Tax Volunteer Spotlight: Helping those who need it most
The next time you see somebody glued to their NOOK reader, it may be Belinda, an avid reader and tax volunteer. When Belinda is not reading from her collection of nearly 3,000 books she is an active member of our community as president of the Rainier Community Center Advisory Council and most recently, tax volunteer. Originally from Florida, moving to Seattle in 1977, Belinda has been involved in voice over work, freelance graphic & web design and continuing education since her retirement. This proud grandmother of 3 (and 1 on the way!) prides herself in “keeping up on those issues that impact [her] and acting accordingly”. As a first time volunteer, Belinda took on the challenge of committing to two shifts a week at the Rainier Community Center.
Nickname: None really. Only my close friends call me “BG”
Tax Site: Rainier Community Center
Favorite Food: Red Velvet Cake with Real Cream Cheese frosting
Favorite Music Genre: Old school favorites, smooth jazz
Dream Superhero Power: I would love to read minds. It would help me to provide people with what they need vs. want to enrich their lives and the wisdom to know the difference.
Describe yourself in 3 words: Friendly, Driven, Independent
I go the email from United Way looking for volunteers for the Tax Campaign. They needed a lot of people. Also as president of the RCC Advisory Council I was aware of how well the program has done over the years. Each year seemed to be record breaking! I was always quite pleased with our lab’s final return results.
I thought about it and decided I’d give it a whirl. I don’t consider myself a numbers person and really thought I would probably not be the best at it but I would give it the good “ole” college try. Besides, I did do my own taxes for all but the last few years after I started a small company. Since I am all about giving back I signed up! But I tell you, when we were training, it was touch and go for a few whether I would stay, confusion reigned! But I stuck it out. I’m glad I did. It was well worth it.
I like meeting the various clients. The interactions were all over the place and it kept me on my toes. However, I liked the challenge. When all is said and done it felt good knowing I had a skill that was useful in helping those who needed it the most. Most were grateful for the help.
Working with a great team was a major plus! We learned from each other. I look forward to working with many of them again.
What is your most memorable experience as a tax volunteer?
I loved meeting the various clients! They came from very diverse backgrounds and income levels. I found that most people are afraid of the process. My goal was to make them feel at ease and to understand it wasn’t a scary thing. I think I succeeded. Our senior clients were the ones who felt most challenged by the whole process. They became frustrated and even angry if they felt rushed or detected an accusatory tone. I tried my best to ease their fears and concerns. In most cases it was a win-win!
I also found it most interesting to be on the receiving end of advice on my love life from quite a few of our senior clients. It made me smile.
How was it working with your team of volunteers at the Rainier Community Center tax site?
I volunteered for 2 days a week and the teams on both days were most awesome! We clicked! We supported and learned from each other. All except one of us were first timers. We had potlucks, talk fests, and just plain fun. Dori as a site manager was outstanding! She was knowledgeable, patient, listened to our concerns, helpful, very fair, and didn’t point fingers. She guided our progress in an easy learning and efficient environment. She is one of the reasons I am returning. Kudos to her!
What is the one thing you would like readers to know about the Free Tax Campaign?
The program gives those individuals an opportunity to save money and also to get back more of their hard earned money. It’s a safe, comfortable environment which is respectful of them as a person with no judgments. In most cases clients receive a generous refund which time after time surprises them. It’s a great program which encourages those people who probably wouldn’t have filed because of the filing cost, to do so. I love that it takes the predatory factor out of the equation.