SaveYourRefund Grand Prize Winner Mary Bunch’s Story

Mary Bunch, her husband Willis, and their five children were all-but-homeless for nine months in Lakeland, Florida. Bunch attended nursing school and says she is a nurse at heart; a son’s struggle with illness made it impossible get her career off the ground. The $7.93 an hour she earned at McDonalds didn’t go far, especially after Willis was laid off from his work. The family moved into a single cramped motel room – two double beds for seven people. With no savings at all, they weren’t even sure they could pay for that, and indeed had to turn to community groups to get a hand up. Now, after starting a savings account and winning the $25,000 SaveYourRefund grand prize, Bunch and her family are living in a two-room apartment, saving for a bigger home and giving back to the organizations that helped their own family.

Mary BunchSaveYourRefund is an innovative campaign started by Doorways to Dreams (D2D) to work with volunteer income tax assistance programs throughout the country to capitalize on tax season’s prime opportunity to save. Bunch was selected as the winner after filing her taxes with the Florida Prosperity Partnership (FPP) with support from the United Way, Talbot House, and Peace River.

Lakeland, FL., mom and SaveYourRefund winner Mary Bunch saved $300 of her tax refund, entered – and won- the $25,000 Doorway to Dreams Grand Prize. She is returning some of her winnings to the groups that helped her family, starting college funds for her kids, and saving for bigger and better housing for her family.

“SaveYourRefund is a way to get people interested – the key is to make people aware that they cannot afford NOT to save. If you never start somewhere, you’ll never start,” says Bunch.

In 2014, Mary’s sixth-grade daughter became friends with a young girl whose mother volunteered for FPP. After the D2D’s state partner heard of the family’s situation, Florida Prosperity Partnership showed Mary how to start savings, with her tax refund. Bunch originally saved $300 in refunds to enter the promotion.

Friends and family were skeptical when Mary told them about the opportunity to save their refunds to win prizes through SaveYourRefund.

“Even before I knew I had a prize, I was telling people I’d learned how to start saving. People are just skeptical. We’re human beings, we don’t believe that this could happen…how do you file your taxes and get $25,000?”

Bunch plans for her kids to have a home they can one day show to their children and say “we grew up here” instead of just a one-room motel memory. The top priority for the family is saving enough to make that hope a reality. Bunch plans to return to school to finish her registered nurse degree.