If you are looking for an opportunity to give back, United Way of Lee, Hendry and Glades is looking for volunteers to help you during the upcoming tax season.
“This is a volunteer-run program and we need volunteers,” said Mary Meador, volunteer engagement and income tax program manager at United Way of Lee, Hendry. and Glades. “Volunteers are trained and certified through an IRS program to do simple tax returns for families earning less than $66,000 a year.”
Meador said there are no special requirements for volunteering.
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“You don’t need to have any experience to participate in this program,” Meador said. “There is no age requirement. We have a few high school students, retirees, stay-at-home moms, anyone who wants to help can help. We have in-person and online training classes as everyone’s schedule is different. Last year we had 170 volunteers. To really expand the program, we need 200 volunteers to be able to help more people.
United Way is looking for tax preparers, interpreters and site coordinators to assist from January through April in Lee, Hendry, Glades and Charlotte counties. A few of the perks include flexible hours, free training on tax law and e-filing, no obligation to prepare taxes (sites are IRS approved), community service hours, and learning how to permanent skill.
“Our United Way has run the program since 2008,” Meador said. We focus on low-income working families who qualify for this earned income tax credit. That’s how our country came up with this program, to help people get out of poverty. The only way to get the credit is to work and file a tax return. And there are millions and millions of people every year who don’t file their taxes even though they qualify for this credit.
“So they’re leaving billions of dollars on the table, money to lift them out of poverty. This is how the program was born. And of course, taxes are overwhelming and frightening for many people. You shouldn’t have to pay someone to do your taxes. We help them save their hard-earned money for food, rent, groceries and medical bills.
Stephanie Figueroa, a loyal United Way volunteer, said the opportunity to give back has kept her coming back every year for the past three years.
“I can give back to my community and my community is Lehigh Acres, I’ve lived here for 21 years,” said Figueroa, 49. “It’s an amazing place. We have a lot of amazing people here.
Figueroa said volunteering for the Volunteer Income Tax (VITA) program offers a number of benefits.
“The certification process we follow is an intellectual challenge,” Figueroa said. “If you’re up for a challenge and want to give back, it’s a win-win. I have a bachelor’s degree in business administration. I have worked in human resources at the executive level for almost 20 years. I took time off about five years ago to finish raising my kids. I had no idea what my career path would be after my children became young adults, which they are now. I really didn’t know. So I decided to do something intellectually stimulating.
Spanish-speaking and Creole volunteers are particularly sought after.
For more information, visit https://unitedwaylee.org/vita-volunteer/ or contact Meador at 239-433-7206 or email [email protected]
Erica Van Buren is the underserved communities reporter for The News-Press and Naples Daily News, part of the USA TODAY Network. Connect with her at [email protected] or on Twitter: @EricaVanBuren32