VITA volunteers change lives

By Jane Drake, Prosperity Center Manager

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is an IRS-sponsored program that helps thousands of low-income taxpayers with free tax preparation assistance each year. The assistance is provided by volunteers who complete free training in tax law and pass IRS certification tests.

Why would anyone volunteer to go through hours of tax law training, take tests, and then sign up for shifts to prepare tax returns for strangers?  Our over 30 volunteers who worked at the VITA sites last tax season will tell you they do it because they are helping their communities, and they really do change lives. They help taxpayers who are struggling to claim all the refunds they have earned so they can pay bills, reduce debt, and even build savings.

I became a certified VITA volunteer last tax season. It was my first year managing the program. I thought it was important to have hands-on experience at the VITA tax sites. The work turned out to be more rewarding than I ever imagined.

First, I really enjoyed working with my fellow volunteers. Volunteers are by definition nice people – and VITA volunteers are no exception. They really do care about others and they want to make a difference.

Second, the clients were so appreciative and grateful for the services they received. It was not unusual for clients to hug us, send thank you notes, and even cry with joy and relief with the help we were able to provide them.

Finally, I was surprised to discover that I enjoyed doing taxes! Each return and client situation was different. I would apply all my new tax knowledge and sort out all the information the client provided, enter it into the tax software, and then make it all come out correctly in a nice, neat tax return.

More volunteers are needed! If you would like to spend some time with a great bunch of people, work with clients who will truly appreciate your help, and enjoy great satisfaction from doing worthwhile work, please join us and sign up to be a VITA volunteer. Contact Amanda Grover, Goodwill VITA Volunteer Coordinator, at 231-722-7871 ext. 246, or agrover@goodwillwm.org; or register online at www.abc-wm.volunteerhub.com.

You won’t regret it.

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