Two Illinois Women Win $10,000 Each by Sharing Their Resilience and Choosing to Save

Commonwealth and America Saves are thrilled to announce Esmeralda and Crystal, both of Illinois, as the winners of $10,000 each in the 2019 SaveYourRefund Grand Prize Photo Contest. Esmeralda and Crystal set out to save part of their income tax refunds this year. With the help of SaveYourRefund they were able to turn the tax-time savings moment into a fresh start on a new financial path.

The SaveYourRefund campaign encourages savings at tax time by offering chances at cash prizes for filers who save at least $50 of their tax refund in a qualified savings product, such as a savings account or savings bond, using IRS Form 8888. The possibility of winning adds an element of excitement and anticipation that Commonwealth’s research has shown encourages people to make the decision to save. This year, about 3,000 tax filers entered SaveYourRefund and saved nearly $2.5 million. Read more on the impact of SaveYourRefund here.

Esmeralda and Crystal were selected among nearly 650 submissions to the $10,000 Grand Prize Contest, which asked entrants to share their motivation for saving through a captioned photograph.

Esmeralda, a resident of Chicago who works in logistics as a driver, is saving to realize her dream of owning her own home. “It’s hard to pay myself first sometimes,” she says, “but I have a goal, and I’m going to achieve that goal.” A survivor of domestic violence, Esmeralda seeks the independence, stability, and self-sufficiency that homeownership can offer, and she hopes to inspire others who have faced challenges similar to hers. She also plans to continue her education, studying humanitarian logistics in hopes of starting a career in disaster relief.

Crystal, after experiencing instability in her housing situation, was also driven by a desire for secure, safe, and independent living. She shared her motivation for saving through the SaveYourRefund contest: “I want to shelter my soul and secure a safe place to lay my head.”Esmeralda

“We are thrilled to award the SaveYourRefund grand prizes to Esmeralda and Crystal. We know that having even a small savings cushion can give people the sense of security to pursue their dreams and create the future they want for themselves and their families. We’re so glad that SaveYourRefund has offered an exciting way for thousands of tax filers to jumpstart their savings,” said Timothy Flacke, Executive Director of Commonwealth.

Both winners filed their taxes through community organizations offering free tax preparation services. Esmeralda filed her taxes with the help of a volunteer tax preparer at Chicago’s Harold Washington Library site, which is operated by nonprofit organization Ladder Up as a part of the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Crystal filed through a site operated by the AARP Foundation's Tax Aide Program at St. Vincent de Paul in Belleville, Illinois. They both learned about SaveYourRefund at the tax site and they credit their volunteer tax preparers for encouraging them to save and enter SaveYourRefund.

Over the past seven years, SaveYourRefund has encouraged over 18,000 people to save over $15 million of their tax refunds using Form 8888. Tax time can be one of the primary savings moments for many workers in America who are living paycheck to paycheck with little or nothing in the bank.

 “Our tax refund is the biggest check many of us see all year, making this windfall the perfect time to save,” said George Barany, America Saves Director. “We’re thrilled to be a part of the SaveYourRefund promotion to encourage Americans to save. Whether you are saving for a rainy day, retirement, or anything in between, we can all start small and think big like Esmeralda and Crystal by saving some of our tax refund for the future.”

For information on the SaveYourRefund promotion, visit


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