Category Archives: Uncategorized

VCE and SNAP at local farmers’ markets

Bonus Cash for SNAP/EBT Purchases

Local farmers’ markets are a great way to get great produce and support local farmers but did you know that Arlington and Alexandria Farmers’ markets accept SNAP/EBT (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) cards for purchases? SNAP/EBT customers can purchase farm fresh produce at local area farmers’ markets and get matching bonus tokens to add to their purchases.

Virginia Cooperative will be on-site at several local farmers’ markets of Alexandria and Arlington to provide more information on SNAP and offer food tastings, prizes and more!

  • Arlington Farmers’ Market, N 14th & Courthouse Rd – 2nd Saturday of the month
  • Old Town Farmers’ Market, 301 King St – last Saturday of the month
  • Columbia Pike Farmers’ Market, 2820 Columbia Pike – 3rd Sunday of the month

Virginia Cooperative Extension’s varied programs are all supported by community volunteers. No experience is required to volunteer; VCE provides training and volunteer resources. Interested volunteers can find out more at


What happens if your Social Security Number is Stolen?

By Eileen Jones, Master Financial Education Volunteer

Social Security numbers (SSNs) are the single most important piece of government-issued forms of identification a U.S. citizen is granted, even more important than a driver’s license or even a passport!  A valid SSN can be used by people attempting to hide their true identities as well as undocumented workers.  With a stolen SSN, a person can do almost everything that you or I can do with our legitimate SSNs. In essence, they are assuming another person’s name and can and often are successful at stealing property and money from that person.

Criminals, in particular cyber criminals, are on the hunt for valid SSNs because it is the most valuable piece of identification they can get their hands on.  While you certainly do not want to be robbed of your identity or your valuables, an identity thief can use your name and SSN to do criminal acts.  If this happens, the police are going to come looking for you because it is your identity that has been associated with the crime, not the thief’s.

You can close a credit-card account or get your debit-card reissued if it is compromised, however you cannot close your SSN.  If you’ve lost your SSN number card of it has been stolen and by some miracle you got it back, you must assume that the number itself has been stolen and act immediately!

Below are two options that may help you if your SSN is stolen or compromised, but again –  act quickly!

#1. Join a trusted and reputable identity-theft protection service.  Once you act and set the ball in motion, people who try to use it will be stopped dead in their tracts.  Alerts from your identity theft protection agency will be immediately sent to you, giving you the information on the person (people) attempting to open accounts using your SSN. Once you respond that this is not you, the identity theft agency puts a stop to these applications immediately before the thugs can even complete the first step.

#2)  You can do it yourself!  Contact any or all of the 3 credit bureaus immediately to place a freeze on your credit file.

TransUnion (800-916-8800)

Experian (888-397-3742)

Equifax (888) 766-0008

This will prevent others from opening accounts in your name. You can also place a fraud alert on your file if you have been a victim of identity theft. As soon as you contact the first bureau, the other two will be notified. Make sure that you renew the fraud alert every 90 days until you’re satisfied the matter has been settled. Be aware that this process could take years.

  • Tell each of the three bureaus that your SSN has been stolen. You will be given free copies of your current credit report from each bureau. Read over these reports, carefully looking for unfamiliar accounts and unknown inquiries from companies.
  • Report the theft of the SSN to the IRS @ 800-908-4490. That will prevent tax-fraud thieves from filing tax returns in your name, and if applicable, collecting your tax refund.
  • File an identity-theft report with your local police. The police report will be necessary to help clear your records and your name in the future.
  • Keep track of, record, report and close all fraudulent accounts by contacting both the companies holding the accounts and the credit-reporting agencies. This will keep your credit as clean as possible going forward.

If several years pass after the theft of your SSN, and the problems arising from the theft continue, you may want to consider applying for a new SSN. But before you do, there are several things to consider: It’s not easy, in fact, it is nearly impossible.  In rare instances the government will issue you a new SSN, but it is very rare. Even with a new SSN, your old SSN will never go away completely. The Social Security Administration never invalidates an SSN once it has been issued and used.


Five Steps to Get Your Family Saving Now!

By Lauren Chaplin, Master Financial Education Volunteer

I’ll start next month. I’ll wait until Monday to change. You have heard these phrases before and, quite possibly, said them yourself. Whether it is related to diet, exercise or a bad habit, people have the tendency to put off making a change.

However, making a financial change that offers some great teaching moments for your family should never be put on hold. Here are five simple steps to help get your family saving today.

  1. Use cash instead of plastic (this means debit cards, too)

Many financial experts advocate using cash over plastic when it comes to every day spending. My own children understand that the plastic rectangle I carry around seems to get them what they want. There’s a misunderstanding about the transaction. A disconnect. Using cash will help your children understand that money is actually being spent. Also, if you are using cash instead of a credit card, you will not get hit with the costs associated with using plastic (interest, annual charge, a dreaded overdraft fee). So, find a system that works for you, and stick to it!

  1. Set a savings goal
    When saving for life’s special events, write down your financial goals—whether it be a weekend outing, vacation, new big purchase or paying off a debt—and display it in your house. Explain these goals to your children, and get everyone on board! Our family is currently saving for a trip to Disney World. My children know that whatever change I have in my wallet at the end of the week goes into the change counter. And now, our kids are little money monsters who look for change to save in parking lots! Here are some resources to get you started.
  1. Budget

This idea takes some work, but start off small. Get together as a family about a week before the beginning of the month and discuss what sort of items or events need to be fit into the budget for the next month (i.e., back-to-school supplies, birthdays/holidays, sports/extra-curricular activities, etc.). These meetings will jumpstart your family’s discussion of needs versus wants. (“But mom, I need those new sneakers.” “Really? You need them?”). You may need to make adjustments to your household spending plan (here’s a sample worksheet) in order to prevent overspending.

  1. Have Your Children Save For Something

This step is really geared towards your children. For many children, having money may feel like it’s burning a hole in their pockets. But starting in the early years, helping your children set a goal, keeping them on track and even making an agreement with them (“If you save half of what you need, I’ll give you the rest.”) can help your children learn how to make good financial decisions.

  1. Allowance (the hot button topic)

I personally believe in giving allowances for a couple of reasons: 1. Allowances help children develop work ethic and 2. When someone works for their money, they may not be as free in spending it as they would if they were just given it.

While giving an allowance is not for everyone, try to find a way to allow your child to work for some of the things they want rather than always giving it to them.

These tips will help your family learn the value of saving and making good financial choices together—lessons that will last a lifetime.

Teen Workers are Saving Now for More Spending Power Tomorrow

teen worker bannerTeen workers are saving for the three Cs: Cars, Computers and College. Plus building emergency funds for unexpected expenses.

This is according to the teenagers who took the First Time Worker Pledge in our new class Making the Most of Your First Paycheck. The class uses materials from America Saves.

Extension has partnered with three groups to provide savings classes for teen workers this year. More than thirty teens pledged to save part of their paycheck. For example, one teen is saving $200 a month for 60 months to buy a $12,000 car. Another is saving $500 a month for six months for school costs.

Bicycling nonprofit Phoenix Bikes has a community bike shop in Arlington and its Earn-A-Bike program teaches bike repair to youth. Master Financial Education Volunteer Will Mason led four Phoenix Bikes employees through the savings orientation. Thank you to Phoenix Bikes’ Executive Director Meg Rapelye-Goguen for making the event happen.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington’s Dunbar Alexandria-Olympic Branch in the City of Alexandria provides youth programs and mentoring. At the Dunbar Alexandria-Olympic Branch, 14 teens pledged to save: 11 young men and three young ladies. Thank you to Dunbar staff Alston Waller and Patrice Hall for recruiting participants. Master Financial Education Volunteers Judith Kom and Katrin Kark gave a well-received presentation.

Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation’s Teen Entrepreneurial Amusement Management (T.E.A.M.) workers manage amusement rentals, including bouncy castles, cotton candy machines and rock climbing walls. Fourteen T.E.A.M. employees pledged to save: nine young men and five young ladies. Thank you to Parks and Rec staff Desi Jerry and Charlie Eby for help setting up the event. Charlie, who worked for the county when he was a teenager, gave a pep talk at the event. Master Financial Education Volunteers Bill Ross and Star Henderson lead the presentation.

Another crop of T.E.A.M. hires will participate in Making the Most of Your First Paycheck later in July. We expect more than 25 teens to pledge to save at this class.

Russian Delegation Visits VCE Arlington

At the end of January, VCE Arlington had the pleasure of hosting a delegation from Russia and showing them the valuable work that Extension does in our community. The visit was sponsored by the U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Program and funded through a grant that Extension was jointly awarded from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. The two day visit was packed with activities.

The visit began with a volunteer showcase where Extension and partner organization volunteers talked about their programs and volunteer experiences. Presentations were given by volunteers and leaders from Master Gardeners, Master Food Volunteers, Master Financial Education Volunteers, Energy Masters, Master Naturalists and 4-H. Hard to believe that all of those organizations are affiliated with VCE Arlington!

After a lunch prepared by our own Master Food Volunteers, our guests visited officials from an important Extension partner, Arlington County, and continued to see Extension in action with a visit to the Save the Earth 4-H Club at Barrett Elementary School.

Saturday’s activities included a visit to see the work done at AFAC where Master Food Volunteers give regular healthy food demonstrations. The agenda continued to be food as they attended a training for the upcoming 4-H Food Challenge. They rounded out the day with a visit to Wakefield High School for the ACE Energy Journey Game.

Our agents and volunteers appreciated the interest and feedback from our Russian visitors and we hope that the visit was a valuable one for them as well.

They are on to further US travels in Ohio and Utah to meet with nonprofits in those states and we wish them safe (and hopefully warmer) travels.

MFEV Bill Guey-Lee talking about his experiences

MFEV Bill Guey-Lee talking about his experiences

Volunteer Showcase

Volunteer Showcase

visit to the Barrett Elem. 4-H Club

visit to the Barrett Elem. 4-H Club

Volunteer Spotlight: Diana Yacob

Master Financial Education Volunteer Diana Yacob

Master Financial Education Volunteer Diana Yacob

Our volunteers rock. Want proof? Meet Diana Yacob.

Name: Diana Yacob
Lives: Alexandria
Works: assistant to a University of Maryland Extension specialist and an Accredited Financial Counselor candidate
Master Financial Education Volunteer Since: August 2014

Diana Yacob was instrumental in the success of our inaugural Money Smarts Payseries for Spanish speakers last fall. She taught the budgeting class, coached two clients and led study sessions to help all participants catch up on their action items. Her impact was evident at the awards ceremony, when Money Smarts Pay graduates said that they were budgeting their spending and saving money for emergencies.

Now Diana is helping Extension revise the lesson plans for the Spanish edition of Money Smarts Pay. The series starting in March will focus on small group or one-on-one coaching rather than all classroom instruction because literacy was a challenge for many participants. The new Money Smarts Pay Spanish will consist of 30 minutes of classroom instruction and 90 minutes of small group or one-on-one coaching rather than 90 minutes of classroom instruction.

Q: What’s your New Year’s resolution?
A: I can read and write in Korean. I’m intermediate, but I’d like to be advanced conversational, fluent. My mom is Korean. I’m the only child in my family who speaks Korean. Who’s going to connect with all the family that’s still in Korea? I need to get that down before the kids come, so the culture isn’t lost. If I can pass down the language of Korean, there’s still hope the Korean culture will survive in my family.

Q: If you’re stuck on an island, what are the three things you’d want with you?
A: My husband so I would have someone to talk to. He can go fish. A water purifier to stay alive. Can I bring a cell phone? I’ll bring a cell phone. But I have nothing to charge it with. Maybe a tarp instead?

Q: How did you become interested in financial education?
A: I took a personal finance course in undergrad. That professor became my mentor, and she helped me get into grad school. I went to Kansas State for my master’s in personal financial planning. I took the online program while I lived in Guatemala.

Q: What were you doing in Guatemala?
A: I was learning Spanish.

Q: Why Spanish and why in Guatemala?
A: At a previous job I wasn’t the receptionist, but my office was directly in front of the entrance. Every time people came in they talked to me. Eighty percent were Spanish speakers but I couldn’t speak Spanish. So, I decided to learn Spanish. I researched, and Guatemala was the cheapest place I could learn.

Q: What are some of the cultural differences you’ve run into when coaching immigrants?
A: There is a different understanding of finances. When I was working with the Spanish speakers, everything was new. When I was working with Americans, they said, “yeah I’ve heard this before.” It’s just they hadn’t implemented what they’d learned yet.

Q: What advice would you give to volunteers who run into cultural differences when working with clients?
A: Get to know your clients personally. Sometimes clients will make a decision, and you’ll make a judgment about it. Once you know your client personally, you might have a better understanding of what’s going on and why they may have done that.

Q: How do you relate to clients with different circumstances from your own?
A: Maybe you don’t relate. Be understanding. Maybe not everyone has the same desires of paying bills on time. Learn to be non-judgmental. Everything’s a process.

Q: How do you learn to be non-judgmental?
A: Patience. Time. After working with enough people, you hear similar stories.

To nominate a Master Financial Education Volunteer for the spotlight, please email Megan Kuhn at

Virginia Cooperative Extension celebrates 100 years, showcases Arlington and Alexandria programs

Volunteers Bill Guey-Lee and Desiree Kaul manage the Master Financial Education display.

Volunteers Bill Guey-Lee and Desiree Kaul manage the Master Financial Education display at Virginia Cooperative Extension’s breakfast showcase at Fairlington Community Center.

Virginia Cooperative Extension‘s breakfast showcase, highlighting Arlington and City of Alexandria programs, made the news.

A few 2014 highlights:

  • Staff and Master Financial Education volunteers started Money Smarts Pay, which combines money management classes with financial coaching to help participants adopt positive financial habits. Extension partnered with Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing and The Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless to offer Money Smarts Pay to affordable housing tenants.
  • Staff and Master Food Volunteers addressed childhood obesity by organizing healthy cooking classes for teens in foster care and low-income teens, and 4-H Food Challenge events.
  • VCE–Arlington, with Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, won the national Extension Housing Outreach Award.

Read the full story here.



Cloverbuds is back in Arlington!


Saturday, November 15th saw the very first Cloverbuds meeting for Arlington County 4-H since … well, you tell us!

Twelve new 4-Hers ages 5-8 and their parents joined us here in Fairlington for an hour of fun activities learning about foods and nutrition. They played a memory game with the assistance of MyPlate, read a story, and created their own MyPlates with grocery flyers, paper plates, and glue. Best of all, they got to taste and compare five different apple varieties — yum yum!

Cloverbuds is ‘4-H Lite’ for kids too young for traditional 4-H clubs (ages 9-19), in which club members run their own business meetings using parliamentary procedure and Roberts Rules of Order. Regular 4-Hers also elect officials to lead the club, form committees to plan their own educational and service projects, and compete with their projects in local, regional, state, and national competitions.

Unlike regular 4-Hers, Cloverbuds do not compete with their projects. And rather than pursuing one or two topics in-depth like older 4-Hers, Cloverbuds function more like the scouts: they come together once a month and explore an array of topics. We encourage Cloverbud parents to share the responsibility of planning activities — this way, all parents have an opportunity to share their passions with youth, and youth gain exposure to a wide range of pursuits. Some example topics include: foods and nutrition; electricity and circuits; citizenship; earth and the environment; and expressive arts.

But of course, every Cloverbuds meeting is just like regular 4-H club meetings in a couple of ways:  The group is organized and run by wonderful volunteers (did you know that 4-H is a volunteer-led program?). Also, meetings begin with the Pledge of Allegiance and the 4-H Pledge, and activities are hands-on, so 4-Hers are able to learn by doing, which is the 4-H way!

If you have a child between the ages of 5 and 8 and would like to get involved with Cloverbuds at the Fairlington Community Center, please contact me (Emily, 4-H Extension Agent). The next meeting will be on Saturday, January 10th.

The Beauty of Emergency Funds

By Kate Nixon, Master Financial Education Volunteer

Kate Nixon, Master Financial Education Volunteer

Kate Nixon, Master Financial Education Volunteer

I was interning at a marine biology lab when I first realized I desperately needed an emergency savings fund.

I was having a blast, eating free seafood. But I was just squeaking by financially. I had saved only enough to pay for application fees for graduate school.

Then I had unexpected medical bills. I had no health insurance and no extra savings. Thankfully I was able to save enough to cover the medical costs by the time the bills were due.

The medical tests came back negative, but the health-related relief was soon replaced with money-related worries. In the next few months I had to: pay for the cross-country drive to my new school, set up a new apartment and fix the air conditioning in my car.

After the internship ended, instead of spending my free time with family before leaving for graduate school, I picked up a temp job doing data entry. Typing numbers for 8 hours a day was awful. That summer taught me an important lesson — emergencies are going to happen. I can go into debt to fix them. I can spend a beautiful summer typing numbers in a cubicle all day. Or, I can prepare so I can handle emergencies when they come.

When I finished graduate school I landed a great year-long fellowship. I knew I had an end date to my employment, and I didn’t want to be desperate for money when job hunting. Even though I wasn’t making a lot, my top priority for the year was building an emergency fund.

Because I had a federal fellowship, I was able to put my federal student loan payments on hold for the year while I built up my savings. I channeled the money that would have gone to student loans into a savings account. I was aggressive about saving. I automated the system so that every time I got a paycheck, I automatically put a chunk into my savings. I never looked at it as “spendable” money.

Things were still tight, but I stuck to a budget and managed to save a fair amount — and good thing I did! During that year a few emergencies came up, and I was able to pay for the expenses with my savings rather than put them on my credit card. When my fellowship ended, I was able to pay the bills and take some of the stress off while I was looking for jobs. When I found a new job, I went right back to building up my emergency fund.

I should have 3 months of expenses saved by this December. It will have taken me almost 2 years to save that amount, but it actually wasn’t that bad. By automating my savings and choosing a generous but realistic amount to save each month, I have managed to build an emergency fund without eating ramen.

I have already needed to use my emergency fund. I am grateful to have that money socked away for emergencies, and more importantly, for peace of mind. I used Mint to track my progress, and it is great to get a visual reminder of how I am working toward my goals.

I am looking forward to checking the box of having a completed emergency fund. I know that as unexpected expenses arise, I will have to keep replenishing the account. I will probably have to adjust the amount I save as my expenses and family grow. For now, I am thankful I have a cushion in case I need it. Emergencies happen, but it is a wonderful feeling knowing that I can afford to fix them — a feeling that was well worth saving up 2 years for.

Kate Nixon became a Master Financial Education Volunteer in September 2014. She also writes the Twenties in Your Pocket blog. 

Bridges to Independence Leadership Academy Takes the Lead…



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“I pledge my HEALTH to better living.”

In the early morning hours of Saturday September 27, hundreds of eager runners took to the starting line of for the Annual Clarendon Day 5K. Among the masses were the members and volunteers leaders of the Bridges to Independence Leader Academy 4-H Club.  This race marked the end of the club’s health and nutrition project, a three month long journey where club members strived to improve their overall well-being and physical fitness.  For many of the club members this was their first official race, so of course nerves were running high. Despite their apprehensions everyone was in great spirits and determined to reach their destination. After five tough kilometers each and every member and volunteer crossed the finish line, achieving their overall goal, and one step closer to being physically fit. Congratulations are due to everyone that competed, job well done!


A few members even placed, here are their result.


Nya Bucksell – 1 Place – Females 11-14 – Time: 19:43


Brook Yimer – 1st Place Tie – Males 15-19 – Time: 19:43


Aziza Hasen – 2nd Place Females 15-19 – Time: 31:46


Sabreen Saeed – 3rd Place Females 15-19 – Time: 33:38

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