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May 9, 2012 / HandsOnCorps

Tax Time Fun!

As the tax season ends, it is rewarding to look back at the success we had in the first year of our Mobile Tax Team. Since I started as a VISTA at HandsOn Northeast Ohio in November, there was not much time to contact potential agency partners and start recruiting and training volunteers. With this said, we were still able to secure and serve five mobile tax sites.

We were able to serve a wide range of people through our mobile tax sites. Our first location served was the low to moderate-income employees of MetroHealth Hospital. The Mobile Tax Team served two of the Cleveland health campuses during the 2011-2012 tax season. The best part about volunteering at MetroHealth was that one of our HandsOn volunteers, who came to every volunteer opportunity, was trying to get a job there. She used this opportunity to not only serve her community and provide free tax preparation, but as an opportunity to network as well.

This year was the first year HandsOn Northeast Ohio was able to partner with The Free Clinic and provide free tax preparation during The Free Clinic’s Farmers Market. Unfortunately, this did not go as well as I had hoped. We were able to complete two tax returns during the event. Next year we plan to have the free tax event/farmers market earlier in the tax season, so that we can get a few more people who are interested in the free tax preparation.

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The mobile tax team also served Y-Haven, a shelter/treatment facility for men. The team was able to provide free tax preparation at this location twice throughout the tax season. This is one of my favorite places to volunteer. The staff and residents are so friendly and grateful to have the volunteers there to help them with this year’s tax returns as well as prior year returns. Our volunteers could take extra time before and after the tax return just talking and interacting with the residents, because they are so nice and lots of fun.

After offering free tax preparation at Y-haven and having so much fun, we decided to offer free tax preparation services at the YWCA (the women’s shelter). This was also a lot of fun and the best part is that it is right across the street from our office, so we did not have to travel too far!

The last mobile tax site was at East End Neighborhood House. We set up one afternoon during the tax season to provide free tax preparation services. This location was very rewarding because the volunteers were able to meet not only the taxpayer, but their children as well. My favorite part about volunteering at this location was that one of the families we served lived across the street from me. What a fun way to meet your neighbor!

In the couple of months leading up to the tax season, I never would have guessed that we would have been able to serve 5 mobile tax sites so successfully. The mobile tax team completed 41 tax returns and returned $30,785 back to the community in federal refunds.

Keely Andrews

HandsOn Corps VISTA, HandsOn Northeast Ohio

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