Tax Volunteer Spotlight: AmeriCorps doing more
Originally a California girl, Katherine has been a Northwest convert since arriving to attend the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma five years ago. Her parents, both retired teachers, and older sister “assured her that she showed no early inclination for taxes, other than a tendency to itemize her doll’s possessions”. Currently serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA in Seattle, Katherine is planning to pursue a career in public policy and social justice. Joining the tax volunteer crew every Tuesday at El Centro de la Raza gave Katherine the opportunity to practice her Spanish and share her passion for the color orange.
Tax Site: El Centro de la Raza
Favorite Food: Anything that is a vehicle for ketchup
Hobbies: Reading, hiking, playing violin, occasional and reluctant running, attending nerdy lectures, volunteering
Which is most difficult: Schedule A, B, or C? Um…I’m having trouble recalling which is which…
Describe yourself in 3 words: I LOVE FOOD.
Why did you choose to be a tax volunteer? What do you like about it?
As a VISTA, I focus on organizational capacity building and not direct service, so I wanted to volunteer with the Tax Campaign to get out and interact with community members more personally. I chose to volunteer at El Centro so that I also could practice my Spanish (and of course – to expand my vocabulary to include all the helpful tax terms that are so necessary in normal conversation!) I loved meeting so many new people every night, hearing their stories, and watching them smile politely at my sometimes nonsensical translations. Regardless of language, gender, or income, the clients at El Centro were a joy to assist and it was fabulous to share a client’s excitement over a nice big refund.
How long have you been volunteering with the Free Tax Campaign?
This was my first year volunteering with the Free Tax Campaign…but it won’t be my last!
What is your most memorable experience as a tax volunteer?
There were many great moments throughout tax season, but one of my favorite evenings was spent almost entirely with one particular client. He was an older gentleman and a jazz musician who played independent gigs, so we had to sort through a lot of performance records, calendar, and receipts to get an accurate account of his income and expenses. He had the most wonderful spirit and we were able to treat the whole process like a giant puzzle, figuring out how to fit his life into the somewhat narrow confines of tax law. Throughout the evening he entertained me with stories about past gigs, his favorite instruments, future plans, and our mutual love of music. Even though he ended owing money after we had finished, he was cheerful, gracious, and full of humor.
What is the one thing you would like readers to know about the Free Tax Campaign?
If you’re interested in volunteering, you shouldn’t be afraid of taxes – it’s really empowering to learn how the system works and (as I know from personal experience!) there are wonderful, more experienced volunteers and site managers to catch any less-than-brilliant moments.