For nearly 30 years, the Jefferson Economic Development Institute (JEDI) has served Shasta, Siskiyou, Trinity, and Humboldt counties to build and grow local businesses and connect people with jobs and economic opportunities.

In addition to being the host of the local farmer’s market and the Women’s Business Center, JEDI also offers a free tax preparation program through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA). Thanks to funding through Golden State Opportunity’s Community Connect program, JEDI has been able to expand their VITA programs and offer free and competent tax preparation to more community members than ever. Last year, they helped 628 people file their taxes for free. That’s money that goes back directly into the pockets of community members.

“One of the best aspects of being part of this program has been assistance with marketing,” said Patricia Lord, JEDI’s VITA Site Coordinator. “It was difficult for us to create from scratch outreach and marketing materials to reach hard to reach rural communities and also do our work. Now, we can focus on offering our services and growing them.”




JEDI recently sought to expand its ability to offer free tax preparation by forming a coalition with other rural VITA sites in Northern California. They’ve partnered with four organizations in neighboring counties who also offer free tax preparation services, all with the goal of reaching more people and making a bigger impact. The organizations they have partnered with are United Way of Northern California, African American Family and Cultural Center, Community Action Agency of Butte County, and Human Response Network.

“It’s a bandwidth capacity issue,” said Lord. “As one organization, we don’t have enough of a baseline reach to have the same impact as an organization in a more urban area. If we want to increase our impact, we have to increase the number of partners.”

For Lord, VITA services aren’t just about helping people to get their taxes done. The existence of programs like VITA that local community-based organizations like JEDI administer are about earning the trust of the community and using that trust to serve them better.

“If we can do anything to help people feel that taxes will be a good experience and that they will come away from filing taxes happy and whole and feeling that they didn’t get taken advantage of, that’s our goal,” she said. “We take the time to help people and make sure they understand the tax filing process.”

To learn more about JEDI, visit their website at