspective on that person changes so much, and that’s what I felt the whole experience has taught me.  I’m really gonna miss this place.”


Maya Finlay, Community Technology Facilitator

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Tax Prep Program

Did You Miss An Easy Refund?
Our Tax Prep Clients Got It!

Did You Know That…?
Over 600,000 Bay Area tax-filers are eligible for an Earned Income Tax Credit when they get their taxes done.

This EITC (Earn Income Tax Credit) can be up to $5,891 per family.

20-25% of these tax filers DON’T get this and other tax credits.

Why not?

  • They didn’t know they were eligible,
  • The tax forms can be hard to fill out
  • They have difficulty with the language.

How about paying for a tax-preparer?
This can cost $200 to $300, and for families earning less than $51,000, they can’t afford this service.

Even if someone goes to a commercial preparer and gets an “instant refund”, they are taking a loan out on their own money, usually paying 300% interest.

What do we do about this?
As part of the Earn It! Keep It! Save It! coalition, this year we again provided free tax prep so that low-income working people could get the refunds they’re entitled to.  This year, you could use our service if you earned less than $51,000.

AND, we e-filed tax returns so that a client’s refund was directly deposited into their bank account in 7-10 days.

Who used our Tax Prep Program?

  • 494 clients came this year, and
  • Over 70% are employed:
    • 44% work full-time and another 30% work part-time

$22,202 – was the Average Adjusted Gross Income of all the clients, with 40% earning less than $20,000!

74% are women
About 25% of our clients have children
71% of our clients are between the 25 and 54 years old.

We’re proud to help so many hard-working women, men and families get a total of over $400,000 in tax refunds!  And we were able to do it because of our dedicated and trained volunteers and staff.

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Seeing the Other Side~Al Ver El Otro Lado~ 眼看著其他方

CarrotsEach Monday morning our Food Pantry for Immigrant Families serves upwards of 200 families.  We welcome the long line of Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipina/o, Latina/o and other ethnic groups, offering them food assistance and other support services.

Recognizing the diverse populations we serve, the Food Pantry aims to create a cross-cultural understanding among our clients.  In this way, we hope to nurture a sense of mutual support and community development. The two largest groups we see are Chinese and Latina/o.  Among these groups in particular, the Food Pantry has seen a number of conflicts that stem from cultural misconceptions, or general lack of understanding.  This has resulted in resentment, prejudice, bias, and even fighting.  To address this issue, we hosted a Cultural Awareness workshop for many of the volunteers at the Food Pantry who are also clients.

Sponsored by NICOS Chinese Health Coalition, a San Francisco coalition of health care organizations that works to enhance the health and well-being of the SF Chinese, theonions workshop was facilitated in three languages and participants were challenged to look beyond the surface to relate to one another despite language and cultural differences.  Clients engaged in discussion about the dynamics of power & authority, service & community and culture & humility, led by Ina Moon.

One of the activities was a role play, where two volunteers had to work together without words.  One person had a bag with various objects, the other was trying to get a specific object from the bag.  Somehow, they had to try to understand each other, which became rather difficult.  After, they realized that this may be the reality for many of the Food Pantry clients, where language barriers can create misunderstanding and tension.  Another activity, called “What’s the Right Way,” brought attention to each individual’s own upbringing, and how their immediate surroundings, including family, friends and community, contributed to their perspectives and demeanor today.

After the workshop, the volunteers were much more comfortable providing services to the Food Pantry participants.  Before the training, individual differences had become generalized as cultural ones. Now, volunteers make more of an effort to understand the context for conflict, considering the individual and cultural perspective the other may have, applesand that they themselves may have.

While the Food Pantry still has its share of ongoing challenges, the Cultural Awareness training helped to bridge some of the gaps between participants.  If you know someone who speaks Chines/Cantonese and is eager to help the community, please contact me at Acacia@womensbuilding.org.

Acacia Woods-Chan, Food Pantry Coordinator

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