Ottawa ACORN is the local branch of ACORN Canada, one of the largest community based membership organizations in Canada with 45,000 members in 20+ neighbourhood chapters representing regions across Canada (Cape Breton, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, British Columbia). ACORN believes that transforming the conditions that adversely affect millions of Canadians can best be achieved with a deeply invested and active membership which is focused on lasting socio-economic change. (http://www.acorncanada.org/ottawa).
ACORN Canada is a member of the ACORN International federation, an international federation of organizations that utilize ACORN style community organizing to build democratic organizations of low and moderate income families. (http://acorninternational.org/)
|The Centre for Global and Community Engagement (CGCE) has partnered with Ottawa ACORN for several years through both its Community Service Learning (CSL) program and its extracurricular volunteering program. Most recently, uOttawa students have taken up placements, through the CSL program, as outreach assistants helping promote Ottawa ACORN’s campaigns to the community through outreach, phone calling, postering, and petitioning. Other tasks taken up by students doing CSL have included that of financial justice coordinator in which students helped provide information on ACORN’s financial programs, which include free income tax filing, financial literacy courses and helping register for the disability tax credit.In winter 2012, Ottawa ACORN received a modest grant from the CGCE for its free income tax project. Through the project, they were able to file 741 tax returns for low income earners including 66 returns for taxes from previous years. The clientele included many newcomers, students, seniors, single parents, low income workers and people living with disabilities. The volunteer team of 16 included ACORN members, retired public servants, students from the University of Ottawa and newcomers. The two financial justice coordinators were uOttawa students. Their collective efforts helped low income families claim, in total, $865,200 in benefits and credits. They also helped low income earners save $68,940 by not having to go to a paid tax service provider and helped 60 people apply for the Disability Tax Credit who otherwise would not have known about this additional credit.Jill O’Reilly, Head Organizer at Ottawa ACORN, noted that “uOttawa students are consistently keen to gain practical experience, willing to challenge themselves and provide us continuously with fruitful and additional help we need. We strive to give students a unique experience to help them reach future goals”.