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VITA volunteers needed

September 25, 2019
By MEGHAN BRADBURY (news@breezenewspapers.com) , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Volunteers - tax preparers, interpreters, and greeters - are currently being sought for the United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program at the Lehigh Community Services site for the 2019 tax season.

United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee Volunteer Engagement Manager Mary Meador said volunteers are extremely important for the program because "V" stands for volunteers.

"This program is run by volunteers. From myself, the site coordinator, to the preparers and greeters, we are all volunteers," she said. "Without volunteers, there would be no appointments. Having said this, the more volunteers we have, the more clients we can see. Last year we saw over 1,000 clients in Lehigh, a record for us, but I know there are many more in Lehigh that can benefit from free tax preparation."

Article Photos

VITA volunteer veteran Rita Tibbetts reviewing a return.

PHOTO PROVIDED

All volunteers need to be comfortable working with a computer. Bilingual Spanish speakers are needed.

An orientation and training class for new volunteers will be held at Florida Gulf Coast University Saturday, Nov. 16. An online training and certification tool is also available for tax professionals, or experienced volunteers. To register visit www.unitedwaylee.org/become-vita-volunteer/, or contact Meador atMaryM@UnitedWayLee.org, or call (239) 433-7206 for more information.

"The new volunteer training is a seven- hour class to help the volunteer get started on the training - how to access and use the software, and we complete a few returns together. The volunteer still needs to do reading and practicing at home as well as take the test," Meador said. "I offer facilitated practice classes on topics like Schedule C, insurance, education credits, etc. to help the volunteer become more familiar and more comfortable with the material and software. All classes are optional."

When they are IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers, the VITA sites are able to provide free tax preparation to both individuals and families that earn less than $66,000 per year.

"The more volunteers we have, more people we can help. Last year in Lehigh alone started with 22 volunteers, preparers and greeters, but it fell to 16, 11 preparers and five greeters, by end of season," she said do to such reasons as work, moving, school and family. "I would love to have at least 25 preparers and five to six greeters, so we can help more clients."

Volunteers are needed from January through April. Meador said the program runs for eleven and a half weeks in Lehigh, starting tentatively the week of Jan. 27 and running through April 15.

"We are a year-round site and we will see a few clients off season as well, by appointment only," she said.

Last year United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee had 187 volunteers help fill more than 5,500 federal tax returns, More than $7.4 million dollars in federal tax refunds were brought back to the community.

"Volunteering with VITA is very rewarding. I have volunteered with them for 11 years now and I absolutely love it - getting to know my clients, seeing them year after year. It is the most rewarding thing I do and I wouldn't give it up for anything," Meador said. "The clients appreciate our time and service, and I appreciate their continued trust. Over 70 percent of our clients last year were returning clients, many of the new ones were referred by them. My volunteers and clients are the best!"

To reach the United Way Volunteer Center, call (239) 433-7567, or visitwww.UnitedWayLee.org/volunteer.

 
 

 

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