Get to Know…Sarah Crick Milligan, VITA Program Manager
Describe your role at United Way.
The VITA Program, or Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, provides tax preparation free of charge to our low-and moderate-income friends and neighbors—those who have an annual household income of $60,000 per year or less. This basically means that my job is to make sure that our site coordinators and certified tax preparers have what they need to make the tax season as impactful as it can possibly be. Throughout the rest of the year, I reach out to and work with our community partners to ensure that VITA fills whatever gaps exist and create greater financial stability for our friends and neighbors.
Share your career history and how you made your way to United Way.
I’m a public service kind of gal! I started with a nonprofit organization, CASA of Sedgwick County, in 2013. After a few years, I went back to my education and earned my Master of Public Administration from WSU’s Hugo Wall School and spent a little time with the Public Policy and Management Center while I was there. I then went on to work as a Management Fellow for the City of Wichita, where I was able to really look at service from a variety of perspectives. United Way of the Plains seemed to always be on my radar during that time, and after some time with a management consulting firm, C3S, I took a break to really consider what kind of public servant I wanted to be. Just as I was ready to step back into service, I learned that United Way of the Plains was hiring, and the rest, as they say, is history.
What makes you excited about the VITA program?
VITA is a connection-building program. Folks come in to get their taxes done, and that’s key—nearly all of us have been in a position where getting our tax return can make or break our finances for the year. The exciting part, to me, are the connections our volunteers and site coordinators build with the folks that come in to see them. That connection and trust may mean that someone gets their taxes done, but it may also mean that person learns about a program or service that can meet a need they have, volunteer opportunities or even just make a friend. This program is a connection-builder, and stronger connections make for stronger communities.
What makes the VITA program unique?
VITA works with folks to help relieve some of the pressure of filing taxes by ensuring the community has access to trained and certified preparers free of charge, but each site has the flexibility to meet the community where it is at. Last year, sites across south central Kansas provided in-person appointments, drop off and pick up sites, and virtual tax preparation, depending on what the local community needed. VITA provides the assurance of IRS-certified preparers with the flexibility of local sites—with hopefully more local sites to come!
What are your interests or pastimes?
Stories! I love stories, mostly in book form. We have bookshelves in almost every room in our house, and I’m constantly plotting how to add more—much to my husband’s chagrin.
Share a little bit about your family.
I’m married to the greatest spouse a girl could ask for, Derek, and our youngster is four-year-old Mira (pronounced ‘Mee-rah’). She keeps us running and is the absolute light of our lives, though I’m pretty sure her favorite people are our two Aussie mixes, Argos and Scout.
What have you found to be a favorite experience at UWP to far?
The day-in, day-out experience of joining a passionate, dedicated team of overachievers who all have the single goal of strengthening our neighbors and communities is, itself, pretty amazing. On the other hand, Impact on the Plains was such a neat experience, but also, driving out to connect with our site coordinators across south central Kansas has been awesome, too. It’s hard to choose!
Our focus is on health, education, financial stability and basic needs—the building blocks for a good quality of life and a strong community. Click below to learn more about what we’re doing, the programs we invest in and our lasting impact in each area.