MARILYN HAGERTY: People with knowhow volunteer help preparing income tax formsSwenson is among hundreds of grateful clients of the free service offered senior and low-income citizens. It’s a program called VITA, or Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, sponsored by AARP. It’s open to people of this area. Last year, about 600 received help, and this year, Margaret Fish said they should do more than that before the filing deadline in mid-April. Fish has been the site coordinator since 1999. The service has been offered out of the Campbell Library for years. Before that, it was offered by faculty volunteers at UND.
By: Marilyn Hagerty, Grand Forks Herald
“It’s a wonderful thing,” said Kris Hatten as he buckled up his jacket and headed out from the Campbell Library in East Grand Forks.
He had just thanked Judy Grinde, the volunteer who helped him put together and file his income tax return.
Nearby, Chad Swendseid of Grand Forks was finishing up his income tax with the help of Al Schumacher. And he said, “The volunteers helping out here are doing a good deed. They are giving back to the community, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Swenson is among hundreds of grateful clients of the free service offered senior and low-income citizens. It’s a program called VITA, or Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, sponsored by AARP. It’s open to people of this area. Last year, about 600 received help, and this year, Margaret Fish said they should do more than that before the filing deadline in mid-April.
Fish has been the site coordinator since 1999. The service has been offered out of the Campbell Library for years. Before that, it was offered by faculty volunteers at UND.
This year, Mike and Jean Moe have joined the crew as coordinators in East Grand Forks. They are planning to open a site in Grafton, N.D., Fish said.
Volunteers are given an open book test each year by the Internal Revenue Service. They often are retired accountants or people who have worked in business. The goal of the AARP- sponsored program is to keep errors down to zero. Last year, the program was 99 percent error-free.
For the volunteers who welcome the clients and those who help prepare tax forms, there is no remuneration. There is coffee available in the interview room — a big sunny meeting room of the library. And occasionally someone brings in some cookies.
Everything is done on a volunteer basis.
In addition to Fish and the Moes, thos who help are Bob Hendry, Fred MacGregor, Al Schumacher, Judy Grinde, Alice Hoffert, Doris Zidon and Linda Vanderhoff.
And Fish is quick to say, “We could use more volunteers.”
There are no appointments. People wait their turn in the comfortable entryway. Those who schedule them in are also volunteers — Monica Foster, Alice Hanson, Betty Dalzell and Bev Skelly.
On the second Saturday morning in February, when the temperature was well below zero, 12 people were sitting around the perimeter of the entryway, waiting for their turn to get help. Some were dozing. A few were visiting. Others were staring into space.
It’s a wait they don’t mind making if it means help getting through all the loopholes. They come with the W2 and 1099 forms. They have interest, dividend and broker information. Most of them are anxious to get refunds.
Kris Hatten of Grand Forks, who had help from Al Schumacher, said, “It’s a wonderful thing the volunteers do here.”
On his way out of the conference room, Chad Swendseid said gathering up all the papers was the toughest thing. Then, he said, he brings it all in and pleads, “Help me.”
Waiting his turn was all right. He was chatting with other people. He added, “It’s very nice of these people to spend their Saturday mornings helping people.”
Swendseid is a laser operator for American Defense Industries on U.S. Highway 2.
When he finished with one client and awaited another, Schumacher was saying he likes to help out. He was cracking jokes and adding, “If you can’t have fun, don’t do it.”
MacGregor, who has volunteered since he retired as human resources director at UND, finds helping out is far more satisfying than “sitting on a board where you don’t ever meet the people you want to help.”
Reach Hagerty at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at (701) 772-1055.