How I learned being a Free Tax volunteer was about more than just numbers
Guest blogger Amber Bearden is a Risk Management Analyst with Key Bank and volunteered with United Way’s Free Tax Preparation Campaign for the first time last year. She’ll be back again this January to as a Free Tax volunteer, and here’s why:
Taxes. Does that word just make you want to shudder? Nobody likes to pay them, nobody wants to spend precious hours of their day filling out forms. But volunteering is not transferring figures from one form to another. It is about connecting with community.
In 2010, I had just finished college and hadn’t found my career yet. I was looking for a way to use my newly minted Account degree and remembered hearing something about volunteer tax prep. I did some digging and soon was registered for training.
As you are probably aware, what you learn in a classroom and real life are two very different things. I was amazed how close I felt to the families I was serving. Each situation was different – it was necessary to slow down and understand what the person in front of you experienced in the past year. Did they get a new job, buy a new house, or have a medical crisis? The tax return is a story waiting to be heard and I was just the person to listen.
Even more, each conversation ended with gratitude. It did not matter if someone was receiving a large refund or needed instructions to set up a payment plan with the IRS. Everyone was grateful for the free, quality service that we provided.
One of the best things to come from my experience is my connection to my dad. As an Enrolled Agent with the IRS, he’s been preparing taxes for families for the past twenty years. We’ve always been close but relating to each other through similar work has established a new relationship. What a welcome side effect!
When I moved to Seattle, I found my home volunteering with Emerging Leaders at the Seattle Public Library through the United Way. I’ve made new friends. I’ve gotten to know the city. And, most importantly, I feel connected.
Interested in being a Free Tax volunteer? Check it out.