Empower Your Community and Take Action Against Poverty

Are you a senior interested in making a difference in your community? Have you been looking for a reason to volunteer, but haven't found the right fit just yet? United Way of King County has a volunteering opportunity for you!

United Way is currently recruiting volunteers for this year's Free Tax Prep Campaign. Through this flexible program, volunteers help low-income families and individuals file their taxes and connect them to other services they may qualify for, including food assistance, health care, and free financial counseling.

Seniors and retirees contribute extensive and valuable work experience and are an important factor in the success of our campaign. By using your skills—financial, customer service, or otherwise—you can empower your neighbors, your fellow community members, and help make a difference in thousands of lives.

With your help, United Way aims to help 20,000 clients across King County this year.

What impact does this make?

To put this campaign into perspective, it is important to note the impact United Way's free tax prep services make on the people served. For example, on average, families spend $288 by going to a paid tax preparer. By using United Way's free services, families can keep that money in their pockets. Additionally, the average tax refund from one of United Way's tax prep sites is $1,700. Together that's nearly $2,000 back to the people who need it most.

On a larger scale, programs like the Free Tax Prep Campaign play an important role in reducing poverty and empowering the people in our community. The Free Tax Prep Campaign is one of the largest Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Programs in the nation, and the largest in the state of Washington. As such, we aim to help our community get the most out of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a federal anti-poverty measure that boosts tax refunds for low-income workers. In 2013 alone, 92,000 Washingtonians were brought above the poverty line due to the EITC. Each year, our program successfully helps individuals and families navigate the often confusing tax system and receive all the credits they're eligible for, including the EITC.

Why volunteer?

Every year hundreds of seniors and retirees make up a large portion of our volunteer base and are continually a source of support for this campaign. One of our long-time supporters, Belinda G., is a retiree who has been volunteering with us since 2011. This year, her fifth year, she plans to take on four volunteer shifts at both the Kent and Rainier Community Center sites. She says:

"The reason why I keep coming back to volunteer is because it allows me to keep busy. Before I retired, I was so used to spending most of my time working. This campaign makes me feel like I can use my skills to help others even though I may not be working anymore. Not only that, I get to meet so many people and become friends with my fellow volunteers. It's really a great experience."

With over 20 sites across King County, there are plenty of options to find the best volunteer shift at a location near you. We encourage you to participate, share your experience, and help grow our campaign. Senior volunteers truly make the difference.

Find out how to help and sign up to volunteer for the Free Tax Prep Campaign at uwkc.org/taxvolunteer. Questions? Feel free to e-mail questions to freetax@uwkc.org.

Contributor Emily Vyhnanek is a Financial Empowerment AmeriCorps Member at United Way of King County.