About

Our Mission

Ladder Up provides hardworking people with the financial resources and opportunities they need to move up the economic ladder.

Ladder Up provides free financial programs to help clients secure the tax refunds they deserve, gain the knowledge to navigate today’s complex financial systems, and obtain financial aid to make college dreams a reality.

History & Impact

Everyone deserves a shot at a better life.

When 22-year-old Chicago business analyst and volunteer basketball coach Robert Burke saw how the hardworking families of his west side team were struggling to make ends meet, he took a shot at helping out. With the goal of securing unclaimed tax credits for the people of this underserved but deserving community, he recruited 90 colleagues to prepare tax returns at no cost. The efforts paid off, returning over $150,000 in tax refunds to 120 families.

Since these humble beginnings in 1994, City-Wide Tax Assistance Program has continued to provide free tax return preparation services and has expanded its free programs to include college financial aid assistance and practical financial education. In 2008, the organization adopted the name Ladder Up to reflect its broader mission of helping people access the financial resources and opportunities needed to climb up and out of poverty.

In total, through TAP and LIFT, Ladder Up has returned over $562 million in economic benefits to more than 317,000 hardworking people across the Chicago area.

View our 2016 Annual Report

Our Staff

Christine Cheng, Executive Director

Carmen Aguirre-Cuevas, Paralegal

Noah Bazis, Manager, Volunteer Engagement

Liz Brooks-Zak, Senior Coordinator, Tax Assistance Program

Evelyn Espinosa, Coordinator, Volunteer Engagement

Paul Harrison, Director, Tax Clinic

Kate Hermann Stone, Director, Development

Lilly Lavner, Director, Tax Assistance Program

Lupe Marin, Senior Coordinator, Financial Capability Program

Carly Oishi, Director, Financial Capability Program

Udodi Okoh, Manager, Tax Assistance Program

Jeanne Marie Olivieri, Director, Finance and Administration

Jake Peniston, Senior Coordinator, Data & Evaluation

Becky Santiago, Senior Coordinator, Tax Assistance Program

Eric Sternberg, Staff Attorney

Greg Williams, Senior Coordinator, IT & E-file